Some Things, And Some People, Deserve Our Contempt

“The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent instrument or tool that we have in a democratic society and we must use it.”

John Lewis

If you have watched any television news programs the last day or two, you no doubt have come into contact with Senator Ben Sasse, who has written a book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal. As NPR’s Michael Schaub put it, “Sasse’s book aims to figure out what it is that’s made American politics so tribalistic and vicious, and to offer suggestions for reconciliation.” One reason for the vicious political tribalism, according to Sasse, is the prevalence of modern technology, including smart phones and the Internet, which have left people “feeling more isolated, adrift, and purposeless than ever before.” Sasse says, “We’re hyperconnected, and we’re disconnected.” Schaub continues:

The nation, Sasse writes, has descended into a set of “‘anti-tribes,’ defined by what we’re against rather than what we’re for.” He blames confirmation bias and the rise of inflammatory political rhetoric for this, writing that “liberals and conservatives no longer believe the same things, we don’t understand how our opponents believe what they believe, and we soothe our lonely souls with the balm of contempt.”

This analysis assumes that “our opponents” don’t deserve “contempt.” But, oh, they often do. I’m especially thinking here of Republicans who, through voter suppression tactics, are trying to shape the electorate in their own image, which is to say they are trying to make it older and whiter than it really is. And many of those tactics are working. As Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith pointed out (“Why Republicans Are Suppressing Black Votes: An aging, white Republican Party reliant upon unvarnished racism cannot survive without choosing its electorate”):

Roughly 16 million voters were removed from state rolls in the three years following the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby County decision that neutered federal pre-clearance in the Voting Rights Act — unsurprisingly, the effect has been discriminatory. Another Supreme Court ruling in June allowed Ohio to continue its practice of purging voters who fail to respond to a mailer and to vote in consecutive federal elections. Mostly black and urban neighborhoods were targeted. Ohio is a state run by Republicans, after all.

Smith also points to the “unconscionable seizure of Hispanic-Americans’ passports along the Texas-Mexico border and the targeting of college students for invalidation in New Hampshire and Wisconsin.” Another example is also in Texas, where Republicans made it harder for students to vote by not allowing student IDs to suffice as identification.

Image result for republican voter suppressionThen there is the situation in North Carolina, with its swing-state status and diverse electorate, where, in 2016, a District Court found Republicans had unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts for partisan reasons, extremely diluting the power of Democratic votes, especially minority ones (black voters make up almost 25% of the electorate). The problem is that the U.S. Supreme Court butted in and essentially forced the District Court to allow Republicans to use the unconstitutional districts for this upcoming election, due to time constraints.

Then there is North Dakota, where the Supreme Court blessed a voter ID law that clearly discriminates against Native Americans, who just happen to overwhelmingly support Democrats. Oh, and don’t forget Georgia, where the Republican candidate for governor, who happens to oversee the election process as secretary of state, has put around 53,000 voter registration applications—70% of them are from aspiring black voters—on hold, as part of both a short- and long-term scheme to suppress minority votes.

Finally, there is the issue of “felony disenfranchisement,” which, according to The Sentencing Project, has robbed one of every 13 African-Americans of their voting rights. While this is a problem in both red and blue states (only two states have no restrictions whatsoever), the most extreme restrictions are found in mostly red states. Felony disenfranchisement affects more than six million Americans. Six million Americans.

It’s hard to imagine what could be more anti-democratic, and anti-American, than inventing ways to discourage voting and suppress potential voters. It’s a weird democracy that has an electoral system that allows such conspiratorial manipulation. We should have automatic universal registration, say, when one gets a Social Security card. But we don’t. We have a system in which one party, the Republican Party, finds it a fundamental need to pass laws designed to keep it in power by making it difficult, if not impossible, for some people to participate in our experiment with democracy.

And, despite what Ben Sasse says, the people who practice the dark art and dark science of voter suppression—his fellow Republicans—richly deserve our utter contempt.

A Veterans Day Lesson On Our “Democracy”

I will acknowledge from the start that I know why we have the political system we have today. I can read history books (or Wikipedia), too.

