Here’s a fun fact: in the bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States, the voting split is about 45-15 Democratic. In fact, if every person in the bottom 40 percent of income who’s affiliated with a party actually voted, it would be numerically impossible for Republicans to ever win a presidency, the House, Senate or most governors’ races. So, keeping poor people — particularly youger poor people of color — from voting has become a vital part of the GOP’s strategy.
Part of that strategy has been for the last two decades or so sowing apathy, dispair and disenfranchisement among The Young & The Moneyless. That’s actually been pretty easy; if you keep repeating the phrase “the system is hopelessly broken and corrupt,” as right-wingers are apt to do, people will eventually agree with you. If you keep rigging the system, and then telling people the system is hopelessly rigged, they’re bound to give up sooner or later. So, apathy, dispair and disenfranchisement are pretty simple things to achieve, and pretty well account for the 30 to 40 percent of the Bottom 40 who’ve simply given up caring.
But the GOP’s strategy stretches a bit further than psychological warfare — that is, logistical warfare. Making voting itself so difficult, such a righteous (and sometimes expensive) pain in the ass for the opposition that they just don’t bother at all. Voter I.D. laws are always good to cut out people who don’t have all of thier proper identification, which is a suprisingly large chunk of poor people. So are putting polling places well away from poor and minority areas, which cuts out most people who don’t have cars. These tactics, among others, were well-known 50 years ago, when we passed the original Voting Rights Act, which prohibited historically racist areas from passing such laws without approval.
But, since Anton Scalia decided racism no longer existed, the VRA has lost its teeth; the resulting voter suppression laws have ushered in a new last gasp of life into the Republican party. And that’s a gasp they’re looking to keep.
The discussion has recently come up in the House (which has benefitted from these laws, and gerrymandering, like no other) as to whether they should reinstate the gutted portions of the Voting Rights Act. That is, its core: requiring racist states and regions to get approval before changing voting laws. But unsurprisingly, House Republicans shot the notions down.
Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee recently spoke at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast — home of the World Famous “6,000-Year-Old Omlette or Egg Debate.” He told them, in essence, the Voting Rights Act was just fine without its primary provision:
“There are still very, very strong protections in the Voting Rights Act in the area that the Supreme Court ruled on, which is the question of whether or not certain states, there were, I think 11 states, all Southern states, that were required by law to seek pre-clearance of any changes in where polling places are located and other matters like that.
To this point, we have not seen a process forward that is necessary because we believe the Voting Rights Act provided substantial protection in this area.”
Showing that Bob Goodlatte really knows what Bob Goodlatte is talking about, the VRA’s core provision reached a lot further than “11 Southern States.” In past and present, it’s covered areas of California, New York, South Dakota, Colorado, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Idaho, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Maine, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Given that, one does have to wonder what other vital lessons on the VRA and its effects Goodlatte missed in history class.
Because the Voting Rights Act is history — at least, the parts of it that matter are. But despite that, Goodlatte decided to fall back on the oldest of political shuck-and-jives. That is, paying lip service to something you truly hate, but isn’t doing anything to hurt you:
“My position is the Voting Rights Act is very important and needs to be enforced. But it needs to be enforced properly.”
“Properly” of course being “in only the portions that we didn’t gut.”
He noted that people could still go to court and sue for a pre-clearance of changes in voting requirements, if they believed voter suppression to have taken place. Which is kind of like a five-year-old asking his child-molesting uncle’s permission to tell on him. Note, that’s not quite the same as keeping said uncle out of child’s bedroom to begin with.
But hey…if Republicans aren’t raping that bottom 40 percent, someone else will.
Or, so they tell us.
H/T: Huffington Post