A former George W. Bush speechwriter says that resilient Hillary Clinton will be tough to beat, that his fellow Republicans are deluded if they think otherwise. I’ll quote him later, because he’s right. Just take a look at how she has outplayed her foes over the past five days.
While Republicans, their doltish trolls, and much of the political press has been obsessing for weeks about Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation, she has been methodically laying down markers on policy issues like pay equity, a higher minimum wage, and path-to-citizenship immigration. These issues are a two-fer. They resonate with the Obama electorate (especially working women and people of color) and they draw sharp contrasts with the GOP agenda.
Then, in a speech last Thursday, she added another key color to her palette: Voting rights reform. She proposed that all Americans be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18, and that all states offer at least 20 days of early voting. And she denounced the GOP’s ongoing voter-suppression campaign: “What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people and young people, from one end of the country to the other.”
She also named names: Rick Perry, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush (she could easily have added John Kasich), all of whom, in their gubernatorial tenures, have curbed access to the ballot. She said of Republicans, “What part of democracy are they afraid of?”
And by planting her flag on “democracy,” she put the Republicans in a tough position. If they failed to respond, they’d be implicitly conceding that she was right. But if they responded by attacking Hillary and defending their vote-suppression efforts, they’d risk sounding anti-democratic.
Some of them foolishly took the bait. On Friday, Christie said this about Hillary’s support for early voting: “She just wants an opportunity to have, you know, commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country.” John Kasich, on Fox News Sunday, accused Hillary of “running around the country dividing Americans.” (I doubt that Kasich can explain how support for ballot access is tantamount to “dividing Americans.”) And elsewhere, a Rick Perry spokesman accused Hillary of “weakening the integrity of our election process.”
Note that the Republicans still insist that they’re merely trying to fight the scourge of “voter fraud.” In truth, there is no scourge. Their spin is the fraud, and Hillary exposed it all over again.
When Pennsylvania Republicans ginned up a photo ID law in 2012, supposedly to combat the scourge of voter impersonation, their own lawyers admitted in a signed affidavit that they couldn’t cite a single case of voter impersonation. After Scott Walker’s Wisconsin regime enacted a photo ID law, a federal judge threw it out, and wrote that “virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin. (Walker’s lawyers) could not point to a single instance.” And a recent national study, surveying district attorneys nationwide, found a grand total of 10 voter impersonation cases in the first 12 years of this century, which translated into one out of every 15 million prospective voters.
But, by now, we all know why Republicans are trying to curb ballot access – via photo ID laws, early voting restrictions, and laws that bar college kids from voting in their campus communities. Republicans keep trying to game the system, to limit democracy, because they know they’re broadly unpopular with poor people, young people, and people of color. As Republican strategist Scott Tranter infelicitously blurted at a Pew-sponsored forum in December ’12, “we want to do everything we can to help our side. Sometimes we think that’s voter ID, sometimes we think that’s longer lines (on election day, thanks to restrictions on early voting) – whatever it may be.”
So, yeah, Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation donations are important – but Republicans are deluding themselves if they think that the average voter, particularly the grassroots Democratic-leaning voter, is going to cast his or her ballot on the basis of those factors. The policy stuff is far more important. The voting-rights issue animates the Obama electorate that won two national races, and independent swing voters probably see it as mom and apple pie. It’s hard to see how Republicans can outplay Hillary by making it harder for people to vote.
Which brings me to former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer, the Republican guy I referenced at the top of this piece. Here’s what he says about Hillary and the GOP:
“If history is any guide, the latest series of Clinton scandals will only end to their advantage. Just like they always do. Indeed, it’s long past time for the GOP to learn this lesson before the Clintons whip them again….
“Notice what the Clintons do when serious allegations surface. They go out and give speeches. About campaign finance reform. Or juvenile justice reform. The key word, of course, is ‘reform.’ As in change. As in the future….Bill and Hillary Clinton learned long ago what should be obvious to anyone spending a day in politics: Voters care about their own lives, their own futures, far more than they do about the latest Washington feeding frenzy. Ideas trump innuendo. This is why the Clintons keep winning.
“Until the GOP gives up its obsession with the former First Family, until it positions itself as the party of the future…then the party is going to be in for another shock next year – this one even bigger than 1992.”
He said it, not me.
And speaking of trolls, the Dilbert Sunday strip is priceless.