The GOP plot to take back the White House and more
The GOP’s relentless war on alleged rampant voter fraud targets not thousands, as many critics have noted, but millions of eligible voters. The Brennan Center for Justice found that the majority of the five million eligible voters that could be banned from the polls under the new restrictive laws rammed into place in a dozen states by GOP governors and GOP-controlled state legislatures were Black, Latino, or American Indian, low income, and young voters. The SCOTUS decision upholding the Arizona GOP voter restrictions, the Georgia and Texas tough new restrictions and the vote suppression measures proposed in two dozen more states with GOP-controlled legislatures will add even more millions who can be dumped from the voting booth.
In 2008, these voters provided the decisive margin for President Obama’s White House victory in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Colorado. In 2000 and 2004, Bush won five of these six states. In every case, he needed a solid turnout from older, white, conservative, overwhelmingly male voters to win.
Things changed radically in 2008 with Obama’s win. GOP strategists were determined that there would be no repeat of this in 2012 and unleashed their voter suppression campaign. Attorney General Eric Holder counter-attacked with Justice Department lawsuits, court actions and injunctions to try to halt the GOP effort to suppress the vote.
Holder’s fight back against the GOP’s ham-fisted efforts to shoo as many poor, minority and young voters away from the polls in November and beyond almost certainly is a major reason for the GOP’s furious political mauling of him. GOP-controlled House committees launched investigation after investigation into Holder for everything from alleged perjury to malfeasance of office during his Justice Department tenure.
For the GOP, its voter suppression smokescreen was about numbers, two numbers to be exact. One number is the popular vote. Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore got a bigger share of the popular vote than Bush in 2000. He got that because of the heavy turnout in key states of the GOP’s prime vote suppression targets — Blacks, Latinos and young voters. In a super-tight 2012 race, the absence of five million voters that the Brennan Center documented as potential victims of the GOP’s disenfranchising rash of voter ID and registration laws could have tipped the popular vote to GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney.
Gore’s popular-vote win in the presidential contest in 2000 showed a popular-vote majority is meaningless without securing the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. This is the second number the GOP’s voter suppression campaign aims to attain. The states that have clamped on the new voter restrictions would consistently provide 171 electoral votes in presidential elections. That’s more than 60% of the total needed for a presidential candidate to bag the White House.
Holder made his most dogged challenge to the GOP voter suppression campaign in Texas, which had enacted a rigid voter-ID law. He bluntly called it a new poll tax, which is the racist weapon Southern states used for decades to keep Blacks from the polls. It took decades of protests, marches, litigation and a Supreme Court decision to finally dump the poll tax.
The GOP banks that its new voter-suppression tactics will hold up for years and through many elections to come, starting with the 2022 congressional elections and the big prize, the White House in 2024. The GOP is dead set that there will be no repeat of 2020 in the coming national elections.
This is the final in a four-part series on the GOP’s War on Voting Rights. The series is based on my forthcoming book, “Bring Back the Poll Tax! —The GOP’s War on Voting Rights” (Middle Passage Press). It will be officially released on Aug. 6, 2021, the 56th anniversary of LBJ’s signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political commentator.