But on this Veterans Day, a day celebrating those who actually defend what we often call a democracy, it is worth taking a look at just how un- or anti-democratic our system really is, a system first constructed from a blueprint in west point first black graduateour Constitution, and modified by court decisions, amendments, and evolving practices.  And of course I know there will be no constitutional convention to alter our system of governance or no new and radical amendments to a document that is damned hard to amend under the best of circumstances. All that being said, we owe it to ourselves now and then to note just how we fail to govern ourselves democratically in some important respects and why we have failed from the beginning.

1. To start with, the  successful attempt by Republicans to suppress voter turnout among Democrats by enacting needlessly burdensome voting laws, which disproportionately affect African-Americans and other minorities, is as shameful as anything one can think of for people who live in a democracy. But the right-wing “patriots” who engage in such voter suppression are beyond shaming. Winning will only produce more attempts to skew the vote their way and undermine the principles of democratic government. But there’s more to the story of why they are doing such nasty things to our system, which I will get to at the end.

2. Next, we have the issue of money and politics. Theoretically, we all have the ability to influence the electoral process by making contributions to partisan candidates, or on behalf of or in opposition to ballot initiatives. Yes, we are all free to inject into the process a million or ten million or a hundred million dollars, right? Of course not. But people with real money can and do buy votes and people without real money can and do suffer because of it. Undemocratic or anti-democratic? You pick. Either way it is also a shameful aspect of our system.

3. Another people-unfriendly flaw in our electoral schemata was illustrated just 14 years ago. Everyone remembers that Al Gore, former Vice President of the country, actually got over 500,000 more votes than George W. Bush did in the presidential election of 2000. Yet there was no President Al Gore. The Constitution, in all its compromising glory, denied him the office, by virtue of a partisan Supreme Court decision that prematurely settled a messy election in Florida, which then led to Gore’s subsequent defeat in the very weird and anti-democratic electoral college.

Al Gore’s I-won-the-popular-vote-but-I-lost-the-election misfortune (and the country’s misfortune, given what happened on 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, which has set part of the world on fire), though, is a relatively rare event. Such an outcome is not a regular occurrence even under our Constitution. Before the 2000 election, the last time a candidate won a presidential election without at least a plurality of the vote was in 1888. But still it happened and its consequences were costly and catastrophic, and given the trends in our electorate, it may happen more frequently in the future.

4. A more regular anti-democratic feature of our system is gerrymandering, a process of manipulating demographics in order to achieve lopsided outcomes by drawing up Ebola-looking congressional districts. For instance, here’s Maryland’s 3rd District and North Carolina’s 12th District, two of the most gerrymandered House districts in the country:

gerrmandered districts

The most recent beneficiary of this form of voter manipulation is, of course, the Republican Party. After that Democrat-shellacking 2010 election, right-wingers got to draw boundaries for a larger number of congressional districts than Democrats did. After the 2012 election, the results were in: Democrats outpolled Republicans by about 1.4 million votes nationally in House races, but were under-represented by 18 seats. We saw the effect here in Missouri again this year, where even last Tuesday’s pitiful statewide electoral performance by Democrats (they only received 36% of the vote in all U.S. House races) would, under a more people-friendly system, have entitled them to an additional representative in Congress.

Consider the following analysis of the 2012 election done by Sam Wang, who founded the Princeton Election Consortium:

In the seven states where Republicans redrew the districts, 16.7 million votes were cast for Republicans and 16.4 million votes were cast for Democrats. This elected 73 Republicans and 34 Democrats. Given the average percentage of the vote it takes to elect representatives elsewhere in the country, that combination would normally require only 14.7 million Democratic votes. Or put another way, 1.7 million votes (16.4 minus 14.7) were effectively packed into Democratic districts and wasted.

5. Another regular anti-democratic feature of our strange electoral system is what happened last Tuesday relative to the U.S. Senate, which, as some political scientists claim, “may be the least democratic legislative chamber in any developed nation.” Let’s look at Louisiana. There were eight candidates in the Senate race. Here are the top three finishers:

Democrat Mary Landrieu: 618,840  42.1%
Republican Bill Cassidy:    602,439  41.0%
Republican Rob Maness:   202,413  13.8%

Rob Maness is a typical Tea Party wingnut Republican. As far as I’m concerned, Maness shouldn’t be allowed to decide whether to buy a new street sweeper for the city of Baton Rouge, let alone make reactionary whoopee with Mitch McConnell in Washington, D.C.  But Maness did manage to get over 200,000 votes in a multi-candidate race. Compare that to fairly-liberal Democrat Chris Coons in Delaware. He won his race by almost 16 points, yet he received only 130,645 votes. Coons will be a U.S. Senator and Maness will not, thank God and, in this limited case, the Founding Fathers.

