With Changing Demographics, Voter Suppression is only Tactic left for Republicans

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen: We discuss the topic of Republican voter suppression in this weeks mailbag, but I thought it was worth expanding on a little given how serious the issue is. A reader asked whether we thought that the Republican's admission that they tried to stop minorities from voting would change anything for elections going forward, and I answered that it most likely wouldn't.

The answer why is fairly straight forward - Republicans lost the general election in part because of the 'demographic time bomb' and unless they change their policies, they don't really have any other way of sustaining electoral viability. As Steve Benen noted:

Mitt Romney took an enormous gamble about a year ago: he would run very far to the right on immigration policy, alienating the fastest growing segment of the American electorate on purpose, in order to secure the Republican Party's nomination. Then, he hoped to be able to avoid a drubbing from Latino voters in the general election. It was, as Ron Brownstein put it, Romney's "original sin."

The gamble, we now know, failed miserably. President Obama won close races in Colorado, Nevada, and (probably) Florida, and it was Latino voters who made this success possible.

We covered the issue of voter fraud a couple of months back, talking with Craig Unger about his book 'Boss Rove' where the Vanity Fair contributing editor detailed Karl Rove's extraordinary efforts to suppress the vote in Ohio in 2004. The picture Unger painted of Republican efforts to stop minorities from voting was terrifying to say the least. Here's an excerpt from the interview we did where Unger outlines GOP attempts to stop minority voting in the 2012 election:

“You’re going to see this on a large scale in the upcoming election,” he explained to me. “That is Karl Rove who is the father of voter IDs and voter suppression. He started a campaign, he started it before 2004 in Ohio saying that there’s widespread voter fraud, people who a registering are Mickey Mouse and so forth, or they are dead people being registered to vote en-masse and as a result we need voter IDs. But the fact of the matter is that this type of thing happens very very rarely.”........

Rove, a careful and insightful strategist has long understood that the Republicans face a demographic ticking time bomb. There are around 50 million Hispanics in America today, and there will be about 70 million in about 2020. In Texas alone there are roughly 10 million Hispanics, and they vote about 2:1 for Democrats. Rove is extremely worried that if they were to start voting in large numbers states like Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico will turn blue, and he’s working diligently on strategies to keep voter turn out low.

“It’s also been called ‘Juan Crow’ because of the challenges the Republican face demographically,” said Unger.  “The answer has been to keep these people from voting. And they do that again and again. They do it in the black districts in Ohio, in Cleveland, in Cuyahoga County — I itemize this in my book, but the lack of voting machines, and I refer to the technique of cross over voting where blacks were shunted to the wrong voting booths deliberately and when that happens you’re using punch cards, you may not know it but if you vote for the Democrat, the vote actually goes to the wrong candidate.”

Unger's predictions played out exactly on election day and in states like Florida, thousands of minorities were prevented from voting by the hiring of 'election consultants' that pushed for reductions in early voting days and hours, knowing African American and immigrant communities tended to vote early. In 2008 Democrats, minorities turned out in unprecedented numbers for the President. For example, in Palm Beach County, 61.2 percent of all early voting ballots were cast by Democrats that year, compared with only 18.7 percent by Republicans. In a stunning admission from the Former Republican Party Chairman in Florida Jim Greer, he revealed he had attended meetings where consultants made clear that early voting had to stopped at all costs. From The Palm Beach Post:

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

The demographic change presents a true nightmare scenario for the GOP, and its attempts to circumvent this have been truly horrifying. Republicans are catching on to the fact that labeling half the American population as 'social parasites' and 'takers'  isn't good when it comes to getting votes. This theme has been perpetuated in public - mostly on Fox News and Right Wing radio - but the audience is limited and the knock on effects counterproductive. Most Americans in the center are not comfortable with that type of rhetoric, and the Democrats are hoovering up wavering voters with a more inclusive approach to politics.

So what options do Republicans have going forward?

We're starting to see cracks in the low tax militancy front with several prominent Republicans saying they would budge when it comes to negotiating with Obama on the fast approaching 'fiscal cliff', some have made noise about toning down the anti immigrant rhetoric (with even Sean Hannity doing an about turn), and pro choice, pro gay marriage Republicans have begun to make themselves more visible. But the change isn't exactly dramatic and it won't be enough to undo the years of abusive rhetoric and archaic policy proposals that have come to define the Republican Party.

The only choice they have left is to continue efforts to stop minorities and poor people from voting - the conclusion Karl Rove has obviously come to and is dedicating all his resources to pursuing. The Republican's admission that they were involved in voter suppression shines some much needed light on the skeletons in their closet, but in reality it's only scratching the surface.