STEPHEN PIZZO FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Some weeks ago I wrote something that got me in hot water with fellow progressives. I wrote that Democrats were making a big mistake in how they were responding to the GOP's naked and obvious attempts to suppress voter turnout with state voter ID laws.
First, let's be clear. I understand fully and completely what the GOP is up to. It's hardly rocket science.
The GOP has all but given up hoping they can win over Hispanics, or of rounding up enough senior citizens happy with the GOP's slash and burn policies on Social Security and Medicare. So, the game has switched, from getting those two groups to vote Republican, to keeping them away from the polls period.
Are these cynical and grossly-overblown "voter fraud" laws a disgrace? Repugnant? A return to the old Jim Crow days? You betcha.
But that's not the useful issue. The real question is how best to turn the GOP's voter-suppression campaign into an opportunity, rather than another missed opportunity.
Let me explain with an example progressives might get.
Back in the day, when labor unions could actually force issues, one of their most effective tools wasn't always a strike, but the slow-down. Work slow-downs were a tough nut for employers to crack, because they were conducted under the cover of law. "Work-by-Book," or "Work by the Rule... was the tactic. Workers would take every workplace safety rule and every contract rule and apply them literally on the shop floor.
What was an employer to do? Admit that the factory never really entirely follows the law and rules under normal conditions? Admit that doing so would cut production and raise expenses, so they fudge the rules normally?
That wouldn't do?
Following the book was a risk-free way for unions to get wanted. Employers were faced with an untenable situation -- complain that workers are... are what? Following the law? While the employer wrestled with this contradiction, workers continued to follow each and every rule to the letter as things ground to a crawl. Until the employer finally cried "uncle."
Which is exactly the position Republicans have put Democrats in with all these anti-voter fraud laws. And, as they almost always do, Democrats are falling right into their trap.
This lazy and whiny approach to hardball politics began back in the day when we had a reliably liberal Supreme Court. Liberals would just roll their eyes when conservatives tried to pull unconstitutional stunts like this one, secure in the knowledge that, once it reached the Court the Supremes would strike it down.
Well, those days are gone. Too bad the attitude of liberals isn't gone as well. Being right is no longer enough. Still
Democrat's first instinct when the GOP pull a stunt like this is go all "OH, NO YOU DIIIIDN'T!" on them. Then to whine, and whine, denounce and whine some more.
All of which puts the GOP right where it wants to be... playing the role of "by the book" union workers. As Democrats whine, the GOP stands there looking surprised, even shocked -- "What? What do Democrats want? Are they saying it's alright to allow people to break the law? All we're saying is that the law should be enforced. What's wrong with that?
SNAP! Brilliant they are, those GOPers. Evil, but brilliant.
So, what should Dems be doing?
First let's understand the lay of the political land; we may see up to $100 billion spent on this election. And for what? Basically to convince fewer than 5 million swing voters, in four or five swing states, to vote for one guy or the other. The rest of the votes are already baked into the cake.
With that much dough floating around Democrats should take a billion bucks of it and, instead of wasting it on annoying, self-serving ads, launch the Mother of All voter ID and registration drives, the likes of which has not been seen in the country since the 1960s.
I'm talking war-footing here. Getting buses and RV's in every town, city, village and hamlet in every contested state, like those blood-drive or library vans. Get them out there and staffed with people who can, not only register voters, but help them get the kind of of ID(s) required to vote this November.
If this were done, and done with even a third the gusto Republicans have used trying to suppress the vote, not only would Democrats sweep the election in this November, but they would put a nail in the GOP's coffin that would last generations. It may even mean the beginning of the end of the GOP as we've known it.
It would be the political form of jujitsu, turning the GOP's own assault on minority voters and seniors against them. By making sure the very demographics they hope to suppress are, instead, registered and properly "papered," Democrats would seed the national electoral base with voters who represent tomorrow -- Hispanics base and aging Baby Boomers.
Younger voters will continue to be driven from the GOP by the GOP itself. After all, what 20-something wants to have to fight assaults on reproductive rights, medical pot, and such, while the planet melts and starvation spreads?
It all seems like such a golden opportunity. A Republican Party hopelessly out voted by the two very demographics they tried to suppress, hoisted on their own neo-fascist petard. How sweet would that be?
Anyway, that's what got me trouble a few weeks back. And I have seen and heard nothing since to change my mind.
Sure, it's fine for lawyers to fight voter-suppression laws, state by state, as they pop up. But even friendly courts move at a glacial pace. The election is less than a hundred days away.
What's needed now, and right up to the election, is a massive, military-campaign-like, voter registration and ID campaign. Thousands of progressive volunteers willing to be on hand to drive those without transportation wherever in their state they need to go to get whatever ID is required. Charitable organizations willing to provide the small sums of money needed to pay for those ID(s) if the registrant cannot afford the fees. And, on election day itself, fleets of cars, minivans and buses to get those who cannot drive to the polls.
That's how to defeat voter-suppression laws, while also assuring that the GOP joins other failed ideas in the trash heap of history.