But there is something about that 130,645 vote total in Delaware that should unsettle us all, at least those of us who value representative democracy. And there is something unsettling about Mike Rounds’ U.S. Senate victory in South Dakota. He got 140,721 votes. Republican Senator Mike Enzi was reelected in Wyoming with a whopping 72% of the vote, but he got a total of 119, 534 votes. In Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is leading with 110,203 votes. Compare all those totals with what Republican Senator John Cornyn received in his Texas race: 2,855,068. That far exceeds the vote totals of 12 U.S. Senate winners, Republicans and Democrats, last Tuesday. Think about that. There were 36 Senate seats up for grabs and John Cornyn got more votes than one-third of the winners put together. Yet Cornyn, who represents 26.5 million people, will have only one vote, and those 12 other Senators, including Mike Enzi from a population-poor state like Wyoming—583,000—will each have a vote that counts as much as Cornyn’s. In effect, Wyoming citizens enjoy 46 times more representation than do Texans—and 66 times more than Californians!

Put another way on this Veterans Day, an American soldier from Texas or California who is fighting on behalf of the country’s democratic values, is getting considerably shortchanged. Those soldiers from Wyoming or Delaware have, democratically speaking, more to fight for and more to lose. And the small-state advantage is not only big, but it is increasing because of the population growth in large cities in the larger states. Because of the nature of that population growth—African-Americans and Latinos tend to live in the largest states—the smaller states with the lopsided representation make the country’s governance much more whiter and conservative than it would or should be. As The New York Times pointed out,

Among the nation’s five smallest states, only Vermont tilts liberal, while Alaska, Wyoming and the Dakotas have each voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968.

The Times reports another disturbing feature of our political life related to the anti-democratic Senate:

In the last few years, 41 senators representing as little as a third of the nation’s population have frequently blocked legislation, as the filibuster (or the threat of it) has become a routine part of Senate business.

Given that reality, even when Democrats do manage to control a majority of Senate seats, they are still fairly powerless to do anything. One-third of the country’s people can stop two-thirds. It’s hard to see how that is anyone’s idea of representative government.

As I said, there isn’t going to be any mad rush to change any of these flaws in our system. We’re stuck with it, as far as the eye can see. But I do want to point out a dark and disturbing connection between all of the items on my list of anti-democratic elements in our political system, starting with voter suppression efforts by Republicans and ending with the very anti-democratic U.S. Senate.

It is well established that conservatives in our country, whether they have called themselves Democrats or Republicans historically, have always had a problem recognizing the citizenship-legitimacy of African-Americans. The obvious attempts by conservative Republicans today to discourage black people (and other minorities, to be sure) from voting is just another manifestation of institutional discrimination that has bedeviled our democracy since its founding. From the Times:

Robert A. Dahl, the Yale political scientist, who is 97 and has been studying American government for more than 70 years, has argued that slavery survived thanks to the disproportionate influence of small-population Southern states. The House passed eight antislavery measures between 1800 and 1860; all died in the Senate. The civil rights movement of the mid-20th century, he added, was slowed by senators representing small-population states.

Related to that excellent Times article, professor of political science and author Corey Robin wrote,

…for all the justified disgust with Emory University President James Wagner’s recent celebration of the 3/5 Clause, virtually no one ever criticizes the Senate, even though its contribution to the maintenance of white supremacy, over the long course of American history, has been far greater than the 3/5 Clause, which was nullified by the 14th Amendment.

