Still waiting for conservatives and Republicans repudiating voter suppression

So hey, Sean Hannity, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, William Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and every opinion writer at the National Review and the Wall Street Journal: Do this year’s voter suppression tactics represent your values? If not, it’s time to step up.

I’m gratified that Sean Hannity and other conservatives have gotten the post-election memo on immigration reform. (In Hannity’s case, this may literally be true.) But there’s still another piece of unfinished business.

I want to repeat a good question asked by Timothy Noah back in September: Where are the leading Republicans and conservatives repudiating voter suppression?

The GOP voter suppression effort was so blatant, so dishonorable, and so nearly successful that it deserves response. In too many states, GOP governors and secretaries of state sought to manipulate the mechanics of the voting process to hinder low-income, African-American, and Latino voters from casting their ballots. If Republicans had a working gaydar detection technology, they might have bothered LGBT voters for photo ID, too. The details and tactics varied. Everyone in the media and on both sides understood (a) exactly what was going on, and (b) that the supposed problem of in-person voter fraud invoked to justify these efforts was virtually non-existent.

Of course, both Democrats and Republicans practice various shenanigans in redistricting and other matters. Partisan control over the electoral process disfigures our democracy. This last election season we witnessed something beyond the tawdry business as usual.

So hey, Sean Hannity, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, William Kristol, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and every opinion writer at the National Review and the Wall Street Journal:  Do these tactics represent your values?

If not, it’s time to step up.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

63 thoughts on “Still waiting for conservatives and Republicans repudiating voter suppression”

  1. Why bother? If the Democrats were interested in policing the bastards, they’d make filling every federal judicial vacancy a top priority, and they would use this moment to break the republicans of the reflexive filibuster habit once and for all by making them pay an intolerable price for it.

    1. Sure, there’s exactly ONE “correct” response to this, and you know it. Why didn’t you run for office?

    2. Lots of Democrats are interested in policing the bastards. Who do you think was fighting this stuff in the states?

      I agree that what happens with the filibuster in January will tell us a lot about the state of democratic (small d) governance in this country.

  2. I must say I’m impressed by the kind of mixed-up results that US elections manage to produce. Take Ohio for instance: Obama won the state, but in the US House elections the split was 12-4 in favour of the Republicans. The 13-5 Republican split in Pennsylvania is perhaps even more impressive given Obama’s margin of victory there. Either there are huge numbers of split-ticketers in these states, or the Republicans pulled off a gerrymander that stretches the limits of what is mathematically possible to achieve.

    1. OK, maybe not quite the limits of mathematical possibility. But I want to congratulate the gerrymanderers on what a good job they did from a statistical point of view. Maybe there are some Nate Silver-type nerds playing for Team Red after all.

    2. Look at the total popular vote for House seats: the Ds got a bit more than the Rs, and got fewer seats. In some states, like Ohio, the imbalance was extremely pronounced: I added up the votes a few days ago, and the Rs got something like 53% of the votes for US Rep (the numbers weren’t perfect, as the site I looked at didn’t post numbers for the one D incumbent and the one R incumbent who ran unopposed, but they should roughly cancel), and the Rs got 75% of the seats.

      So: there may be some split-ticketers, and incumbency has its advantages. Even without gerrymandering, the Rs might have held the majority – but by single digits, not by forty seats.

      1. Re: the imbalance in Ohio. In the southwest corner where I live, Hamilton county went blue for Obama but we sent two Republicans to Congress. We used to send a Democrat but that was before the City of Cincinnati was broken into two Congressional districts, with each half of the city attached to very Red rural areas. The eastern district (which is probably best known for sending Mean Jean Schmidt to D.C.) stretches far along the Ohio River, I’d guess about 80-90 miles.

        By something of a fluke, my state rep is a Democrat. This time around the boundaries of her district had been redrawn in such a way that the two most liberal areas were dropped and some very Red areas were added. She managed to win anyway, but it is clear that the gerrymanderers never let up.

        1. Not counting the two unopposed candidates, Boehner and Marcia Fudge(D), Ohio elected eleven R’s and three D’s with a combined margin of 2,315,250 to 2,065,814. That’s some top-notch gerrymandering.

    3. If you think about it you can see that it is easier to gerrymander in a state with close R/D split. Looking at a district map of PA before and after 2010 shows how powerful creative redistricting can be.

  3. If they didn’t think it was wrong to suppress voting before the election, why would they think it was wrong now?

    1. Maybe what the true believers are thinking right now is that the result shows that they didn’t do *enough* voter suppression.

