Friday, January 14, 2022

Democratic Analyst Explains Why President Biden is Pursuing Wrong Strategy on Voting Rights

Ruy Teixeira is an American political scientist and commentator who has written several books on political strategy.  Teixeira, a longtime Democratic activist, runs a blog called The Liberal Patriot.  In response to President Joe Biden's floundering on voting rights, Teixeira, a longtime Democratic activist, offers some wise observations on his blog, The Liberal Patriot:

The Democratic focus in the new year has been on trying to pass some version of voting rights reform. President Biden went down to Georgia and put the effort in stark terms: “Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

Aside from the unhinged level of hyperbole here, is this choice of focus wise? Democrats seem to believe both that this focus will produce big electoral dividends and, more grandiosely, that it is the key to saving democracy in the United States.

Wrong. Oh so very wrong. Here are five reasons why.

1. As a practical matter, it will fail. The Democrats will not succeed in breaking the filibuster to pass either the For the People Act or the somewhat more modest Freedom to Vote Act. There are no indications that Manchin and Sinema will relent on this, not to mention the various moderate Senators hiding behind them....

2. The second thing wrong with the current focus is it’s not what the people want. In truth, it’s passing strange that Democrats would choose to elevate this issue at a moment when their political fortunes have declined drasticallyeconomic pessimism is rampant, inflation has been spiking and we are in the midst of another covid wave. What voters desperately want is a return to normality and, therefore, an administration that is focused laser-like on making that happen. A quixotic crusade for voting rights bills that will not pass does not exactly send that message. As Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report points out:

The fact of the matter is that voting rights barely register as a public concern. In a recent AP-NORC poll, respondents could mention up to five problems for the government to work on in the coming year; just 6 percent of the public placed voting rights anywhere in their top five. This issue may be a top priority for the progressive wing of the Democratic party but it’s just not for ordinary voters.

Even among the black population, a Morning Consult poll found that only 41 percent think the bigger problem with American democracy is that it’s too hard to vote, rather than voting regulations are not strict enough (among Hispanics the analogous figure was even lower at 34 percent). In a Monmouth poll, 84 percent of nonwhites said they supported requiring a photo ID for voting....

3. The third problem is that, even if one of these bills managed to pass, Democrats would be unlikely to reap significant electoral benefits. The assumption Democrats make is that, since Republican attempts to change voting procedures appear to be motivated by a desire to reduce Democratic leaning turnout, voting rights reform would buoy Democratic fortunes by preventing such attempts.

This logic is highly questionable. The key source of confusion here is the failure to distinguish between intent and impact. It is a reasonable contention that Republican intentions are not benign. They would like to depress the turnout of Democratic-leaning constituencies. That is the intent, but what is the impact likely to be?

Here we have data, especially on voter ID laws. The story, as told by relevant research, rather than the wishes of Republican operatives or the fears of Democratic activists, is simple: these laws just don't have much effect. They don't deter voter fraud, a minuscule problem to begin with, but they also don't depress turnout, including among nonwhite voters....

4. A fourth, and highly significant, problem is that if that the intent is to “save democracy” the voting rights bills under consideration do not take aim at the main problem: election subversion. That is, the real threat is not how easy or hard it is to vote but rather in certifying the results of the voting process. This is what Donald Trump was attempting to interfere with and what the January 6th riot at the Capitol was all about.

The voting rights reform bills under consideration would not solve this problem. And of course they won’t pass. A far more promising approach is reforming the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to seal off a number of channels for election subversion. This approach has some bipartisan support and therefore some chance of actually happening. Sure, it’s not all that Democrats want but if their goal is truly to safeguard democracy this compromise is worth making....

5. Finally, the idea that voting rights reform is some sort of get out of jail free card for the Democrats as they roll into 2022 and 2024 is ridiculous. Their problems cannot be solved by even big changes to voting procedures. Their brand is in tatters, they are associated with a variety of unpopular causes and, as noted above, they seem neither focused on, nor effective in, addressing the most pressing concerns of voters. Their problem is less getting people out to vote than in getting people to vote for them.

Teixeira is five for five on his observations.  As I've written before, Democrats are obsessed about election changes made by Republican state legislatures that in reality won't make much difference at all.  Given what we're finding out about the attempted theft of the 2020 election, Democrats should instead be worried about election subversion.  Republicans are changing the rules on how votes get counted and certified and replacing those honest Republicans who, in 2020, refused to cheat to help Donald Trump get re-elected.  There may well be bipartisan support for changing the Electoral Count Act, which is an essential step to ensuring the results of the 2024 presidential election are not overturned by Congress.

OOP's short takes:

  • The Australia immigration minister canceled tennis player Novak Djokovic's visa.  Great news. Not only did that fool not get vaccinated, he also knowingly exposed others to the virus after he knew he tested positive for Covid-19.  
  • Good to see eleven Oath Keepers get indicted for seditious conspiracy for their role in planning and coordinating the attack on the Capitol on January 6th.  Hopefully, the Justice Department won't hesitate in going after the politicians who were involved.  I don't have a lot of faith in Attorney General Merrick Garland though.
  • South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds statement that they couldn't find any widespread election fraud and that Trump simply lost the 2020 election has gotten a lot of coverage and earned the Republican legislator criticism from the MAGA world.   But I was more interested in another comment from Rounds...
  • Senator Rounds said that if Putin invades Ukraine, Republicans in Congress will back up President Biden in taking action against Putin.  Wanna bet?  The minute Biden takes action against Putin, he will be criticized by the Orange God King and former President residing in Florida.  The MAGA world will fall in line and come out against Biden and in support of Putin.  Rounds may be unaware that murderous dictator Vladimar Putin is a lot more popular among Trumpers than President Biden.   There will be a significant number of Republicans in Congress who will oppose Biden in any confrontation with Putin.  They are afraid of their voters and won't want to cross them.

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