Now you can see why we have had, and continue to have, such an anti-democratic system. The causes are rooted in white supremacy, and we see a manifestation of that same spirit in the Republican-led defense against what they Gordon, scourged back, colored slide 2.pngperceive as threats to white Western culture. The voter suppression of minorities is part of that defense. The big money that controls our politics is part of it (how many black billionaires do you know?). The Electoral College system, which is directly related to the issue of slavery, is another part. Gerrymandering, where minority voting power is diluted by packing voters into often-convoluted districts, is still another part. And, finally, the Senate is part of it, too, a place where, as Corey Robin wrote, “democracy goes to die.”

So, the next time you hear a Republican talk about voter fraud and the need for stricter ID laws, or talk about how money equals free speech, or how the Electoral College “keeps the values of traditional America relevant,” or how gerrymandering “isn’t really about race,” or how the U. S. Senate balances rural interests against big-city interests, you will know what that Republican is really saying: white might makes right.

Is Representative Democracy Dead?

A challenging comment from a thought-provoking contributor to this blog, Herb Van Fleet (who also writes op-eds for the Joplin Globe), has prompted me to post the following.

Among other things, in his response to my piece on the Republican voter suppression scandal, Herb offered this:

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?

My reply:


Of course I have to challenge your suggestion that 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.”

Oh, yes it is. You know why? Because the alternative is unthinkable in a democracy. Just who would get to decide if “those with very little education” can “understand the issues”? Or who would measure the level of ignorance “of our political system” and by what standards would they measure it? Would you apply your Three Stooges test or some other test?

We all agree that it is generally a good idea for folks to be informed and to make use of their rational faculties before doing anything, including casting their votes. But that tells us nothing, when you think about it, about how people might vote or whether they would cast what you or I might consider to be the right vote.

johnson on votingLet’s say we could devise a test that served the purpose you suggested. Then let’s suppose we gave our test to someone like Rush Limbaugh. He would likely pass such a test. Yet, he would certainly disappoint me and around half the country on his choice of candidates. Rush Limbaugh would vote for the dumbest, most clownish Republican on the planet if the alternative was a Democrat. I can guarantee you that, after two decades of listening to him. So, I would ask you: what would be accomplished by such a test? And how significant, in terms of one’s desired electoral outcome, is any testable notion of being “informed”? Therefore, why bother with such a test?

Maybe we could devise a test to sort out people whose minds have been poisoned by fundamentalist religion. We could call it the Ted Cruz or Michele Bachmann test. But what kind of democracy would we have if we arbitrarily decided that this person or that person shouldn’t vote? As much damage as I think the Ted Cruzes and Michele Bachmanns of the world are doing to our politics, in a democracy they both get to vote. And they should. The informed and the misinformed, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, the Christians and the pagans, all get to vote—if they want to. Who knows? Perhaps there is safety in numbers.

That leads me to this stunning argument you made:

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.

I had to read that a couple of times before I could react appropriately. The founders did not give us “an informed electorate,” since no one could guarantee that anyone casting a vote was informed (and, again, if being an “informed” voter is essential to good governance, why doesn’t it lead people to vote and think the same way? Why were there Federalists and Democratic-Republicans in our system as early as 1792?)

But even if the Founders could have given us such an informed electorate, please explain to me how limiting the vote to literate property owners—no blacks, women, or native Americans need apply—constituted a “fully functional representative democracy”? What it amounted to was essentially a fully functional oligarchy. Now, if you personally prefer oligarchies, just say so!

Which leads me to your point about what you call “the tyranny of the minority,” regarding the relatively small number of eligible people who actually vote and decide issues. Now, that is a strange kind of tyranny, don’t you think? I mean what you are describing is essentially a tyranny that people who don’t bother to vote foist on themselves, year after year, election after election. You can call that a lot of things, but it isn’t a tyranny of the minority, unless the minority (as Republicans are now doing) is actively and successfully engaged in voter suppression.

Finally, while I largely agree with you that in many ways, “Public policy is set by special interest groups, lobbyists, and the top one percent,” I think you go too far when you say,

…we have long since slipped from being a liberal representative democracy into a plutocracy.

Well, yes, there are plenty of plutocrats among us. Yes, those plutocrats have outsize influence over our politics. Yes, we are slouching toward something one might call a plutocracy. But as both Roosevelts demonstrated, the plutocrats don’t always have to win. They don’t “rule” in the sense that they control it all. They can always be defeated in a democracy. If we don’t think they can, if we have lost all public confidence in our electoral process (and Citizens United went a long way in undermining that confidence, I’ll admit), and if we no longer believe the people we elect are ultimately responsive and accountable to voters, then the American experiment is over. 

