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Monday, April 29, 2013

Romney Done In by Misplaced GOP Focus on Voter Suppression

Romney meets voters at campaign stop
There’s an Associated Press story out there today that may reinvigorate the Generals in the Republican War on Voting. It seems that a certain demographic got a little too excited about the 2012 election and, for all intents and purposes, choose the winner in the presidential race.

Associated Press: America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.
We see these numbers despite the fact that the Brennan Center For Justice estimated that Republican voter suppression efforts would disenfranchise as many as five million voters in 2012. Unfortunately for the Grand Old Party, a few of their anti-democratic efforts to keep minority voters from the polls didn’t go as well as they’d hoped. In the swing state of Wisconsin, for example, a voter ID law was struck down as unconstitutional. In a damning ruling, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote that the law was clearly about disenfranchising voters and that this was contemptible. "Voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression," he said.


Of course, there’s the low white turnout to be contended with. The story makes it clear that if Republicans had put their effort into turning out white voters, rather than suppressing the black vote, November might have turned out differently. The story goes on to say it wouldn’t have taken much to change the outcome. "Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if voters had turned out as they did in 2004... Then, white turnout was slightly higher and black voting lower," we’re told.

It says a lot about the party that they were more interested in "poisoning our democracy" with laws designed to chase minority voters from the polls, than they were with working within the system as it exists and turning out voters for their side. It’s almost stereotypically villainous of them to prefer shooing people away from the polls, instead of urging them to vote. It’s like they preferred an assault on democracy to good old-fashioned grassroots democratic efforts.

And this preference for dirty tricks over above board campaigning may very well have cost Mitt Romney the election -- so file this one in the "Serves them right" folder.

But of course, we already know that the base is driving the bus and the "Republican leadership" is a sham. And it’s not too difficult to predict how the right will take this story. Remember, if there’s one thing the wingnut base does not do, it’s realize they were wrong -- at least, not if they can avoid it. I can see this story accomplishing two things in rightwing media: actually reinforce the "black people stole the election" fantasy -- probably involving a zombie version of ACORN and/or the New Black Panther Party -- and the poll truther idea that polling was skewed in Obama’s favor prior to the election as part of a conspiracy to drive down Republican voter enthusiasm.

Neither take would be particularly sane. But this is the party where majorities believe Pres. Obama isn’t a citizen, that nearly every climate scientist on Earth is involved in a massive conspiracy to promote the "hoax" of global warming, and that the American public is going to start freaking out over Benghazi any second now. "Sane" isn’t on the GOP menu.

And of course, the whole thing leads to the one rock-solid Republican principle -- if what you’re doing isn’t working, you need to do more of it. If you squint and cock your head just right, it almost looks like voter suppression nearly worked. Just a tad fewer African-American voters and it all would’ve turned out differently (never mind all the missing white voters).

As always, Republicans will take what should be a pretty clear lesson, turn it on its head, and take what they want to learn away from it. For them, the lesson won’t be to worry less about who’s voting and more about who’s not. The lesson will be "this proves we’re heading in the right direction."

The story that should be the voter suppression movement’s epitaph will instead be the banner the suppressors march forward under. The big takeaway won’t be that being underhanded doesn’t work, it’s that they weren’t being underhanded enough.


[photo by Gage Skidmore]

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