  4. Still waiting for liberals and Democrats to repudiate racial hate mongering. I suspect we’re both going to have a long wait.

    1. a tad different, perhaps – (a) does not affect voters’ right in the same way, (b) may already be illegal depending on what is said, (c) tends not to be designed and carried out by high state officials, and (d) … does it happen significantly at all? Can you give a couple of persuasive examples by people who should know better – say someone with the prominence of the people called on in the original post to repudiate voter suppression?

    2. You mean like the Republicans did after the racist hate-mongering that their fellows did?
      Brett, once again you are pointing a finger in the wrong direction.

    3. “…racial hate mongering.”
      Specifics, please; name names and provide dates and links to document same.

      1. @Ed Whitney — You want specifics, I’ll give you specifics. Here’s a specific time, date and link as an example of someone engaging in hate mongering (using a slur which I deleted), getting caught and then being unrepentent about it.

        Keith Humphreys says:
        October 6, 2011 at 7:13 am
        Brett: I could make my usual statement about your tendency to twist arguments into straw men and attack people for things they did not say (e.g., No guns come from within Mexico), but I have something more important to say which is that if you ever post another racial or ethnic slur on this site you will be banned permanently from RBC.

        Brett Bellmore says:
        October 6, 2011 at 9:44 am
        Alas, I’m an old fogy without a subscription to “What’s become a slur since you first learned English as a child” weekly. Fine, I’ll call them “IAWHS’s” (Illegal Aliens With Hispanic Surnames) or whatever Newspeak word is current.

        The link is here

        The angry white guy routine of “I’m not the racist, everyone else is a racist” is one of the oldest, saddest rhetorical tricks in the book and we are wasting time if we respond to it in good faith.

    4. Uh, the liberals and non-southern Democrats repudiated racial hate mongering many decades ago. That led to third party presidential candidacies in 1948 and 1968.

      After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965–both of which had strong bipartisan support–most ancestral Democrats in the South abandoned the Democratic Party. Isn’t it odd that the Republican (and apparently the Bellmorian) version of history ignores the past forty some-odd years?

    5. = = = = =
      Deflecting Criticism 3 – Whataboutery

      Another very common means of deflecting criticism is ‘whataboutery’ where the supporter of the criticised viewpoint leaps up with a tangental or even totally unrelated problem you have not criticised. For example, you might criticise homeopaths for making dodgy claims and a homeopath comes back with “What about thalidomide?” with the intention of derailing the discussion to thalidomide and away from homeopathy.
      = = = = =

  5. Simple question: Who’s advocating racial quotas, and who’s demanding that hiring and admissions be color blind? If you see the term “Uncle Tom” used in political discourse today, who’s using it, directed at who? For what purpose was Planned Parenthood founded? Who finds it necessary to construct tendentious definitions of “racism” to automatically clear themselves? Of course liberals and Democrats are still racists.

    The larger point being, you don’t repudiate what you don’t admit. Republicans aren’t going to repudiate “voter suppression”, any more than Democrats are going to repudiate race mongering, because neither side concedes that the other side’s complaints are valid.

    Still thinking Republicans agree with you, and take the other side because they WANT to be bad.

    1. Shorter Brett Bellmore: No, I have no plans to repudiate Republican voter suppression.


      1. Well, no. Brett has been pretty consistent in saying that he doesn’t think it should be too easy to vote, and that we get a higher quality of voter when we make it hard to vote. (See here: “We really don’t want to encourage voting by lazy, uninformed people.”)

        But I think he’s conflating two different senses of “conced[ing] that the other side’s complaints are valid.” You can refuse to concede on factual grounds or on normative grounds. Democrats don’t concede Republican complaints of in-person voter fraud on factual grounds; as a matter of fact, in-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare. No Democrat would argue that voter fraud would be a good thing if it were common.

        Brett is refusing to concede complaints of voter suppression on normative grounds; even if the way our elections are administered makes it hard to vote, he thinks that’s not a bad thing. But I don’t think that’s what most Republicans would argue. When an R official accidentally goes off the record that he doesn’t want to accommodate efforts to turn out black voters, he soon finds himself saying that voting “should be easy, convenient, and un-intimidating for all voters.” Maybe in their hearts Republicans think that it’s a good thing to make voting hard, but they usually don’t seem willing to say it outright, at least not in swing states. You’ll more often hear that voter ID laws and restricted early voting don’t in fact place much of a burden on voting at all.

