What Pulaski County, Arkansas, Tells Us About The GOP And The Press

On the surface, it seems like such a small controversy.

In Arkansas, last Tuesday, there was a special election in Pulaski County. The issue was whether the public would approve a tax increase to fund Pulaski Technical College, the state’s largest two-year school. It’s the kind of election that has much to say about local communities and what kind of places they are (for the record, the tax increase lost by a 3-1 margin). But this election, and the controversy attached to it, has much to say about the Republican Party, not only in Arkansas, but across the country. You see, what happened last week is the direct result of the profound fear conservatives have of democracy, of the people. As Think Progress reported:

In 2013, the Arkansas legislature enacted a voter ID law containing a provision requiring absentee voters to include a copy of their ID along with their ballot. The result, according to a statement Pulaski County Election Commissioner Chris Burks gave to the Arkansas Times, is that 76 of the 384 absentee ballots cast in last Tuesday’s election were not counted. Burks added that, “[i]n my opinion, those absentee ballots returned without ID were 76 real people’s votes that would have otherwise counted but for the sloppily drafted Voter ID bill.”

That sloppily drafted Voter ID bill, which robbed some people of their fundamental right to speak in an election, was vetoed by Arkansas’ Democratic Governor Mike Beebe. Republicans, firmly in control of the Arkansas legislature, if not their American senses, overrode the governor’s veto, claiming, as they do all over the country where this anti-democratic spirit thrives, that the law would prevent the non-existent problem of “voter fraud.”

Of course, the only fraud going on is the notion that Republicans give a damn about free and fair elections. They don’t. What they care about is winning elections without appealing to a wide swath of the electorate. And it is an absolute fact that the more people there are who participate in elections, the less likely it is that Republicans will win them. Thus, it is not a scandal in the Republican Party to disenfranchise as many voters as possible, particularly voters who might vote for Democrats. Disenfranchising potentially Democratic voters is the only way Republicans can survive in the short term, as the deadly combination of Tea Party dominance of the party and changing demographics doom the future prospects of the GOP as it is now constituted.

But we Democrats know all that. What we don’t know is this: Why has the mainstream press largely ignored the anti-democratic spirit that now animates the Republican Party? Why isn’t it front-page news that Republicans all over the nation are essentially trying to change the outcomes of elections by making it harder for people to vote? And why don’t those 76 voters in Pulaski County, Arkansas, whose vote didn’t count last week, have their faces on the evening news?

john lewis

Afraid: The GOP War On Voting

I heard a conservative say on Sunday how “admirable” it was for folks to be willing to stand in line for six or seven hours to vote in Florida.

This morning I heard someone on the IQ-crippling morning show on Fox say essentially the same thing. How “dedicated” must those voters be.

All of us with a brain not poisoned by Fox “News” understand that what is going on in Florida and Ohio and elsewhere, in terms of how Republicans have intentionally made it more difficult for people, mostly Democratic people, to vote, would be a famous Fox-fueled scandal if it were reversed.

If Democrats were deliberately limiting or suppressing the voting opportunities of, say, white evangelicals, Fox hosts and guests—including Mitt Romney—would not be disingenuously fawning over those “dedicated” conservative Christians and their willingness to commit half a day—or night—to exercising their right to vote.

No, every minute of Fox broadcast time would be spent on how unpatriotic Democrats are to treat the voting process so shabbily, so self-servingly. “Our brave troops fought and died for that right!” they would sanctimoniously shout. They would demand the Justice Department put a stop to it. Hell, they would beseech GOP Jesus to send down a holy bolt of lightning to fry the oppressors.

The Joplin Globe, on Sunday, editorialized about voting, and offered quotes from famous Americans, including this one from John Kennedy:

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.

In an editorial about the importance of voting, the Joplin Globe had nothing to say about how “afraid” Republicans are of letting “people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.” Nothing to say.

♦ Nothing to say about Republicans in Ohio, particularly the secretary of state, who has done everything he can to make it more difficult to vote than it was four years ago, including his latest move, which may even be illegal, to give local election officials the power to invalidate ballots. (There will be a court fight on Monday, if nothing is resolved.)

