Republicans across the country are acting insulted by accusations that they are deliberately trying to reduce the number of people who vote, for political reasons. No, no, they claim, their nationwide push to make it harder to vote is merely a noble attempt to combat voting fraud. When confronted with evidence that their efforts especially target people of color, they protest that this accusation amounts to “playing the race card.”
How plausible are these protestations? Not very. Not only is there zero evidence of any need to furiously guard against voter fraud, but conservatives have long recognized that suppressing the vote is necessary to maintain and increase their power.
Most people have probably never heard what Paul Weyrich said about voter turnout in 1980: “I don’t want everybody to vote… our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Weyrich, the cofounder of the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is often called the “father of the new right.” He was immensely influential among conservatives.
Senator Ted Cruz recently told Republican state legislators convened by ALEC that a proposed federal law to make voting much easier would prevent Republicans from winning elections for generations. On April 6, Kevin Williamson asked in the conservative National Review: “Why should we believe” that having more people vote is a good thing? Why not make sure voters are “qualified” like we do for doctors?
None of this is new. In August, 2011, Ari Berman wrote that, “As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008.”
Make no mistake about why conservatives want—and benefit from—fewer voters. They pursue very specific theories of government and economics. Those theories benefit them and their donors, at the expense of the majority of Americans. They can’t have too many people voting who question trickledown economics; who are bothered by massive inequality; who doubt that excessive taxation is America’s true problem; who understand that the conservative version of “personal responsibility” is a destructive fantasy; who understand that letting business run rampant results in undrinkable water, unbreathable air, unlivable wages, and something akin to slavery.
Republican leaders who deny they are suppressing the vote are, … quite simply lying.
Lee Russ, Bennington