Sunday, August 11, 2013

(this time, possibly by design)

Do Democrats even want the general (i.e., white-majority) public to understand this issue?
Almost three-quarters of all Americans support the idea that people should have to show photo identification to vote, even though they are nearly as concerned about voter suppression as they are about fraud in presidential elections, according to0 a new Washington Post poll....

Overall, there is high, strong and cross-party support for such laws, even though a slim majority of Americans say they have heard "not much" or "nothing" about the issue. Support dips among those who say they have heard more about new photo identification requirements but remains the majority position.

About half of those polled see voter fraud -- people voting who are not eligible to do so or voters casting multiple ballots -- as a "major problem" in presidential elections. One in three see it as a "minor problem." The numbers are nearly as high when it comes to concern about eligible voters being denied their rights....
This is where the Republicans use what I've previously called "ignorance arbitrage." Republicans know that hardly anyone ever commits classic voter fraud -- casting a vote illegally based on fraudulent self-identification. But Republicans also know that the vast majority of voters don't know that. It sure sounds like a problem that might be widespread, and there sure seem to be a lot of government officials and TV pundits upset about the problem, so it really must be a problem, right?

States are passing these laws everywhere governments are controlled by Republicans. Fox pundits are talking about this all the time. That's a lot of GOP messaging. What do Democrats do in return? Once in a great while a few Democrats talk about combating the GOP drive to suppress votes -- but it's never explained. Maybe it's explained on MSNBC or by left-leaning magazines and Web sites, but that's preaching to the choir, because the viewers and readers already get it. Any other messaging is predicated on the assumption that the audience already knows what the problem with these laws is. Black voters, in particular, already do know, to a large extent.

But no one's explaining the problem to persuadable white voters in the middle. This Post poll says that majorities are against depriving eligible voters of the right to vote; furthermore, they think that's also a serious problem. But presumably they can't imagine why it would be hard to obtain government ID. They don't know how a lot of very poor, mostly elderly blacks (and others) have lived in this country, and why some people might not be able to jump the hurdles, as a South Carolina voting rights advocate, Dr. Brenda Williams, has discovered:
One after another, the people came to Williams. Amanda Wolfe, 28, not only did not have a birth certificate but did not know who her birth parents were. Naomi Gordon, 57, had a birth certificate but it misspelled her first name as "Lmnoie," the apparent result of having been birthed by a midwife with sloppy or poor writing skills. Her brother Raymond Rutherford, who works at Wal-Mart, had his name misspelled as Rayman; his only photo ID was one he'd bought from the local liquor store in 1976 for $10. Junior Glover, 78, didn't have a birth certificate; his name was recorded in a family Bible that was destroyed in a fire in 1989.
It's as if Democrats don't want to appeal to the white public with stories like these. It's as if Democrats think fighting these GOP efforts won't matter in most elections because of gerrymandered districts, and the injustice of it will motivate African Americans, in particular, to vote Democrat, and to overcome the voting hurdles in key elections, especially in 2016.

It seems as if Democrats are counting on demographics, Republican extremism, and Hillary Clinton to ensure that the GOP never gets into a position to implement restrictive voter laws across the country. I just hope that's a safe bet, because if Republicans ever can pull that off, the'll have the public behind them. And that scares me.


Phil Perspective said...

Do Democrats even want the general (i.e., white-majority) public to understand this issue?

It goes for a lot of other issues as well. You're not a dumb man. Don't you remember what Upton Sinclair said? "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" That quote not only explains the "stupidity" of the TradMed, it also explains the apparent stupidity of the Democratic political class. What would happen if Democrats, as a party, campaigned on expanding Social Security? Or campaigned on a guaranteed minimum income? Paid for by taxing Wall Street(basically) a lot higher? Why would establishment Democrats want to empower voters? See what I'm getting at?

Victor said...

As I've said before, we are one horrific terrorist attack, and/or a major economic downturn, ala 2008, away from a Ted Cruz Presidency - or, a Paul/Walker/Christie/Ryan/etc, one.

And then, "Mission Accomplished!"

The Republicans will finish off the job started by Nixon, continued under Reagan/Bush I, and nearly completed by Bush II - who, but for their gross incompetence, could have had their much longed-for Republican Majority for several generations.

Anonymous said...

It seems like the split-the-difference good-government-technowonk thing to do would be to say that every initiative to require people to produce an ID to vote has to be accompanied by an initiative to distribute ID to those who lack it. The requirement to produce an ID doesn't sound onerous in itself. Where it becomes more contentious is precisely when you consider who might lack it, or who might be harassed by the demand to produce it. I don't think the "it's not a problem!" response quite cuts it, even though it has the virtue of being true, because it _seems_ like fraud _could_ be a problem, and it _seems_ like it couldn't possibly hurt to add more layers of testing and checking.

So my instinct is to rhetorically concede that fraud is a hypothetical concern (even though I actually don't think it's much of one) but to immediately ju-jitsu it into "What's your plan for how to handle people who don't have ID and have never needed to produce it? Because there are millions of them out there, [cite stories like those in the post] and you're unfairly disenfranchising them too."

Anonymous said...

Also, "major problem" is a terribly chosen phrase to poll, because some people might understand it to mean "widespread problem" and others to mean "conceptually serious problem." For instance, terrorism can be considered a "major" problem even if your chances of being personally affected by it are infinitesimal.

Ten Bears said...

Why would MSNBC splain it? They sold out to the man long ago.

No fear.

Unknown said...

You're assuming that democrats (that is, the party) understand the problem in the first place. Middle- and upper-class whites cannot imagine how anyone can get through life without a birth certificate, driver's license, passport, etc. it seems like an easy solution; just show your driver's license. What's the big deal?

To educate these people on the difficulties faced by the underclasses would be, well, distasteful, and possibly too uncomfortable for many to tolerate.

OTOH, this administration sucks at messaging.

Never Ben Better said...

True, Leslie; your comment reminds me of the time, way back during the Iran hostage crisis under Carter, when I was holding a sign outside a Boston polling place and got into a discussion with a nice middle-aged white suburban type woman passing by about the crisis; she wondered plaintively "Why can't they just let them go and get along with us?"

My brain whirred as I tried to frame a brief explanation, then shorted out on the realization that the gulf between her worldview and the Iranians' was simply unbridgeable, not least because she truly couldn't conceive of any other way to view the world.