And if you think this great experiment is over, then you will have to admit that “a liberal representative democracy” is simply impossible to maintain. I, for one, am not ready to toss in the towel, and with all due respect, I hope there are more citizens like me than “malcontented, cynical” ones like you.


P.S. I read your recent and mostly admirable op-ed in the Joplin Globe, Herb. I agree with you that “our democracy is broken” and I would be the first to entertain “another form of government,” possibly a parliamentary republic just to name one I am fond of. But I was amazed at two things about your piece. One was that you managed to complain about the brokenness of government without mentioning the real culprit these days: the Republican Party. You tend to do that when you write op-eds for the Globe.

The other thing that amazed me was that you ended with a dubious quote from Abraham Lincoln, who allegedly trembled for the safety of the nation because of the reign of “the money power of the country.” As far as I can tell, Lincoln never said that. I wish to God he had because it would be the greatest prophecy in American history, given what the Republicans on the Supreme Court have lately enabled via Citizens United and other decisions. Next time, rather than leaving them with the impression that both sides are equally guilty for our broken system, maybe you can explain that partisan fact to your readers, as well as the fact that gumming up government has been a deliberate GOP tactic since 2009.


How Much Voter Fraud Is There In Kansas? This Much: 0.00001156069

On a local radio show in Wisconsin, a retiring Republican state senator, Dale Schultz, told the truth about his party and its desire to keep voter turnout as low as possible. He said that the so-called “reforms” that Republicans are fixated on and are ramming through legislatures, including his own, are “all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities,” but that is something that his fellow Republicans “have failed miserably at demonstrating.” Then Schultz really dug down to the heart of the matter:

It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.

The only idea the Republican Party has any faith in at all happens to be how to suppress the vote more efficiently. And one is tempted to admire the tenacity with which Republicans pursue that one anti-democratic, anti-American idea, even if one is disgusted by it.

And speaking of disgusting, Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, one of the most disgusting politicians in the country, won a major, but hopefully temporary, victory  for voter suppression, as the AP reported yesterday:

Federal officials must help Kansas and Arizona enforce laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, in a decision that could encourage other Republican-led states to consider similar policies.

Kobach said,

This is a really big victory, not just for Kansas and Arizona but for all 50 states. Kansas has paved the way for all states to enact proof-of-citizenship requirements.

Mind you there is exactly no evidence that hordes of non-citizens are voting in Kansas or anywhere else. Okay, that isn’t quite right. Kobach himself admits that he has found “20 or so” of those mysterious non-citizens on Kansas voter registration rolls. I’ll leave you to do the math as to what percentage of 1.73 million registered voters that number 20 represents. On second thought, no I won’t. Here’s the percentage:


That tiny number, which roughly corresponds to the amount of patriotism found in all of the GOP kill-the-vote measures around the country, is what Kris Kobach wants you and me to think is motivating him. But even without looking at that tiny number we know better. Even without Wisconsin Republican Dale Schultz, we know the truth. Republicans are fresh out of policy ideas that appeal to a majority of Americans. Fresh out. The only thing they have left, as part of a desperate effort to stave off the coming demographic tide nationwide, is to make it harder for folks, many of them potential Democrats, to vote.

And needless to say, the extra proof-of-citizenship requirement, that unnecessary hindrance to voting that Kobach is so proud of, will make it tough for some poor and elderly voters to comply with. It’s not easy for some people to come up with the money to produce, if they even exist, the documents that will assure Kobach that they are white Republicans, or excuse me, American citizens. And some of those people, perhaps many of them, won’t even bother to try. It’s hard enough to get citizens who have all their papers in order to exercise their right to vote, let alone get people to register who don’t have the paperwork handy to prove they’re Americans.

All of this is just one example of why this polling chart on political party ID looks like it does:

party id

Down, down, down, goes that red line. And as far as I’m concerned, it can go all the way down to hell, where the Republican Party, as we know it today, certainly belongs.

