Monthly Archives: March 2021

Voter Rights, Voter Suppression, Voter Fraud

Two Reads, and a Modest Proposal

Henry Olsen, The Democrats’ voting rights bill is an assault on election integrity

The first six paragraphs make a plausible case that some of the provisions of H.R. 1 would make it easier for voting fraud to occur. Yes, friends and neighbors, you read the preceding sentence correctly. A plausible case.

Then, Mr. Olsen goes on:

It would be easy to create an election system that satisfies people concerned about voter fraud and voter suppression. Our smartphones now have fingerprint- and face-ID systems that protect our devices from unauthorized use. We could easily create a national voter database and attach pictures or fingerprints to every registration. This would even be compatible with same-day registration, provided each polling place had a computer with a camera that could snap a picture and immediately upload it to the database. Australia’s vote-by-mail system requires each applicant to create and answer a personal security question, thereby ensuring that the person who casts the mail-in vote is the person they claim to be. Millions of Australians use this each election, and there is no history of voter fraud or suppression.

Olsen, it will be noted, does NOT argue that it’s “unfair” for Republicans to lose elections, therefore ANY reform that makes it easier for Democratic voters to vote is ipso facto “unfair.” That would not be a “plausible” argument. That would be an argument so ridiculous as to emblazon an indelible blot on the escutcheon of anyone who might make it. That, however, has not deterred a great many Republicans. See, for example,

Paul Waldman, The GOP argument against election reform is even worse than you think

So, Here’s a Modest Proposal

As for the voting-by-Democrats-is-inherently-unfair argument, progressives should mercilessly hang it around the neck of anyone who makes it.

As to Olsen’s quite different argument that some voting reforms would make fraud easier, progressives should either refute those arguments with logical, factual rebuttal, or they should accommodate Republicans who have these kinds of concerns.

To illustrate: maybe there is a compromise to be had on voter ID. Or maybe the Olsen solution, borrowed from Australia might work.

But it’s an entirely different matter if you forbid early voting on Sunday, because folks who vote on Sunday are especially likely to be Democrats.

Words of Wisdom from Ezra Klein

Ezra Klein, Biden Is the Anti-Trump, and It’s Working: If you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy.

As I said, much wisdom here. I probably think it’s wise because it tends to confirm my believe that, while Obama was a terrific person and an admirable president, Joe Biden actually understands the environment in which he operates. And that understanding is a necessary condition for success. Not a sufficient condition, but surely a necessary condition.

Mr. Klein concludes this way:

Then there’s the book “Stealth Democracy,” by the political scientists John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. They marshal a mountain of survey data to show that Americans have weak and changeable views on policy, but strong views on how politics should look and feel. Many, if not most, Americans believe “political conflict is unnecessary and an indication that something is wrong with governmental procedures,” they write. The more partisan fighting there is around a bill, in other words, the more Americans begin to believe something must be wrong with the legislation — otherwise, why would everyone be so upset?

Mitch McConnell understood all of this, and he ginned up political bickering to undermine Obama’s agenda. But Biden seems to understand it, too. When I talked to Bedingfield, she kept circling back to Biden’s preference for rhetoric and strategies that turn down “the temperature” on American politics. But Biden isn’t taking the usual Washington strategy toward that goal, which is to retreat to modest bills and quarter-measures. Instead, his theory seems to be that if you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy.

I’ve argued before that Biden’s central insight in the campaign was that negative polarization — the degree to which we loathe the other side, even if we don’t much like our side — is now the most powerful force in American politics. Biden often refused to do things that would endear him to his base, because those same things would drive Republicans wild. That strategy is carrying over to his presidency. And in part because of it, the reaction to his signature legislative package, which really is a collection of policies progressives have dreamed of for years, isn’t cleaving along normal red-blue lines.

Like any other communications strategy, this will work until it doesn’t. Biden will have his failures, as all presidents do. But for now, it’s working, in defiance of the lessons many thought Trump’s presidency taught.

Speak softly and pass a big agenda. It’s at least worth a try.

Dissecting the Vote

Eric Levitz, David Shor on Why Trump Was Good for the GOP and How Dems Can Win in 2022

An absolute must read, for those interested in the topic of this blog. It’s a summary of electoral insights, and a summary of a summary, prepared by me, would not do it justice. So read it for yourself. A few thoughts here.

Trump’s Vile Character and its Effect. In 2020, 74.2 million people voted for Trump (up from 63 million in 2016). Curiously, the article, though chock full of insights, doesn’t address the effect of Trump’s personality—his criminality, his delusional thinking, or his sociopathy. How many of those 74.2 million voters chose him in spite of his character? How many were so angry that they chose him, at least in part, because of his character? How many—as the article implies—cast their 2020 vote based on other considerations, and largely disregarded character?

“Conservatism” Among Racial Minorities and the Poorly Educated. The piece has many interesting things to say on this topic. Those who want the progressive side to win in 2020 would do well to listen. Key issues include attitudes toward the police and “law and order.” Immigration is huge.

Developing a winning position is partly a matter of communicating our position: we’re for a $15/hour minimum wage, whereas they think that it’s just fine and dandy for you to live on starvation wages. The message is true, it’s easy to understand, it’s highly salient to people’s lives, and we have the majority on our side. So what we mainly need to do is communicate the message.

Likewise, we desperately need to help Americans of Cuban, Venezuelan, and Colombian heritage think more rationally about the term “socialism”—and whether the Democratic position is at all “socialistic,” as they understand the term.

Immigration. But immigration is a tough nut to crack. If Republicans do well in the 2022 and 2024 elections, it will largely be because of immigration. We need to have the right position and the right message and the right message on immigration. And we might begin by figuring out just what our position is. Do we, for example, favor enforcing the laws, as currently written and as fairly construed, as long as the current laws remain on the books? Or do we propose enforcing the law only some of the time?

What should be the legal test for asylum? And are we prepared to deport people who came illegally and who don’t meet the legal standard for asylum, even if they have a morally compelling story to tell?

My Father Used to Sweat a Lot

pg. 848, Oct. 21, 1876

My father worked hard at his blue collar day job. On the weekends, he usually found some hard physical labor to do around the house or in the garden. I would help him, as best I could. After about two hours, Mamma would bring out some sweet iced tea or lemonade. As we sat down to enjoy our drinks, Daddy would always say, “Son, I’m jest sweatin’ like a —— at election.” I don’t know why, but I never asked him why elections would make Black people sweat.

Greg Sargent, Trump’s big CPAC lie unmasks a vile truth. Democrats ignore it at their peril.

The aforesaid vile truth would be that, as long as they’re the White identity party, Republicans can’t win unless they suppress the Black vote. Sargent: “The former president told his audience that the Republican Party’s success in coming years depends, in no small part, on its commitment to being an anti-democracy party.”

Paul Waldman, Republicans are barking up the wrong voter suppression tree

A political scientist explains why—contrary to Orange Man’s illusions, now adopted by many of his followers—suppressing the mail-in vote is a really piss-poor way to put the thumb on the scales in favor of the Republicans.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia Democrats play hardball to derail GOP voting restrictions

Stacey Abrams is taking names and kicking ass.