“It Is Enough To Make You Swear”

Last night I was researching yet another piece on the disgraceful Republican effort to suppress the vote (I have written about it many times because it profoundly pisses me off, and in the mainstream press Republicans mostly get a pass) and, voilà, on comes Rachel Maddow with a segment on the same thing. Oh, well. I will go on with what I was doing and steal some of St. Rachel’s stuff, including noting the success Republicans have had in reducing voter participation. But first, here are a few headlines and information from the accompanying stories:

Republicans Are Trying to Make Sure Minorities and Young People Don’t Vote This November

In a way, Barack Obama can be blamed for this. In 2008, his historic campaign inspired record turnout, drawing more people to the polls than the country had seen in 40 years. Almost all of the record increase came from black, Hispanic, and young voters, who tended to vote Democratic. Republican governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures, not surprisingly, saw this as a problem. They responded by throwing up a host of new obstacles to voting that disproportionately affect black, Latino, and low-income voters.

Chart of the Day: Kansas Successfully Reduces Voting Rate of Blacks, Young People

Here is a graphic Rachel presented on her show that helps explain the motivation of muck-the-vote right-wingers behind those preceding stories:

2012 exit poll on young voters and blacks

You can see why Republicans went to a lot of trouble to make it harder for young folks and black folks to vote. And we must not forget that Hispanics gave President Obama 71% of their votes in 2012, after he received 67% of their votes in 2008. It was, of course, the 2008 election that first put the fear of Obama’s Allah into Republicans, who saw how powerful those young people, blacks, and Hispanics can be, when it comes to electing Democrats and shutting the door on reactionary politics.

In 2010, capitalizing on a backlash against The Scary Negro in the White’s House, Tea Party-energized Republicans took control of the entire legislature in 25 states, for a gain of 11. The last time they controlled that many statehouses was in 1952. Republicans decided to put to use their new-found state political power by throwing electoral spike strips in front of constituencies who would surely flee from the right-wing governance the GOP was about to unleash. And, as Saint Rachel pointed out, they have been successful. Here is a map she presented:

voting restriction states since 2010

Regarding that depressing reality, Maddow said this:

This is meant to be a Republican-tilted system of voting. If you care about small “d” democracy and the right to vote and everything that went into securing it, it is enough to make you swear.

Yep. I have done a lot of swearing since 2010. I can’t think of anything Republicans have engineered, and they have engineered a lot of bad things—including now politicizing Ebola, for God’s sake—that is worse than their attempts to make it difficult for people to vote. Obviously, they know their message doesn’t have majority appeal. But rather than tailor their message to attract a majority, they would rather retain their parochial vision and use raw and rare political power to discourage their political enemies from exercising what should be, in a still-experimental democracy, their sacred right to vote.

There is some good news in terms of the court battles over these dishonorable and anti-democratic tactics adopted by Republicans. On Thursday night, the U.S. Supreme Court—over the objection of its most committed reactionary members, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—blocked Wisconsin’s voter ID law from going into effect for the upcoming election. The same night we learned that a federal judge in Texas—an Obama appointee; it matters who gets to appoint judges—struck down that state’s voter ID law, known as SB 14.

Noting that the right to vote “defines our nation as a democracy,” U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos didn’t shy away from describing what Republicans in the Texas legislature were doing when they passed their squash-the-Democratic-vote law:

The Court holds that SB 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. The Court further holds that  SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.

One day, perhaps not too far in the future, we won’t have to battle the kind of reactionary nonsense that Judge Ramos struck down. But for now, the fight must continue because Republicans have no shame. They fear young people, blacks, and Hispanics. They see them as their enemies. And they will, apparently, try anything to keep their enemies from the battlefield.

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17 Comments

  1. Duane,

    Being the malcontented, cynical, outlier that I am, it seems to me that just because a person is a U.S. citizen of the right age, who is ambulatory enough to get to the local polling booth, that is not a justification for a “right” to vote.

    Should we allow those who are illiterate to vote when they can’t even read the ballot. Should we allow those with very little education to vote if they can’t understand the issues? Should we allow those who are ignorant of our political system — who can name the Three Stooges but not the three branches of government — to vote?

    It seems to me that an important predicate for a fully functional representative democracy is an informed electorate. On that point, I would argue that that is exactly what the founders gave us. Back in the day, women couldn’t vote, slaves couldn’t vote, native Americans couldn’t vote. Those who were neither property owners nor literate voted even though they could. Freedmen could vote too but didn’t dare show up a polling place for fear of being lynched.