Joe And Mika Rehearsing For A New Show On Fox

Who knew that there was a travesty in America called “Trump University”? Wasn’t Donald Trump enough of a travesty himself without having to start a real estate school that promised to make little Trumps out of folks gullible enough to fork over $35,000?

The Attorney General of New York, Eric Schneiderman, sued the Fox and Friends regular contributor and NBC “reality” star on Saturday, asking for $40 million in damages to be paid as restitution to Trump’s, uh, “students.”

Schneiderman, as USA Today reported, accused Trump “of engaging in persistent fraud, illegal and deceptive conduct and violating federal consumer protection law.” And:

At the seminars, consumers were told about “Trump Elite” mentorships that cost $10,000 to $35,000. Students were promised individual instruction until they made their first deal. Schneiderman said participants were urged to extend the limit on their credit cards for real estate deals, but then used the credit to pay for the Trump Elite programs.

Now, many of us already knew that Donald Trump is a phony and a fraud—his birtherism is enough to convict him—but that some government entity is willing to go after him for hucksterism is beyond gratifying.

What has been disheartening though is what I witnessed this morning on TV.  Of course I expected Fox and Friends to allow Trump several minutes to defend himself, mostly as the hosts cheered on his efforts. And of course, as with everything else wrong in the country, this was President Obama’s fault, as Trump made the suggestion that Schneiderman met with Obama and, voilà , a lawsuit was born!

Here’s how a clearly flustered Trump expressed it on Twitter:

trump on lawsuit

“Same as IRS etc.” Yes, that little blurb was added to ensure Trump keeps the Obama haters on his side, which Fox and Friends happily are. But I was sorely disappointed to watch this morning a segment on Morning Joe which essentially did the same thing as Fox and Friends did: give Trump an unchallenged platform to defend himself and spew his latest Obama conspiracy. It truly was sickening.

It’s one thing for Fox “News” to enable Trump, an incorrigibly ignorant, cartoonishly biased, embarrassingly boastful buffoon. It’s another for MSNBC to do so. But then MSNBC’s Morning Joe is often a safe place for conservative nonsense, as another segment aptly demonstrated this morning.

Politico’s Mike Allen was on the program discussing Colin Powell’s rebuke of the Republican Party for its anti-voting initiatives, as well as an article written by David Nather (“Obama’s big voting rights gamble“) in which it is alleged that the administration, as any Democratic administration should do, is “ramping up its push on voting rights by way of a risky strategy — and pledging more tough moves to come.”

Joe Scarborough couldn’t help himself. He challenged Allen, and anyone else, to tell him what exactly was wrong with the efforts in North Carolina and Texas and elsewhere to require folks to simply have a picture ID to vote:

I’ve just been reading this and I’ve been reading news stories on it and makes it sound like we’re going back to Jim Crow laws, that there are going to be white people with bull whips whipping black people if they come to vote, and Bull Conner is there ready to release German Shepherds. Again I ask innocently, does North Carolina or Texas require anything more than a picture ID, that when somebody shows up to vote, that the person has a picture ID with them that proves they are who they say they are?

Scarborough, not getting the answer he wanted, went on:

I’m not being cute here. I’m reading all of these stories that talk about basically you’re putting a white hood over the governor of North Carolina, putting a white hood over the entire Texas legislature. Most Americans would think it’s not racist to ask somebody to just have a picture ID when they show up at the voting booth. But you read The New York Times and you read these other media outlets that again make politicians in North Carolina and Texas sound racist for just saying, “Hey, you’re going to need a picture ID to prove you are who you are.”

Now, we all know that Joe Scarborough is a conservative Republican. It’s not strange that he sees nothing wrong with requiring folks who want to vote to show some kind of ID at the polls. What is strange is that he completely ignored all of the other things associated with the latest Republican efforts to suppress the votes of minorities and young people, including the fact that many of those minorities and young people can’t get the required IDs easily, including the fact that Republicans are closing polling places in Democratic areas, and including the fact that they are shrinking the times for early voting. (Mike Allen did make a valiant attempt to half-educate him, but it fell on deaf ears.)

But while it’s not strange for a right-winger like Scarborough to defend Tea Party-inspired voter suppression, it is strange for Morning Joe’s alleged Democratic host to do so. Mika Brzezinski responded this way to Scarborough’s rant:

Okay. So, I think that this is a really healthy discussion that has been had out in the media in a completely one-sided way and your side of it is a fair argument and no one goes there because it’s not PC…It’s a very legitimate argument.

