So now North Carolina’s Republican leaders have rolled out their much-discussed voter ID proposal, which they claim is positively harmless and will dramatically reduce voter fraud.
There is very little voter fraud in this state, and Republicans know it. Their real motivation is to take yet another step to suppress the votes of those who don’t agree with them. Minorities and the elderly will likely be most affected and they are inclined to vote Democratic.
Many people lack identification for perfectly valid reasons. What they do not lack is the constitutional right to elect their leaders.
To those who say that demanding an ID to vote is no more serious than requiring one to cash a check or get a credit card, recognize that neither of those things is an inherent right of citizenship. It is a sacred fact, or should be, that the more people exercise that right, the better the country and the state are.
But as they have shown in several instances this session, Republicans are scared of what might happen with more people participating.
They’ve moved to end straight-ticket voting, which overwhelmingly goes in favor of Democrats. The same with Sunday voting, same-day registration and limits on early voting. And they want to take away the $2,500 tax credit from parents whose dependent kids register to vote somewhere other than home. That would likely put a damper on registration rallies in college towns (bastions of liberalism in the GOP view) and hurt Democrats some more.
And all this comes after their gerrymandering of legislative and congressional districts following the census to try to make it impossible for Democrats to win except in a minority of districts – just enough to pass muster with the federal Voting Rights Act.
Clearly, the state Republican leadership is scared to death of what might happen with an increase in votes cast. The maneuvering demonstrates they learned nothing from the last presidential election.
In 2012, the Republican-establishment candidate – linked to weary, top-down, dead-horse positions – got beaten by a president frustrated by a stubborn and partisan Congress and with the task of cleaning up a monumental financial mess left by his Republican predecessor. But President Obama reached out to a cross-section of voters, some of whom felt disenfranchised, including African-Americans and Hispanics, women, gays, the poor and the middle class.
Why are Republicans in the General Assembly focused exclusively on how to diminish the opposition rather than on how to build their own constituency? Do they not understand that they could broaden their base by welcoming those who don’t adhere to the hard-core and failed party line and listening to them? By avoiding legislation that alienates entire segments of the population? By not allowing their party to be led by anti-government tea partyers who care nothing about policy and everything about a narrow ideological agenda?
The major parties have always had some basic differences, but the differences were part-policy, part-philosophical, part-personality.
Democrats were more liberal. Republicans were more practical. Democrats looked to government to do more. Republicans understood basic needs but didn’t care for Great Societies or New Deals. But in the name of governing effectively, deals were done and hands were shaken.
North Carolina’s GOP leaders, perhaps because they’re in control for the first time in more than 100 years, seem desperate to hold power not by expanding their reach but by stifling the other party. That might bring short-term success, but it does nothing to build the party at the grassroots level, and Republicans may ultimately find their reign over sooner than they anticipate.