        So I think we can call on Republicans to take a stand one way or another: acknowledge that you think it should be harder to vote, try to make a case that it isn’t hard to vote (but those seven-hour lines are hard to explain away), or condemn the things that are making it hard to vote. Brett’s made his choice. Will Republicans be brave enough to stand with him?

      2. Shorter Brett Bellmore: “A pox on both their houses. Or, to be more specific, on the Democrats houses.”

    2. Yeah those looooong lines in predominantly Republican polling places were a disgrace. Dam those Democrats.
      Or was it that the lines were short ’cause the Black Panthers were scaring the soccar moms away?
      No, raceism is a real issue and needs to be addressed. If the GOP is going to try to bar the polling place doors to minorites who is going to defend those voters if not the opposition party? When one side is attacking and another defending, “both sides are doing it” is a lame argument.
      And let’s not forget where all this started. When LBJ stated that the Democrats would loose the south for a generation he showed that his motives in pushing civil rights legislation were anything but political. He was a politician’s politician and knew exactly what price the Democratic party would pay for doing the right thing. When Nixon set out on his “southern strategy” he showed that it was all politics and moral conviction be damned. And the GOP has never looked back. Now they are crying because it’s biting them in the ass.

    3. “For what purposes was Planned Parenthood founded?”! At one point in time, Prohibition was a liberal cause. That’s hardly true today. Let’s look at what is true right now, okay?

      I think that most sane people would argue that providing women with contraception and health care makes for more autonomous women (in your parlance, women have more liberty) and healthier women.

    4. Noted for the next time you say that it’s a liberal vice to assume that their opponents have evil motives.

    1. i want to be clear about what you are saying brett. what it sounds like you’re saying is that discrimination and hostility to non-white peoples does not represent racism but trying to find ways to overcome the repugnant history of slavery and discrimination does represent racism. if this truly summarizes your opinions on this matter i find you morally execrable and an unworthy interlocutor. if this does not accurately summarize your views i request you clarify them.

      1. No, I’m pretty clearly saying that not discriminating does not represent racism, discriminating does, and all the push today for discrimination is on the part of liberals, not conservatives.

        1. And voter suppression was the subject at hand and it is the GOP that has been beating it like a dog for two years and the victims (yes I said victims) have been targeted racial minorities.
          The up side is that these valiant citizens got pissed enough to say “F#¤K NO!” and stood there for obscene hours to register their will and won against the evil usurpers of their freedom.
          Now what were you blathering about concerning “RACISM” Brett?

        2. BRett, there’s an old joke that’s relevant here:
          How do you keep a black man from drowning?
          Take your foot off his neck.

          Anyone who cannot see the result of 200 years of systematic racism, and understand that there is still a lot of it around, and that this needs fixing is just not playing with a full deck. Or is himself a racist.

      2. perhaps you actually believe that but what i and others would tell you is that if you’re traveling into a 20 knot headwind you have to put extra force to move the same speed as you would without the headwind.

        1. And if you’re dragging your feet, other people have to put extra force into shifting your share of the load, too.

          I’m sure we could have a fun discussion on the subject of how you’d go about determining (In individual cases! Because you need to do that if you’re not a racist.) whether it’s a headwind, or slacking, or culture, that’s responsible for the relatively poor average performance of some racial/ethnic groups compared to others, but it doesn’t change the fact that liberals are, with a few notable exceptions, enthusiastic advocates of racial discrimination, while conservatives are generally opposed to it.

          Which fact we’re supposed to ignore, because racial discrimination is good when liberals practice it… Ask anybody but the victims!

          But, of course, you’ll deny that you’re racists, just like conservatives will deny they’re engaging in improper vote suppression. Perhaps in both cases the guilty parties have what they think are adequate reasons for what the other side finds objectionable?

          1. Sorry, Brett, but the VICTIMS are the ones who were systematically destroyed by “color-blind” (read, old boy network) policies. Now we have to clean up YOUR mess, that’s gonna leave you complaining for sure. But it’s still your mess and mine.

          2. Right, liberal racial discrimination doesn’t have “victims”, or if it does, they’re all reincarnated slave owners, some such. You know this because of the color of their skin!

            But you’re not racists, of course.

          3. here i have to throw my hands up and say i can’t argue with that kind of logic. in my experience of being a white man in texas of middle class origins i have partaken of innumerable advantages and perquisites that have been thrown my way for 50 years because of my race and my gender. even when affirmative action existed the thumb was still on the scale in my favor. the capital basis of the wealth in my region was established by the lash on the backs of the non-white and even now the inequities of society fall most heavily on the non-white. i can’t say if you are naive, deluded, or merely mendacious but your false equivalences cut no ice with me. i’ve seen too much to find your arguments anything better than laughable.

            to summarize–
            your arguments are laughable
            your position is contemptible
            your worldview is delusional.

