Voter-ID Is Vote Suppression

Vote Baby Vote!Many people have noted that voter-ID laws are a solution is search of a problem. But as Scott Lemieux has noted, that’s really not the case, The Vote Fraud Fraud: Still Fraudulent. Republicans saw a very big problem: the percentage of white people (especially the old and male ones) in the country was dropping, and pretty much no one else was interested in voting from them. So looking at that problem, they came up with the simplest solution imaginable: stop people who aren’t white from voting.

That was a simple solution because it has a long history of working. Two words: Jim Crow. Pretty much everything that whites did to stop blacks from voting into the 1960s is being done now. As I’ve noted before: if a citizen doesn’t have an ID necessary to vote, what is the requirement that they get such documentation? It’s a poll tax. When the government stopped high school teachers from registering students, what is that? It’s intimidation of voter registration drives. And there is a long list of other ways that the white elites worked to keep others from voting, all on display today, albeit without the same open campaign of terror.

It’s also really interesting that the Republicans have not pursued ways of stopping voter fraud through absentee ballot. That’s the kind of voter fraud that could be done on a large scale that might actually affect the outcome of an election. But absentee voting is something that is done by older white voters. You know: Republicans. So there is no concern about that kind of voter fraud. Again: this is because voter-ID laws are not about voter fraud. They are about stopping Democrats from voting.

A great example of this comes to us from Iowa where Secretary of State Matt Schultz released a report last week on voter fraud. After two years and a quarter million dollars, he found a total of 117 cases of “voter misconduct” with 17 more cases that are pending. That’s roughly 0.008% of all the votes cast in 2012—assuming those 17 pending cases come through. So is it a big deal? No. But even if it had been 99% of the ballots were cast illegally, it wouldn’t matter.

You see, these cases of voter fraud mostly involved non-citizens and felons registering to vote. And some of them involved people voting in two states, by absentee ballot in one of the states, we assume. Of course, none of this necessarily means these people actually voted. A non-citizen may have registered and then not voted. Someone who recently moved to Iowa might still have been registered in his previous state without voting there. So the number—small as it is—is likely overstated. But the most important thing is this: none of this kind of voter fraud would be addressed by requiring voters to show identification at the polls.

What Schultz is doing is what Republicans always do in these cases: show that there is some voter fraud and then argue that this fraud justifies laws that would have no effect on that kind of fraud. The truth is that any complex system will have errors in it. For example, reducing food stamp fraud means that a lot more people who ought to get food stamps won’t. The only way to eliminate fraud is to eliminate the program. In order to eliminate voter fraud, we would have to eliminate voting. The question is, which is better: a slightly imperfect democratic system or a non-democratic system?

But in this case, the Republican push for voter-ID is not about doing anything about voter fraud. It is about voter suppression. This is why states have reduced early voting: there is not even a pretense of fighting voter fraud there. It is all about stopping the Wrong Kind of Voter. This dates back to the earliest days of our republic. But at least men like John Adams were honest enough to admit to their own elitism. Now the elitist party has half the country convinced it is looking out for their interests. Meanwhile, white people vote to keep Those People in their place, while their tax dollars continue to go to Exxon and other “deserving” causes.

H/T: Jonathan Bernstein

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Conservatives Want What They Want

Josh BarroEmily Dickinson famously wrote, “The Heart wants what it wants—or else it does not care.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot as it relates to two of my favorite conservative writers: Josh Barro and Dave Weigel. Both are smart young men who see the conservative movement for all its silly ridiculousness. But each has a soft spot for a Republican politician that simply can’t be explained by who they are. In fact, in the only thing that really distinguishes the objects of their affection are idiosyncrasies that make them less generally appealing, not more. So Barro loves an loudmouthed bully and Weigel loves a neo-confederate subgenius. The heart wants what it wants.

Josh Barro’s infatuation with Chris Christie is the harder one to understand. I know that among the pundit class, Christie is seen as a practical politician who is willing to work across the isle. But that really isn’t true, and Barro is far too smart to believe that. Christie is an absolutely pure conservative. There is no major issue on which he disagrees with his crazy party. Sure, he gives himself a little ideological wiggle room to not froth at the mouth about Muslims, but he is governor of a blue state after all. And he’s governed in an extremely conservative way. This is the man who has killed important public works projects and has done all he can to destroy the public pension system. (You know: contracts only matter when they apply to rich people!)

