Today, I need to thank Gary Pearce for his kind words about this new venture, PoliticsNC. Talking About Politics, the blog Gary writes with Republican consultant Carter Wrenn, provided the inspiration and motivation to get this project up and moving. Thanks, Gary.
Now, I want to take on Carter’s blog about the war over voting. Carter’s premise is that Democrats used voting laws to expand their support in elections and that Republicans repealing those laws is fair game. Carter’s explanation lays bare a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats believe in government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” a sentiment expressed by Republican Abraham Lincoln but largely forgotten by followers of the party he helped found. Instead, modern-day Republicans want government of the few, by the few, for the few.
Carter asserts that Democrats discovered that a large number of the people not voting would vote Democratic if they only showed up at the ballot box. What he doesn’t say is that most of those people were also poor and African-American, a population that only a couple of generations ago had been systematically denied the right to vote. Building a tradition of voting in a population that was disenfranchised is good for democracy–if you like democracy.
The laws also made voting and registering more convenient. In a world where most families have two people working and Election Day is not a holiday, expanding the voting period makes sense for everybody, not just one party. The program has widespread support among voters of all persuasions.
In addition, the laws weren’t just about identifying a group of people who would support Democrats. The laws were pushed by good government groups across the country in response to voter suppression tactics in states across the nation. They’ve worked and, admittedly, Democrats have been the biggest beneficiaries.
By defending restrictive voter laws, Carter and the Republicans are on the wrong side of history once again. We’ve been expanding access to the ballot box almost since the day our nation was founded. Carter should know that politics is about perception and the perception, outside of the Republican echo chamber, is that these laws are targeting African-Americans and Hispanics, reinforcing the idea that Republicans are the party of old, bigoted white guys. They would be better served trying to win the battle of ideas instead of further alienating the fastest growing segments of our population.