She said nothing about the fact that minorities and young people—largely Democratic constituencies—would be disproportionately affected by these Republican schemes. She said nothing about making it inconvenient for Democratic-leaning voters to vote because of the reduction in polling places in strategically located areas. She said nothing of shrinking the days of early voting and eliminating voting on the Sunday before the election, which Democratic-leaning voters tend to do because they happen to be working folks who need the convenience of early voting. She said nothing about how historically hard it was for black folks to get to vote in this country and how unconscionable it is for conservatives to make it much more difficult for them to exercise that hard-earned right. Nothing. Silence about all that from Mika Brzezinski.

And that is why, on this day at least, on this day when Donald Trump needed a place to rehab his image, on this day when the Republican Party needed a place to rehab its image as a vote suppressor, that is why parts of Morning Joe sounded like a rehearsal for a new show on Fox “News” Channel.

Here is the Morning Joe segment on voter ID laws, and if you watch at the end, you will see The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein shaking his head in disbelief and trying to get a word in. Didn’t happen:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And if you can stand it, here is the segment on the (NBC?) rehabilitation of Donald Trump:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Purging Their Way To The White’s House

Whatever one thinks of their strategy to invent a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist, one has to acknowledge that Republicans these days have balls the size of Rush Limbaugh’s slandering mouth.

Today’s right-wingers just don’t give a damn what the mainstream press—or the Justice Department—says about them or their people-purging, anti-voter strategy. By God, they have an election to win!

From HuffPo:

Florida will defy a federal warning to stop purging people the state suspects aren’t U.S. citizens from voter registration rolls.

The whole idea in Florida, as in other states where Republicans enjoy legislative dominance, is, by hook or by crook, to purge enough voters—obviously overwhelmingly Democratic voters—to give Romney an electoral edge so as to ensure Obama’s defeat this November and make the White’s House white again.

Here are just two examples of the egregiousness in Florida:

In Broward County, a 91-year-old World War II veteran was forced to provide proof of his citizenship in order to remain on the voter rolls. And in Seminole County, an election official tweeted a picture of himself with one man who received a warning letter. In the picture, the two men stood side by side, holding the suspect voter’s U.S. passport.

Now, as I said, Republicans have been doing this stuff all over the country, but given how important Florida is to the outcome of November’s presidential election, Republicans in that state have perhaps been the most creative and tenacious in supressing Democratic votes.

Besides the purging of legitimate voters, another of those creative attempts recently ran into problems:

(CBS News) A Federal District judge in Florida placed a preliminary injunction on new Florida voter registration requirements on third-party organizations, calling parts of the law “onerous.”

The judge in that case labeled as “risky business” anyone who might undertake to register voters under Florida’s new rules. The risk partly involves “substantial penalties for noncompliance,” for not meeting a ridiculous 48 hour deadline for submitting any and all voter applications collected. The judge said,

If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed.

Of course, that is precisely the goal of the legislators who concocted this scheme and the governor who signed it into law.

The new act also requires those who merely solicit folks to register to vote—not actually collecting any applications—to identify themselves to the state. As the judge said,

Soliciting an application is core First Amendment speech.

In other words, in order to exercise your core First Amendment rights in Florida, you have to first register with the state an tell ’em who you are! Awesome!

Republicans obviously want as few people going to the polls as possible, particularly the kind of people who have pigmentation that might suggest Democratic Party sympathies. The GOP has decided that suppressing the opposition’s voters is better than trying to win those voters over by proposing policies that might attract them.

Thankfully, there are a few courts left that are willing to see this suppression for what it is. And as for the matter of arbitrarily purging people from the voter rolls, hopefully the Justice Department will not stand for Florida ignoring its warning.

Who could have guessed that after all the time that has passed since we got our act together over voting rights, that we would be fighting folks who want to turn back the clock.

But this contemporary GOP is a turn-back-the-clock party, from the economy to health care reform to environmental protection to education to women’s rights to voting rights, the Republican Party sees our future in the failed ways of the past.

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