But Barro just loves him. In fact, he loves him so much that I simply won’t read him anymore when he’s talking about Christie. It’s always the same apologetics. Christie could be caught poisoning squirrels in the park and Barro would argue that it means nothing because squirrel lovers don’t vote in presidential primaries. Last November, Barro wrote a classic, Let’s Stop The Hand-Wringing About Chris Christie Being A “Bully.” In that article he’s pushing against this idea (that I share) that Christie’s obnoxious act is going to alienate just about everyone outside of New Jersey. Reading Barro on Christie always reminds me of the Far Side cartoon where the dog is trying to lure a cat into a clothes drier, thinking, “Oh please, oh please…” Barro is hoping against hope that the object of his affection will be the next president.

Cat Fud - Far Side

But my all time favorite was the article I wrote, Josh Barro Phenomenon. Barro liked the article so much that he tweeted to me, “your post is the dumbest thing I’ve read today, and I read several other dumb things today.” But based upon another tweet, it was clear that he didn’t understand what I was talking about. Christie had just killed the Hudson River tunnel. Christie did it for his usual conservative reasons like, you know, that he hates regular people and that he wants to save money to give to his cronies. But Barro was right there to make the reasonable sounding argument, “The project is filled with waste!” Well, sure; that can be said about every project ever done. But the truth is that he will always find some reasonable excuse for why Chris Christie is right.

Dave WeigelI don’t mind that Josh Barro is in love with Chris Christie, but does he have to flaunt it in public. I mean, there are children watching!

The situation is somewhat different with Dave Weigel. It has to be. Barro is an idealist and Weigel is a cynical curmudgeon. (And he’s only 32; imagine him in his 70s!) Almost everything that he writes oozes with playful disdain. If Bokonon had been a journalist, he would have been Dave Weigel. Yes, it’s a funny old world. When all the world follows his advice and kills themselves, he will wryly note that people are strange as he goes off in search canned foods and shelter for the night

But as a bleeding heart libertarian, Weigel has a strange fondness for Rand Paul. I understand: they are both at least nominally libertarians. But Paul is no kind of bleeding hearter. He’s very much like his father Ron Paul who I did not vote for when he ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate when I was a registered libertarian. Because the Paul family isn’t even libertarian; they are neo-confederates. They are anti-federalists, as Steven Taylor describes in The Anti-Federalist Impulse. So why is a “social justice” kind of libertarian like Dave Weigel so infatuated with Rand Paul? I guess we just have to depend upon Ms Dickinson: Weigel’s heart wants what it wants, and apparently that is the pre-epiphany Grinch sized heart that resides in the mostly empty chest cavity of Rand Paul.

When Rand Paul announced that voter-ID laws were not a good thing for the Republican Party, I didn’t mention it. What was there to say? All he meant was that it was bad public relations. But many liberals were annoyed when he walked back even that tepid statement to proclaim to the world that he was shocked that people would think he was against voter-ID. And just to prove that Paul really is just a neo-confederate, his PAC director Doug Stafford said, “Senator Paul believes it’s up to each state to decide that type of issue.” Just like in the good old days of Jim Crow!

But Weigel, always eager to prove his fealty to his guy, was having none of it, Rand Paul’s Voter ID Walkback. You see, Rand Paul didn’t actually walk back his comments. He still means them: voter-ID is bad for the Republican Party, but move it along. It’s fine. He just wants to link them to his noble efforts to give felons back their voting rights. I’m all for that, as I wrote last month, Stop Assuming All Felons Are Murderers. But it’s only 11 states where voting rights are not automatically restored after felons complete their punishment. And most of those 11 states are red states. So I suspect Rand’s interest in the issue is more about being viable in the Republican primary in Mississippi than in any thoughts about what is right.

