It’s always so refreshing when a Republican wanders off script and tells the truth about the party’s vote-suppression crusade.
The official spin, of course, is that the GOP desires only to halt the (non-existent) national epidemic of ballot fraud. But every once in awhile the fig leaf of falsehood is too heavy to bear, and some burdened soul commits an act of candor – by confessing that the real aim is to keep likely Democratic voters away from the polls.
Case in point, Pennsylvania House Republican leader Mike Turzai, who said last year that the state voter-ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” Case in point, Pennsylvania GOP chairman Rob Gleason, who noted this year that President Obama’s winning ’12 margin was smaller than his ’08 margin, and “probably voter ID had helped a bit in that.” Case in point, Republican strategist Scott Tranter, who blurted last December, at a Pew-sponsored forum, that “a lot of us are campaign professionals, and we want to do everything we can to help our sides. Sometimes we think that’s voter ID, sometimes we think that’s longer lines (at the polls), whatever it may be.”
And now comes Phyllis Schlafly, the veteran conservative activist/icon. She arguably wins first prize for uttering what’s known as a “Kinsley gaffe” – so named for commentator Michael Kinsley, who once quipped that, in politics, a gaffe occurs when a spinner goes rogue and gets real.
Schlafly got real the other day, in a column for the right-wing WorldNetDaily site. She sought to defend North Carolina’s new vote-suppression law, which requires a government-issued ID, abolishes same-day registration, and slashes the early-voting window by a week. She glided past the alleged scourge of voter fraud; she cited no scourge statistics, because none exist. Instead she gave away the game, telling us what the GOP crusade is really about. The key quote:
“The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important, because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting . . .The Obama technocrats have developed an efficient system of identifying prospective Obama voters and then nagging them – some might say harassing them – until they actually vote. It may take several days to accomplish this, so early voting is an essential component of the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote campaign.” And as for the people who don’t have government-issued IDs, they’re a real problem because “they are expected to vote for Democrats.”
There it is (even if she didn’t realize what she’d said): Vote suppression is designed to suppress likely Democratic votes.
It’s easy to understand why Schlafly and the aforementioned trio have found it so hard to hew 24/7 to the “voter fraud” spin. It’s hard to keep slinging bull without the stats to back it up. In the summer of ’12, when Pennsylvania’s GOP regime went to court to defend its voter-ID law, the lawyers had to admit in a signed document that the fraud line was a fiction: “There have been no investigations and prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania….(We) will not offer any evidence that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania.”
As for North Carolina, the state Board of Elections has tallied 6,947,317 ballots cast in 2012, for two primary elections and the general election. Care to guess how many alleged fraud cases were referred to the district attorneys? Twelve. And when the journalism consortium News21 recently surveyed DAs nationwide, it discovered that over the past decade, there have been a grand total of 10 cases of voter impersonation fraud – which translates into one case for every 15 million eligible voters.
No wonder Colin Powell this month told a North Carolina audience (which included the Republican governor who signed the new law), “You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud. How can it be widespread – and undetected?”
So thanks, Phyllis, for the truth gaffe. You’re like a breath of fresh air.
And let’s thank Army combat veteran Jason Thigpen, currently a Republican congressional candidate in North Carolina, for deliberately committing candor about the vote-suppression campaign. Here’s what he said on Facebook the other day, about his own party’s “voter fraud” spin: “You can paint a turd and sell it as art, but it’s still a turd.”
OK, that’s not particularly elegant. Thigpen’s real point, which he subsequently stressed in an online interview, is that Republicans should “inspire people to get out and vote rather than telling them they cannot vote. Let’s broaden the base of voters by engaging them . . . rather than inhibiting them or disenfranchising them.”
Yeah, expand the franchise – what a concept! As Martin Luther King said at the Lincoln Memorial, 50 years ago today, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
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