Funniest Wingnut of the Day

James Taranto wins the award for saying that high voter turnout among minorities in the 2012 election means that voter ID laws are not discriminatory and therefore the1965 Voting Rights Act is no longer needed:

A month after Barack Obama’s re-election, notes an interesting bit of Democratic triumphalism:

The Republican push to make it more difficult to vote this year–seen by many as a racially tinged attempt to keep Democratic turnout down–could not have failed more spectacularly, a top African American activist told a left-leaning think tank Tuesday.

Chanelle Hardy, a vice president at the National Urban League, told an audience at the Center For American Progress in Washington that, as conservatives had suspected, there was a drop-off in enthusiasm among the African American electorate between 2008 and 2012. . . . Unfortunately for those Republican strategists’ plans, however, other Republicans in legislatures across the country were on a quest to impose restrictions on voting, chasing the ghost of in-person voter fraud.

Those Republican legislators flipped a switch with the African American vote, Hardy said, rekindling whatever enthusiasm had waned after 2008’s historic Obama win.

“We’d been struggling for many years in our communities with how we make the argument that our parents and grandparents had handed down to us: ‘you must vote, because people fought and died for you to have the right to vote.’ It starts to become a little less motivating the further away you get away from those really visceral memories of what it took to get to the polls,” Hardy said. “But then you bring back a 35 state assault on our ability to vote and it starts getting really reminiscent. All of the things our parents were telling us and our grandparents were telling us become visceral to a new generation.”

Let’s stipulate that what Hardy says is true. Now, in light of this information, let’s consider the argument against voter ID laws.

Opponents make two claims: that, as is “seen by many” according to TPM, such laws are intended to suppress minority voting; and that such laws have the effect of suppressing minority voting. Hardy clearly agrees with the first claim, inasmuch as she characterizes voter ID requirements as an “assault on our ability to vote.” She provides no evidence for this claim, or at least none that TPM finds worth reporting, but then her audience probably didn’t need to be convinced.

Hardy’s assessment of the 2012 election, however, directly contradicts the claim that voter ID laws actually suppress minority voting. According to her, they have precisely the opposite effect.

It is true that in some states, including Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin, laws requiring voters to show photo identification either were struck down or had their enforcement delayed until after this election. But according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states had photo ID requirements as of Election Day, four of (them “strict.” If those states saw a drop-off in minority voter participation, we haven’t heard about it.

As we noted last Thursday, the argument for the continuing relevance of the 1965 Voting Rights Act–the most dubious section of which is currently under review at the Supreme Court–rests heavily on the supposition that voter ID laws discriminate against minorities. If they do not have that effect, it may be that the problem of voting discrimination–which was, of course, quite serious half a century ago–has been entirely solved.

Or, if voter ID laws did not have the effect of suppressing the votes of minorities in 2012, it may be because those laws were challenged under the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Or, it may have something to do with the army of civil liberties, civil rights, and voting rights activists who worked their rear ends off, for months before November 6, day and night, 24/7, getting out the minority vote — going door to door registering voters, correcting the intentionally false, incomplete, outdated, and/or misleading misinformation about the law, about voters’ rights, and basically about every factual and logistical detail that could determine whether individual voters got to the polls and were able to successfully cast their votes.

So, in James Taranto’s world, the very fact that these Republican voter ID laws — which Republican officials themselves have openly acknowledged are designed to keep traditional Democratic constituencies like African Americans, Hispanics, and elderly voters away from the polls — didn’t have their desired effect because they so royally pissed people off that they backfired is proof that “the problem of voting discrimination has been solved.” The fact that laws and rules designed to make it as difficult as possible for people to exercise their constitutional right to vote did not succeed in keeping people from voting means that voting rights are not threatened anymore. The very fact that voting rights activists were largely successful in challenging voter ID laws — in no small part by taking legal action against them under the Voting Rights Act — demonstrates that “the problem of voting discrimination has been entirely solved.”

Surely, this is a marvelously comic philosophy of law that James Taranto has come up with. The more successfully and effectively a law addresses the problem it is intended to address, the less desirable it is that we should keep it on the books. In this viewpoint, the law popularly known as Prohibition should have been kept, not abolished, because it was such a spectacular failure. Whereas, by contrast, a law that for almost half a century has successfully protected and ensured a fundamental civil right that was denied an entire group of people for over two centuries prior to that law’s passage, should be abolished — precisely because of its success.

I mean, that’s funny, no?

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Kathy Kattenburg

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