Still, who else turns Rand Paul’s cretinous position on voting rights as a laudatory article about Rand Paul, the ex-con’s best friend? Only someone in love with the man for reasons the rest of us cannot see. The same goes for Josh Barro. I really don’t understand how two really smart, knowledgeable, and clear-eyed political commentators can be so blind about these objectively awful men.

If Emily Dickinson were around today, I think she would say, “The Heart wants what it wants—because it’s blind and stupid.”

Obamacare Disinformation Campaign

New York Post ObamacareA lot of politics is just about differences of opinion. You know: reasonable people can disagree. I’ll give you an example. I believe in a guaranteed minimum income. Providing this would allow people to go out and be creative: they could build innovative businesses without worrying that failure would ruin them. It would also raise the wages of difficult and boring jobs because people could get by without doing anything. And it would improve the level of human dignity. But there are those who say the opposite. They claim that it is only when people are staring into the face of total destruction that they come up with great ideas. I think they are totally wrong and history proves it, but these people really do believe what they argue.

What if, however, the state of California started a project to provide a guaranteed income and it worked really well. Suddenly, California’s economy was booming with highly innovative new products and the happiness index went through the roof. Imagine that the people that didn’t believe in a guaranteed minimum income tried to hide the success of the program. Or even worse: imagine they tried to keep the people in California from knowing about the program so they didn’t take part in it. That would be evil.

Well, that’s what we have with Obamacare. Jonathan Cohn reported yesterday, A Shameful Victory for Obamacare’s Opponents. McKinsey and Company did a study of Obamacare and found that about half the people who shopped on the exchanges ended up not purchasing insurance. But here’s the key, “[T]wo-thirds of these people said they didn’t know they could get financial assistance.” How proud the conservative movement must be that their disinformation campaign worked so well!

You may remember back last year when Sean Hannity had on four couples who were hurt by Obamacare. It turned out that all the people were mistaken. But I was especially interested in Robbie and Tina Robison:

When I spoke to Robbie, he said he and Tina have been paying a little over $800 a month for their plan, about $10,000 a year. And the ACA-compliant policy that will cost 50-75 percent more? They said this information was related to them by their insurance agent.

Had they shopped on the exchange yet, I asked? No, Tina said, nor would they. They oppose Obamacare and want nothing to do with it. Fair enough, but they should know that I found a plan for them for, at most, $3,700 a year, 63 percent less than their current bill. It might cover things that they don’t need, but so does every insurance policy.

Or there was Julie Boonstra who just knew that Obamacare was going to cost her money even though it was going to save her well over a thousand dollars per year. These and many millions more have been lied to very effectively by the right wing disinformation system. It’s disgraceful.

I’m sure that as the years go on, everyone will see that they are better off with Obamacare than they were before Obamacare. Eventually, Republicans will stop talking about it and Fox News will find that it doesn’t boost their outrage ratings. Within ten years at the most, we will be at that glorious moment of, “Keep your government hands off my Obamacare!” But the cynic in me will still be sad. Because all the same “journalists” will be lying about something else and all the same viewers will have learned nothing and will believe whatever lies come next.

Girl, Dog, Pitcher, Gainsborough

Thomas GainsboroughLast year on this day, I wrote about the great British painter Thomas Gainsborough who was born in 1727. But it was a very short article and I can think of no one more deserving to talk about in a bit more depth. He was mostly a portrait painter by trade and his best known work is The Blue Boy. It is a remarkable painting, especially for the way it renders the light on the rumpled clothing.

But Gainsborough wasn’t fond of his portrait paintings. I’m guessing, but I suspect that he didn’t especially like having to deal with the rich patrons he was forced to work so closely with. What he wanted to do, and did do at the end of his life was work on landscapes. In this way, I suspect that he anticipated Romanticism, although without all its annoying baggage. If you look at his early portraits, you will often see quite impressive backgrounds. He wasn’t inclined to paint people sitting in a chair in a drawing room.

Because I am very sentimental, my favorite piece by Gainsborough is Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher. It was painted during the last years of his life. It is a narrative painting although without any symbolic content as in William Bouguereau The Broken Pitcher. Sometimes, a broken pitcher is just a broken picture:

Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher

Happy birthday Thomas Gainsborough!