Now that a judge – a Republican judge – has decided to uphold Pennsylvania’s draconian voter ID law, that state now joins three other swing states that require voters to show some kind of proof of citizenship in order to exercise their right to vote: they are Virginia, Florida and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania's is by far the toughest of the voter ID laws because it requires a photo ID. While Wisconsin’s law also requires a photo ID, it’s currently in limbo thanks to three state judges who blocked the photo provision of it. All four of these states are crucial to President Obama’s reelection hopes.
Proponents of these laws claim that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud and protect the integrity of the election process. Opponents see it merely as an attempt to suppress voter turnout among key constituents – the poor and the elderly – many of whom do not have the proper ID necessary and who, not coincidentally, tend to vote Democrat.
The truth is that voter fraud in the United States is about as prevalent as being struck by lightning on a sunny day. In other words, it just doesn’t happen. Voter ID proponents know this full well. They’ve even admitted publicly that they have no proof to back up their ridiculous claims. So why come up with a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist?
Two words: electoral math. Republicans have taken a close look at the map of the country and have concluded that the future doesn’t look all that promising for them. In virtually every key constituency, with the exception of white men, they are trailing; in some of those groups – African Americans and Hispanics – they are trailing badly. Guess which groups are increasing and which group is decreasing as a percentage of the population? And you thought Republicans didn’t know how to use a calculator.
How bad is the problem? Some GOP insiders believe that within the next two to three presidential election cycles – 2020, 2024 – states like Georgia, South Carolina, Arizona and Texas, long Republican strongholds, could be tossups. Florida, currently a swing state, might soon be as Democratic as New Jersey. When you take into account that the populations of those states are growing faster than the rest of the country, you can almost understand why the Republicans are desperate. Imagine the entire east and west coast and most of the southwest in Democratic control. As John Lennon once sang, it’s easy if you try.
You know the old saying, if you can’t beat ‘em, eliminate ‘em. Well that’s exactly what the Republican Party is trying to do. They are attempting to stave off a very dire predicament for at least one or possibly two election cycles in the hopes that they can craft a message that doesn’t alienate two thirds of the electorate. By holding down the vote somewhat in these key states, their hope is that they can pick off one or two of them, get their people into power and then bide their time until someone with a message that is palpable can come along and galvanize most of the country, or, failing that, ensure that any electoral threat to them is minimized.
With respect to the former, there are no Dwight D. Eishenhowers or Teddy Roosevelts in the GOP these days, nor are there likely to be for the foreseeable future. And that is the real problem that besets the Republican Party today. The leaders of this party have drifted so far out of the mainstream of society that even Ronald Reagan himself would find it difficult fitting in. So that leaves the latter as their only viable option.
But the problem with suppressing voter turnout is that it is a temporary fix to a long-term problem. Even if the GOP manages to steal Florida (like they did in 2000) or Pennsylvania or Wisconsin or Virginia, or perhaps all of them, the simple fact is time is not on their side, and deep down they know it. The Tea Party may be insane but the Republican establishment isn’t. They have crunched the numbers countless times and the numbers don’t lie.
Think about it, even with an anemic recovery and a vulnerable President in the White House, the best that Mitt Romney can do, even with all that Koch money behind him, is to stay within striking distance in most of the swing states. Obama still leads him in virtually every national poll. Can you imagine what the polls would be like if the economy were doing better?
We could be looking at the beginning of the end of the Republican Party as we know it. It will take some time, but, unless they change their tune and start to attract a more diverse group of voters, extinction awaits the GOP.