    Then there is the tyranny of the minority to consider. Only a fraction of those who are eligible to vote actually register. And only a fraction of registered voters actually vote. So, elections are determined by a plurality; i.e., a minority of those who could vote. For example. Obama won the popular vote in 2012 with 33% of all those allowed by law to vote.

    To quote from my Op-Ed piece that I suppose will be in this Sunday’s Glob, “Among other things, we look to our elected officials to make things better. And we blame them when they’re not. The pitiful 13% approval rating of Congress is testimony to that fact.

    “But therein lies a conundrum. We re-elect incumbents 95% of the time. Where there are no incumbents, our votes are often gerrymandered in favor of a candidate from a particular political party. So we are greatly disappointed with the institution charged with developing national policy, then turn around and put the people who run that very same institution back in office!”

    All that said, I do appreciate your sentiment here with the shenanigans going on to keep minorities away from the voting booths. In fact, I would call what the Republicans are doing in this regard chicken-shit. Seems to me they could accomplish the same thing by merely getting more of the middle class to register and vote. But that’s hard work. And besides, they may have to give the middle class something, like a little job security, to earn their vote.

    With the exception of certain contested areas, which are few, it really doesn’t matter much who we vote for. Public policy is set by special interest groups, lobbyists, and the top one percent.

    That’s why we have long since slipped from being a liberal representative democracy into a plutocracy. IMHO, it’s those who are offended by that state of affairs who should be allowed to vote.

    Herb

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  October 11, 2014

    I look forward to reading Herb’s column tomorrow. I read this morning a column by the Roberts, in the Globe on the same subject, the Dem “secret weapon”, flooding the polls with young people and minorities. Sure it is legal to do so, but is it the right thing for America?

    I agree with Herb that the real strength of a democracy is when an informed electorate speakes in polls. By informed I mean people that decide how to vote based on their research, well established fundamental thinking about how government should operate, etc. That is a good system and let the majority of such thinkers prevail..

    I don’t want to start a “race war” or intellectual war by saying, which groups that are targeted by politicians to “get out the vote” are the LEAST informed groups that vote? Ask the question another way. Which group of voters in America is the most BIASED?

    Anytime someone gets 90% of the vote something is wrong in a democracy. Either the election is rigged, which is not the case in America, or ………… Politicians LOVE to spoon feed a large group of “non-thinkers” by promising the world before an election so those spoon fed voters flood the polls.

    You cannot get away with such politics with thinking voters. They will see right through such shenanigans and decide on the best candidate for different reasons, thoughtful reasons based on experience, reading, thinking, considering, debating with others, etc.

    Consider a graduating class from a given high school where 50% or more of the 18 year olds so graduating cannot read, write or do arithmetic to even freshmen in HS levels of such skills. No way do all those young people read extensively, have some informed ideas of how government should work, etc. They could care less. Yet politicians will do their best to get them to vote as a bloc on their own behalf.

    I do know this at a personal level. If I was a black man living in Detroit today I would no more vote for a Dem than fly to the moon. Such policies destroyed my city and I would look for a different way to govern, locally!!!

    You liberals scream racism whenever a conservative opposes Obama. Should I scream racism when 93% of all black voters vote for Obama? If I can’t scream racism, what should I scream, in opposition to a set of policies that I don’t “like”? OK, counter if you like that some 80% of old, white males vote GOP, no matter the color of the skin of the Dem candidate. That is not racism, but it is bias of a sort that does not reflect good thinking.

    I will probably vote for Evans in Nov in the District 7 congressional race. That is a “thinking” vote, as I believe OBL just doesn’t think very well, at all. And I will catch hell from many conservatives if I tell them that is how I will vote in that particular election to pick one man over another. I was slammed two years ago when I announced that I voted for the Libertarian candidate in that election, a wasted vote for sure, but I was just “sending a signal” that was never heard, except by me!!

    Anson

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    • Anonymous

       /  October 12, 2014

      AB, If you were a white man in Picher, OK., would you vote for the same party that adheres to the laissez- faire policies that allowed private firms to literally destroy your entire town? If you were a white man in Kansas would you vote for the same party that has left your state broke in only a few short years while saying it was going to be the template for conservative policy around the country?

      KABE

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      • ansonburlingame

         /  October 13, 2014

        Of course I would not vote as such. I would look at conditions in my city, decide for myself how things got that way and then vote for change, if I thought the particular politician was not just blowing smoke up my butt. Party tags, skin color, gender, etc., NONE of that makes a bit of difference to me. I vote for whom I believe will do the “next right things”.

