If the United States is governed by the people, as we have claimed at least since Abraham Lincoln was president, it is the job of our government to make participation as easy and seamless as possible. Political campaigns may choose to mobilize their supporters and ignore the other candidate’s supporters, but a government by the people has the mandate to make it as easy as possible for everyone to vote. Voting should not require time off work, private transportation, poll taxes or unnecessary costs, contagion to disease, or the inconvenience – or cost – of long lines. And if you want to go to the polls with those you worship with on Sunday – or golf with on Saturday – whatever works for you is fine.
We should all be able to vote in a manner that is easy, safe, convenient, and efficient. I have not heard a solid justification for any other goals in our voting laws. Yeah, there shouldn’t be people voting more than once or people who are not eligible voting at all but those are rare events and require subservient policies. Our transportation system is not designed to prevent carjacking. (Analogies are not logic, but designing the very foundation of our system of government around the prevention of rare fraud isn’t logical either. )
So why aren’t we all together on this? Why isn’t the policy to remove restrictions, barriers – and inconveniences – to make it all easier? Why is anyone adding restrictions to the process?
On a couple of grounds, the right has done a better job messaging the matter than have the Democrats.
First, if you are paying only slight attention, which of these two things sounds like more of a problem: politicians stealing elections or politicians suppressing the vote? Stealing is worse than suppressing. So let me rephrase voter suppression: the Republicans are trying to cheat because they are sore losers. Anything that makes it harder for people to vote is political cheating. It just means you are scared of people voting. Because you are losers.
It’s just better sometimes to use fighting words rather than abstract ones. Cheating is always bad. Suppression – assuming everyone knows what it means – is arguably sometimes valuable. The whole language of voter suppression is way too abstract.
Then there is racializing the issue. To be clear, I have no doubt at all that the Republicans who are trying to cheat are trying to make it harder for lower income people to vote and many of their efforts to cheat (like distribution of polling places) are specifically aimed at black people. Their efforts are only a little subtler than the old Mississippi poll tax of days of yore so anyone who cares about that can see it for themselves.
Calling them on racism has four negative consequences from a message perspective. First, it makes the argument about who is a racist when neither party has a perfect record there. Second, it is always hard to argue someone else’s motivations because they can simply say its not true. Third, it loses the point that governance of elections should always be about making it easier to vote, a point that can unite people. Finally, it loses the point that it is all an effort to cheat – to pick and choose who votes because they are sore losers. Their behavior is a cheat. Organizing the black community on the racial aspect makes sense because black people understand they are the target. But it is all a bit too abstract for many white people.
Actually, the Republican behavior seems to me quite rational, though not justifiable. For the next few elections, the electorate will be aging as the baby boomers do and since older people are more likely to vote, aging white baby boomers will be a force. Then the electorate will start to get younger, voters of color will be better represented, and, unless the Republicans change, or make our system of government change, they are likely to lose big in the long haul (assuming we get through the next decade as a country). They are trying to restrict voting – excuse me, they are trying to cheat – so they wont keep losing.
It makes more sense to me to protect the principle – in a democracy the job of government is to make participation easier – than to racialize the argument or narrow it. It is all rather central to whether we survive as a democracy – a 21st century one not a reversion to the 19th.
That brings me to the corporate support for the Republicans cheating. I get the rational point: you believe their policies are better for you than Democratic policies so you are helping them cheat. But you have done very well in a capitalist democracy so I don’t think you should want to get rid of it. And if you look to the longer haul from a strategic planning perspective, why side with the big losers? There will likely be some payback for helping them cheat if you continue to do so and you are, after all, doing ok with the government we have.