By Alan Bean
Texas Republicans received a second straight setback today when a three-judge federal panel blocked the state’s voter ID law because the state had failed to demonstrate that the law was not prejudicial to minorities. Earlier this week, a federal court tossed out a Republican-inspired redistricting plan for largely the same reason.
You can’t blame the GOP for trying. With Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 12 percentage points among women voters, ninety points among African and Americans and forty points among Hispanics, Republicans are running scared. As Lindsey Graham told a Washington Post reporter this week, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”
What’s the solution. Either you court minority voters or you reach out to “angry white guys” by bragging that if the women, blacks and Mexicans hate us, we must be right.
Of course, you could do both at the same time. The Republican Convention in Tampa has featured its fair share of minority speakers, but a series of racial incidents have marred the proceedings. Convention delegates aren’t just overwhelmingly white, no serious attempt has been made to address issues minority voters care about: job creation, unemployment, immigration reform, health care and racial profiling.
All the evidence suggests that the GOP strategy, to the extent there is one, has been to double down on their efforts to tap into white male resentment, minimize the number of minority voters who make it to the polls, and generating redistricting maps that give Republican candidates a leg up.
The GOP’s barrage of racially coded messages has attracted media attention. In a celebrated incident, Chris Matthews of MSNBC accused RNC chairman Reince Priebus of covering for the covert racism at work in the 2012 election. Matthews’ assault was so intense (see below) that Priebus called him “a jerk”. Matthews was being a jerk. But he was also sincerely pissed off, which was kind of refreshing.
It is interesting to watch Tom Brokaw try to calm the waters by suggesting that politicians on both sides of the ideological divide should dial back the rhetoric. That is no doubt true, but it avoided the issue at hand. Brokaw couldn’t address the race-baiting question for fear it would blow his hard-won reputation for impartiality. Chris Matthews doesn’t win a lot of style points, but I appreciate his passion.
The ill-famed Willie Horton ad in 1988 was effective largely because it didn’t initially appear to be racial. Support for George H.W. Bush plummeted when the thinly disguised racial manipulation in Horton ad was decoded. Suddenly the racial motivation was obvious to any objective observer. You will not be surprised to learn that the creator of the Horton ad, Larry McCarthy, has been hired by a pro-Romney super-PAC to inject racially coded messages into Republican attack ads.
Are voter ID laws racially motivated? Republicans insist they are simply trying to bring integrity to the process. According to the article in the Washington Post,
Republican lawmakers have argued that the voter ID law is needed to clean up voter rolls, which they say are filled with the names of illegal immigrants, ineligible felons and the deceased. Texas, they argue, is asking for no more identification than people need to board an airplane, get a library card or enter many government buildings.
It is possible that the names of illegal immigrants and ineligible felons appear on the voter rolls, but the chances of folks in either category jobbing the system are remote. Felons and the undocumented have a lot to lose and little to gain from casting an illegal vote. Republicans have no evidence that voter fraud is widespread (all the evidence points in the other direction), but they know voter ID laws suppress the minority vote and, if you’re with the White team, that can only be good.