        Anson

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        • Anonymous

           /  October 13, 2014

          AB, Then you would be in the minority for sure in Picher. Kansas has yet to be seen in my opinion. As for Detroit they have elected Mayor Mike Dugan, a Democrat with a history in private business and also a white man. That is a big deal in my eyes in a city made up of well over 80% AA voters with its history of racial discord. I do not see how you would expect them to vote Republican after what has happened in Detroit recently. The people they elected, for better or worse, were removed from office and replaced with an Emergency Manager. The laws that allowed this were not made by Democrats and go against everything that a democracy is supposed to be. Did they do the same thing in Picher OK? Did they remove people in West, TX after the town was blown up by a private company? Hell no they didn’t. Would they vote for a Democrat now? Hell no they wouldn’t. And what would happen in places like this, if someone came in and said “Sorry, you folks are not capable of voting. We are removing your choices that led to the complete destruction of your town. Better luck next time” ? They would have gone completely off the deep end, with their guns and calls for freedom and you know it.

          KABE

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    • King Beauregard

       /  October 12, 2014

      “I don’t want to start a ‘race war’ or intellectual war by saying, which groups that are targeted by politicians to “get out the vote” are the LEAST informed groups that vote? Ask the question another way. Which group of voters in America is the most BIASED?

      “Anytime someone gets 90% of the vote something is wrong in a democracy.”

      No, you don’t want to start a race war. You just want to say your shit and not be called on it.

      Here’s what’s wrong with our democracy: it’s not that blacks vote Democratic, it’s that the Republicans have given themselves to racism so overwhelmingly that most blacks cannot feel comfortable under the Big Tent. That’s YOUR party that’s in the wrong, Anson. That makes it YOUR job to fix, not everyone else’s.

      You ought to know this, yet you’re casting black folks as the least informed, when they picked up on your party’s nonsense long long ago. 90% of them understand your party better than you do, Anson.

      “You liberals scream racism whenever a conservative opposes Obama. Should I scream racism when 93% of all black voters vote for Obama?”

      93% of all black voters are smart enough to not vote for the guy whose religion has allowed blacks to become priests only since 1978, and whose party has been plying the Southern Strategy for decades now.

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    • Anson,

      You seem to have a problem with black people voting for Democrats at such a high rate. You suggest that they do so because they are not “thinking voters” and are therefore susceptible to politicians “promising the world” to them (as if they wanted the world given to them, which is another ridiculous assumption on your part, but one that I don’t have the time to address).  You further suggest that real thinking voters would “see right through” any politician who would promise them the world.

      Okay. Let’s test your theory. Let’s look at evangelicals in America. Are they “thinking voters”? They sure think so. And many of them are very active in local politics. Just look right here in Jasper and Newton counties. The GOP is dominated by evangelicals. So, one would think that if they based their votes on what you claim they would, “on experience, reading, thinking, considering, debating with others, etc.,” then they would pretty much split their votes between R’s and D’s, right?

      Wrong. Almost 8 in 10 evangelicals vote for Republicans. Heck, even Mittens got their overwhelming vote, even though most evangelicals I know would consider his Mormonism as non-Christian. Why is that? Is it because evangelicals are dumbasses? Is it because they don’t spend time thinking about politics? Is it because they don’t engage in rigorous debates with others? No. It’s not any of those things. It is because they value, for better or ill, their conservative religious beliefs over anything else in their lives. And they perceive that those values will best be represented by Republicans. It is a completely rational calculation, even though Republicans have often disappointed them.

      Likewise, black people look to the Democratic Party to help them deal with the problems they face in our historically racist society. Republicans couldn’t care less about the plight of black people, is how most black people perceive the GOP. They perceive the party that way for good reason, even though at one time the Republican Party was quite progressive on issues of race and equality. Not these days. There is no good reason for the average black person to vote for a Republican candidate who pledges allegiance to some kind of Tea Party dogmatism, a dogmatism that, as action on voting rights symbolizes, has as one of its components the disenfranchisement of black people.

      So, far from being what you call “the LEAST informed groups that vote,” black people may be among the most informed and most rational of all. They know very well who their political enemies are.

      Duane

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  3. For what it’s worth, which isn’t much, I agree pretty much with everybody here. It’s close to criminal to increase the administrative and timing burdens on the elderly and the working poor to keep them from the polls, but Herb makes excellent points about political illiteracy. In support of that, I offer a recent video clip at the end of this comment. The whole matter is even more disturbing when one realizes that even middle class voters are unlikely to take a long view of political issues. Actually, I’m not sure what the hell is in most heads in the voting booths. If it were economics, they would be voting heavily for Democrats after the president’s policies pulled us out of the worst recession since the GR.