♦ Nothing to say about onerous voter ID laws, which, as a Pennsylvania Republican stupidly but fortunately admitted, were designed to deliver the election to the Republican presidential candidate.

♦ Nothing to say about right-wing groups like True the Vote—founded just after Mr. Obama took office—whose real goal is to intimidate or delegitimize minority and young voters. Read this article by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer and cringe at the inquisition-like tactics being used by Republicans—lily white Republicans—against people of color who have voted all their adult lives. (Local inquisitors like Republican honcho John Putnam are using True the Vote tactics here in Southwest Missouri, for God’s sake, a place where Democrats usually poll about 35%.)

♦ Nothing to say about what has been happening in Florida, the lines, the chaos and confusion, the suppression. Republicans there deliberately cut back early voting days, including the Sunday before election day, typically a strong day of voting by African-American voters. And the former Republican governor of that state, Charlie Christ, criticized the current Republican governor for refusing to extend early voting hours, as folks waited a ridiculously long time to vote:

The only thing that makes any sense as to why this is happening and being done is voter suppression. That’s unconscionable. I think it’s just the wrong thing to do. And the right thing to do would be to sign an executive order to make sure this doesn’t happen and you expand the hours.

As one voter there, who waited in line for almost two hours, said:

This is America, not a third-world country.

She forgot, I guess, that since 2010, Florida has been living under Tea Party governance, third-world or otherwise.

All of the disgusting Republican tactics are ostensibly designed to address voter fraud, a problem that doesn’t exist in the form that things like voter ID laws and registration inquisitions would help fix. The New Yorker article quoted a public-policy professor at Rutgers, who said,

It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.

Thus, it makes no legal sense that Republicans would spend so much time and effort to attack a problem that is not a problem, but it does make political sense. Again, as John Kennedy would certainly say today, if he were around to witness what Fox “News” and the Joplin Globe and even much of the national press refuse to witness, is that Republicans, who have embraced extremism wholesale, truly are “afraid” to allow people to “judge the truth and falsehood in an open market.

Because when it comes down to it, the conservative spirit, which animates Republican politics today, is and always has been afraid of We the People.

 

Kansas: Where Seldom Is Heard An Encouraging Word

As a former Kansas boy, I like to keep tabs on the reactionaries back home:

From the Kansas City Star:

TOPEKA | Republicans on Thursday pushed a bill through the Kansas House requiring potential voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year’s election, although GOP senators are divided on whether the state will be ready to enforce the rule.

The House approved the bill 81-43, with all of the votes for it coming from Republicans. It would impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement for people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas starting June 15, more than six months ahead of schedule and in time for the normal surge before a presidential election…

Legislators approved a proof-of-citizenship rule last year but — at the Senate’s insistence — it’s not scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, 2013.

Now, judging from this bill, and the big hurry these Republican legislators are in, one would think that Kansas, in the middle of the country, is plagued with lots of non-citizens voting. Well, of course, there is no such plague.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State* who was the primary drafter of Arizona’s infamous anti-immigration bill, SB 1070, identified a whopping “32 non-citizens on the voter rolls” in 2011.  That’s out of a total of 1.7 million registered voters, the Star notes.

That’s 32 out of 1,700,000.

So, let’s do the math:

32 divided by 1.7 million = .0018823% 

You can see why Republicans are in such a hurry to stop this electoral travesty.

The truth is that Kansas Republicans, like Republicans all over the country, are trying to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly, and the poor, many of whom lack the ability to comply with these nonsensical and unnecessary laws.

There is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem—anywhere in America. Yet Republicans, who apparently have little confidence in their message, are going to a lot of trouble to fight this non-existent problem.

It is shameful, but not surprising.

_____________________________

* Kobach also works for the legal arm of a group called Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose founder, John Tanton, has said,

I’ve come to the point of view that for European-American society and culture to persist requires a European-American majority, and a clear one at that.

White power!

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