For Republicans, winning elections is apparently no longer good enough. Now, they want to steal them.
In pivotal states that the party controls – the ones that have voted recently for Democratic presidential candidates – Republicans are setting about the seedy task of disenfranchising voters whose election choices they find disagreeable.
What is most startling about this is that it is so transparent. It’s not happening in all Republican states, just swing states. It’s not happening in states that Democrats control, only those that Republicans control. It’s a planned, coordinated assault on the fundamental right of citizens of a democracy. And it’s not the first time Republicans have done something like this.
The reason seems evident. Demographic trends are not moving in favor of Republicans, who seem congenitally unable to offer a platform that attracts the votes of Hispanics and African-Americans. Youths and women also lean away from the party.
The normal response would be to offer a vision that appeals to those voters while remaining consistent with party philosophy. That’s hard to do when the party won’t deal seriously with immigration, makes no effort whatsoever to attract black voters and, regarding women, is held in the clutches of male politicians who jabber on about subjects like “legitimate rape” and women who are made to believe “they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.”
In 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wrote off half the country – privately, he thought – by defining 47 percent of voters “who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”
Yet the party’s response to this kind of self-sabotage is not to regroup, rethink and try again, but to erect roadblocks to the polls, making it more difficult for voters to cast their ballots in contested states that the party controls. It’s a disgraceful fall for a party that champions its love of country and Constitution.
But it’s not new. In 2003, with former Rep. Tom DeLay taking a key role, Texas performed a mid-decade redistricting after Republicans won control of the state legislature in the previous year. Based on that chicanery, Republicans in 2004 won a majority of House seats for the first time since Reconstruction.
The latest effort is broader and appears to be at least loosely coordinated. It began two or three years ago when several states, including Pennsylvania, tried to impose voter identification requirements that would make it more difficult for low-income voters to cast their ballots. Those efforts failed, but now the party is back again, looking to win elections not through the force of its ideas, but by tripping up voters who don’t like the ideas being expressed in its name.
In Ohio and Wisconsin, Republicans have limited the time that polls are open. In North Carolina, Republicans have reduced the number of early voting days and made it more difficult to register to vote, to cast provisional ballots or even to cast absentee ballots.
It’s the strategy of a party on the run, not of one gathering strength. It will only get worse, especially with the rising numbers of Hispanic voters, unless Republicans come to grips with their message and hone it to resonate with voting groups they are now driving away.