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    • I will submit to you, Jim, that many of the people going into voting booths do go there with economics in their heads. But it is the wrong kind of economics. It’s the kind that sees what Obama did to the economy has harmful rather than helpful.

      And I will further submit to you that many of those people going into voting booths with bad economics in their heads think they are fully-informed, bright Americans who can “see through” what the “liberal media” presents when it presents data about the economic recovery. In other words, they go into those booths with what they consider to be a completely rational reason to vote for Republicans.

      Finally, I submit to you that is why what Jimmy Kimmel and others do, that is, finding ignorant Americans on our city streets, is at least partly irrelevant to the problems we have in society. Sure, it would be great if more people knew who the vice president is. But the biggest problems we have are related to bad information and misleading propaganda that is blasted into the gullible heads of too many of our fellow citizens who know very well who Joe Biden is.

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  4. Ben Field

     /  October 11, 2014

    Duane,

    Thank you for your passion regarding this matter, I agree with you 100% regarding the right to vote. Like Herb I am a cynic and malcontent, but I do know people that could be considered illiterate and uninformed that have far more common sense than many of the intellectual elitists. They realize that the country is run by special interest groups, the top one percent, and the lobbyist and can only vote for the party that best matches their personal beliefs. Sadly, I think the 13% congressional approval rating is more an indication of the truly altruistic representation in our elected officials. I realize I am not as intellectually gifted as Herb, but in my mind my vote should be no less important than his in the electoral college decision. Our forefathers were gifted men that bestowed on us this great national experiment, and it works better than any in the world even if imperfect. As for Anson stating that if he were a black man in Detroit he wouldn’t vote for a Dem, perhaps he can understand my frustration with the 47% of the population here in SW Missouri on public assistance that consistently vote Rep. supporting the very people wanting to end such. I am however greatly pleased to see him voting for Evans instead of the not so slick Willy Long. Anson has mentioned in a previous post as to the “West Wing” TV series reality to politics today. I would suggest to him to spend $8 and subscribe to Netflix and watch Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards” for a more accurate portrayal of our congressional leaders. I just wanted you to know I appreciate your blog as it best reflects my own personal views and to inform others that if you want to “qualify” my vote, I am apt to go revolutionary.

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    • Ben,

      Thanks for the kind words. 

      I hope you don’t go too far down the road of cynicism with Herb. At some point, as I am fond of repeating, to see through everything is the same as not seeing at all. In politics, there has to be some limit to our distrust of public officials and public institutions. We need them to do their jobs in this complex world we are living in. Cynicism can lead to revolution, that’s for sure. But more often, in my experience, it leads to apathy. And we have way too much apathy in this, a democratic, country. We can’t afford any more. That’s why I mostly choose to be skeptical and hopeful at the same time. It’s tough sometimes, but it is the only way forward as far as I can tell.

      Duane

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  5. ansonburlingame

     /  October 13, 2014

    Ben,

    A couple of points, actually three. I am a BIG fan of both West Wing and House of Cards. Both reflect reality to a degree in American government today.

    Just last night I watched the fictional presidential debate (West Wing) between the GOPer and Dem. The Dem won it hands down for one really simple reason. The arrogant GOPer stated his position to cut taxes by saying Americans can spend that money more wisely than the American government. The Dem (president and candidate) retorted that no one can govern using one liners!! He then asked the GOPer to state what America would look like AFTER the tax cut proposed!!

    So that is two points, I like both the West Wing and House of Cards.

    The third point is voters cannot make good decisions based on sound bites either and both parties do their best to supply all the one liners possible to achieve their political goals. So when you imply that illiterate and uninformed voters can still vote because they have common sense, well I wonder about that. American common sense says when someone hits you, you should hit them back. That is not always good policy and it takes a lot of thinking to figure out the next right thing to do in such cases. Sometimes when someone hits you, you should walk away. In some rare cases you might be justified to shoot them. In other cases a quick punch back is correct. Who knows the right response without careful thinking before voting?

    “No boots on the ground”, “you can keep your current HC plan”, “mission accomplished”, and the list goes on and on from both sides is bad for American government. Real policy, good policy decisions cannot be reduced to sound bites, locally, in our state, in our nation or internationally. And yet those sound bites drive American elections to a great degree, like “47%”!!