          4. “You know this because of the color of their skin!”

            Just like you know that Bobby Jindal is Latino!

          5. Brett, actually, no, I’m not a racist. I am a pragmatic, empathic, thinking man, who believes that we have to fix what’s broken.
            Even though I didn’t break it, since it is my country, I take responsibility for repairing it.

            Navarro, you are exactly right.

          6. The problem is, you take your responsibility for fixing it, and do the fixing at other people’s expense, who weren’t responsible.

            Look, reason about This: What IS racism? What is objectionable about it?

            My understanding of this is that “racism” is the belief that individuals are merely largely interchangeable instances of a group. That once you know their group, you know what’s important about them, and can treat them on the basis of it, without attention to their individual histories or merits.

            And so the KKK rode out, when a black man committed a crime, and lynched some random black. Because blacks were interchangeable, there was no reason to care if they got the right guy; A black did it, blacks were guilty, even the ones that didn’t do anything.

            So, how are you any different? You’ve assigned victim status to one group on the basis of color, oppressor status to another group on the basis of color, and you’re perfectly comfortable benefiting blacks, at the expense of whites, without caring if the individuals you’re taking it out on personally did anything.

            And so the recent black immigrant gets an affirmative action slot, at the expense of a descendent of the Japanese internment. And “justice” is done, because they’re not really individuals, just instances of their races, so you don’t have to care about the details.

            We’re not talking about real oppressors and victims here, just people who’ve been assigned those roles, based on pigmentation.

            Well, it all works out ok anyway, because handing out racial spoils has been very good for the Democratic party, you’ve bought 90% plus loyalty from blacks by doing it. Which is the real reason affirmative action can never end, I expect.

          7. brett, the first rule of holes is when you find yourself in a hole stop digging and you’ve dug yourself quite a moral hole here. it’s quite obvious you think you’re making salient points against those racist liberals who are so self-righteous and smug.

            you aren’t.

            as i said before, i can’t really argue with the kind of logic you’re using so, unless you find something intelligible to say, i’m no longer going to try here.

  6. Republican leadership and the their rank-and-file activists fail to understand what their voter suppression efforts clearly indicate, their old base is quite literally dying away, Their falling short in this presidential election is as good as it was ever going to get.

    And now, either the Republican Party will reform into a progressive party on the center-right and remain one of the two major parties alone with the Democratic Party on the liberal left or a new progressive party will form out of moderate Republicans (RINOs) and independents. So far, Republicans in Congress and their string pullers seem bent on trying to hold onto their good-old-boy status by trying to drag their feet.

    Speaker of the House John Boehner is doing a stumblebum around with malarkey to avoid dancing to the tune of the vote of the American people to end tax favoritism to the masters of corporate wealth that have bought Boehner and friends their offices. Boehner’s flimflam is to claim that a tax increases would be detrimental to small businesses—the ones that his corporate benefactors have over the past decades been killing off.

    Main Street America has not become increasingly devoid of small businesses because owners have been making money and paying taxes on handsome earnings. They have been and are being put out of business by corporations that to Mitt Romney are his kind of people. Gone are dime stores, local department stores, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, mom and pop gas station, banks, lumber yards, family groceries, and many local restaurants. Even Iowa’s stouthearted farmers have been disappearing from the land to work in three jobs that do not quite let them make it on low wages and no benefit.

    The jobs they can find in small businesses are those in ones also in danger of not quite making it. And those found in large corporations are those that tend to make it by putting more small businesses out of business. But even these corporations will have to treat their workers poorly for if they do not they too will be going out of business. Like Sears that is having trouble staying in business although in past times it was the nation’s retail giant in which its clerks prospered to such an extent they climbed into the middle class. Now if they find a like job it will be in a box store working for little and selling stuff made under slave labor conditions in low standard of living countries; the kind of places Romney and friends would make of America, but with fine dining in a Godfather’s Pizza when you are not working in a pizzeria that Herman Cain had brought to a neighborhood near you.

    As before the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, the Republican Party has once again become an instrument of the few at the expense of the many. To such an extent that only 00.006% has hoarded the nation’s wealth and are in danger of forcing into eternal servitude the 99.9904% that constitutes the declining middle class, working poor, totally destitute and younger generation trying to get a start from under a huge pile of educational debt. Adding to this is that much of what was once work is increasingly being automated and further benefits those that own machines in place of hiring people.