    But I do know this, Ben. If I smoked, wanted welfare for every kid I produced outside of marriage, was a drunk, on food stamps, in free public housing and too lazy or uneducated to work, well I would vote Dem all the time!! If I was a fat cat or a single issue gun nut, I would vote GOP as well, sound bite voting in both cases!!

    Anson

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    • Ben Field

       /  October 13, 2014

      Anson,

      The common sense I am referring to is exhibited by people that do have knowledge. Robert G. Ingersoll stated, “It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education, than it is to have an education without common sense.” I am speaking of the common sense espoused by Thomas Paine in 1775, which started the American Revolution. Unfortunately, most members of your party of NO, are in short supply. It’s like deodorant, the people that need it the most don’t use it. To suggest that Obama has not pulled us out of the financial disaster GW left us in, exhibits a serious lack of it. Our intelligence gathering has increased, our military is using drones as opposed to citizens, and we are not starting wars without cause. As we’ll read as you think you might be, you are still subject to confirmation bias, as we all are. Most Democrats and people with common sense recognize this. If you truly believe 93% of black people voted for Obama because of a sound bite, then I cannot argue with ignorance. I will say that the 47% that are on public assistance and voted Repub are ignorant as well and you are not alone. Keep shaking your fist at the sky!

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  6. henrygmorgan

     /  October 13, 2014

    Duane: I become nervous when I hear inklings of the “Only the informed should be allowed to vote” argument. It veers very closely to a form of intellectual snobbism. How would we establish the base line of knowledge for such a judgment. Should we say that only Ph.D’s should vote? M.A.’s? Only Political Science profs? College grads? High School grads? Should we establish committees to evaluate would-be voters? What would their criteria be? Who would establish these parameters? Having been a faculty member at four different colleges or universities, I have lived much of my life surrounded by Ph.D.’s, enough to reach the conclusion that educational level is no predictor of intelligence or of wisdom.

    The Founding Fathers debated this issue in some depth and ultimately decided that the only restrictions they thought fit to establish were of age, gender and property ownership, all of which we have since chosen to change or eliminate. And most of the Southern states established Literacy requirements that of course, few if any African-Americans passed. Because of their universal ignorance as compared to whites? I seriously doubt it, and I think it likely that there was some other factor involved.

    Henry “Bud” Morgan

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    • I spent a couple of hours early this afternoon thinking about the very same thing, Bud. I responded to Herb with my views, which are similar to yours. I especially like your assertion that “educational level is no predictor of intelligence or of wisdom.” Amen to that. Thanks for relating your academic experiences. Fiddling around with voting requirements is not a good idea.

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  7. ansonburlingame

     /  October 14, 2014

    Duane and Bud,

    I agree, as indicated on the “to Herb” blog, that we need not try to fiddle around with defining who can vote. Any American citizen should be able to vote, once, in any election, period. But that does not mean we can’t do better in how popular opinion, which changes all the time, determines how America is governed for the next two years. Certainly a republican form of government limits such wholesale changes to once every two years. We can turn the House around once every two years but seldom do so, the White House every four years, but seldom do so, the Senate every ….. maybe four years by changing 2/3rds of them in that time frame, but not all of them and “forever” in federal courts, a lifetime for some.

    Technically I agree that education does not improve intelligence. But education for sure improves the way an individual can USE the intelligence provided by “gods”. Experience, good experiences that are the result of hard work using one’s “head” is a huge benefit to anyone in society. Learning to think better is not “bad” for anyone. Yet today in America we struggle with teaching all future citizens to think, hard and deeply about matters that count.

    I will not advocate turning the illiterate or uniformed from any polls in America. But I will do all possible to reduce the numbers in that category, for the sake of America.

    In taking that challenge in hand and writing about it publicly, I also note that I will receive the rath of many liberals in what I advocate for change in education in our public schools. Take it to the bottom, most fundamental level, and I say the lack of RIGOR in education is our greatest failure in American public schools. Fix that problem, make every student in every school work hard to learn as much as possible given their level of intelligence (which can be measured in my view) and American democracy will take a huge step forward, in my view.

    I also claim that American public education, even in colleges, has been on a steep ramp of decline over the last 50 years. We must fix that as a matter of priority in my view, a conservative view for sure. And yes, we can make huge steps forward by demanding rigor from all involved in education. Rigor is free and costs no extra money as well. But if we do throw more money into education that money will be spent on more people, more teachers, teachers aids, counselors, administrators, etc. I submit we need BETTER teachers, teachers aids, counselors, etc. before we hire more of the same in our schools today. Now let the flood of “Tuner’s” take exception to that broad statement!!

    Anson

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