    What needs to be done is to have the wealthy pay their share of taxes on the wealth they have been pocketing as a bulk of working people have had little or no gain. Further, America needs to put its people to work in good jobs taking the nation totally electric with so much renewable energy that it can be licensed for free individual use, assure real free enterprise to everyone and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of all Americans so that they can take care of themselves as they will and not have opportunity rationed by the moneychangers of wealth and see their nation suffer continued indenture and international entanglement serving the purpose of the world’s oil barons.

  7. To me, the strongest evidence that the motivation for voter ID laws is/was suppression (and I expect that they will keep trying) is the lack of evidence of existing fraud. There wasn’t a problem to fix, so what else could explain these efforts? People can blow a lot of hot air, but that’s the basic point.

    The other basic point is the one Harold is trying to make, which is that such activities are unethical and unAmerican. American tradition is (or, *should be*) to win or lose elections through the strength of ideas, not by harassing people into giving up their vote. And Harold’s right, a true conservative — if there were any left — would disown these abuses of power. Luckily there are still a few honest jurists.

    I think what we have here is the bad side of American exceptionalism. Some Americans think that we owe our relatively peaceful and transparent government(s) — and *thus* ALL our prosperity — to some kind of greater American character. But really we have these things just as an inheritance, and we have to take care of them or we will lose them. And then won’t we all feel stupid? (Think Burt Lancaster at the end of Planet of the Apes.)

    Having said that, I think once an election is over is a great time to try to find out what our communal sense of fairness dictates. I think it exists.

    1. I think once a crooked election is over it is the time to drag the miscreants into court. It is not possible to press the legal envelope that hard without breaking some laws and the point needs to be made plain for the public to see. “Why can’t we all just get along so we can move forward” hasn’t been working so well lately and it’s time to try some justice and see how that works.

      p.s. I believe it is Charlton Heston in the original Planet of the Apes. Burt Lancaster would have been great in that role.

      1. Oops!! Dangit, I get them confused for some reason, it’s ridiculous!!! It happened in the Hamlet movie too. Whichever one was in that, was amazing.

        Well, I think for something like this, what you need is just good reporting. I don’t think that, in a non-election year, your average Republican voter would really want to be involved in this kind of ugliness. At least, I sure hope not.

        Either way, these things have to be sorted out during the quiet times, because we all get biased when the elections are near, imho.

  8. Was it Mark Kleiman who said that Brett was a valued member of the RBC community?
    I guess he meant as a bad example 🙂

  9. Brett: ¨Still waiting for liberals and Democrats to repudiate racial hate mongering.¨
    Why, I´ll repudiate racial hate mongering every day and twice on Sundays.
    But that´s not what he means, which is more accurately reflected by the nonsense about discrimination being hate mongering. Actually, discrimination – in favour of those with stronger claims of right, need or desert – is the basis of ethics. A teacher discriminates in favour of the child who has problems learning to read, and quite right too. Was ¨women and children first¨ the wrong call on the Titanic?
    The objection is to discrimination on irrelevant or improper grounds. Being white is an irrelevant and improper ground except for skin cancer prevention. Being the descendant of African slaves or having two X chromosomes is frequently relevant in that such persons are still the object of pervasive – if declining, and often unconscious – and improper discrimination by more powerful white men in jobs, pay and other things, establishing a need for policy thumbs on the scales to ensure equal opportunity. Even if you disagree with this well-known position, It´s complete b/s and a crass insult to equate it with race hatred.

    1. “Even if you disagree with this well-known position, It´s complete b/s and a crass insult to equate it with race hatred.”


  10. Let’s talk about voter supression. How about the millions of unborn babies who will never vote because they were aborted? That’s voter supression on a whole different level. Now that’s a tragedy.

    1. Bux, I realize abortion is almost the only topic you post about, but that doesn’t mean you have to post about it in every thread. Also, people may disagree on the definition of “unborn babies”.

    2. Fair enough. Every aborted fetus who would’ve reached the age of eighteen by the date of the election should get a vote, represented by its next of kin. Also every child who dies before the age of eighteen (because surely you don’t subscribe to the “life begins at conception and ends at birth” theory) and in fact every voter who has died before the age of average life expectancy.

      This means an enormous number of extra votes for poor people and women who’ve had abortions, but I’m sure you’re all right with that.

    3. Indeed; and what of the billions — nay, trillions — who will never vote because their brief sojourn in this vale of tears ended in a Kleenex or an old tube sock? Won’t somebody please think of the spermatozoa?

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