Cartoon: Back To The Future (Of Racism)

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This cartoon was originally published on The Splinter. Thanks, Splinter!


There’s an adage I’ve seen around; I’ve seen it put various ways, but always from Black writers. I don’t know who said it first, but Aditi Juneja put it especially well in a deservedly viral tweet:

“If you’ve wondered what you would’ve done during slavery, the Holocaust, or Civil Rights movement… you’re doing it now.”

I’ve seen the same sentiment, in similar words, expressed by Kamala Harris and Shaun King. It really resonates with me – especially when thinking about voting rights, an issue that should be decades behind us.

This cartoon, obviously, owes a debt of inspiration to Juneja and Harris and King, and probably others as well.

Doing the 1950s in art was hard, because – especially given the simplicity and lack of detail of my drawing style – it was hard to figure out how to indicate the 1950s visually. Many of the buildings around today were there in the 1950s, after all. I ended up leaning hard on 1950s cars and suits (and of course of course the hats).  Jen Sorenson suggested I lean hard on color palette differences, and I tried to take her suggestion.

The gentleman in the last panel is my best attempt at doing a caricature of MLK in this style (and my best attempt, frankly, was not that great). Fortunately, the gag really doesn’t depend on readers recognizing MLK, or I’d be in trouble!


Transcript of cartoon:

Panel 1
The image shows a white man with glasses and a polo shirt – let’s call him “BOB” – talking at a young woman with brown skin and short spiky hair. Bob is carrying a protest sign that says “ILLEGALS GO AWAY!”

BOB: Voter ID laws aren’t racist! They just make sure that voting isn’t controlled by illegals! No one’s more against racism than ME!

Panel 2
Bob continues to cheerfully talk, waving an arm. Behind Bob, a magic fairy, with blue butterfly wings and purple hair, has appeared with a big “POOF” sound effect and touches their glowing magic wand to Bob’s waving arm.
BOB: In fact, I wish I was back in the 1950s – I’d protest with Martin Luther King Jr!
FAIRY: Wish granted!

Panel 3
Bob is now in the 1950s. We can tell it’s the 1950s because the color scheme has changed, and also, there are a lot of 1950s cars parked on the street in the background.
BOB: Whoa! I’m in the 1950s! It looks just like “Back To The Future!” Bob is listening thoughtfully, one hand on his chin.

Panel 4
A white man in a suit, tie and hat (all 1950s style), and smoking a pipe, is talking to Bob.
MAN: “Literacy tests” aren’t about race! They just make sure that voting isn’t controlled by ignorant people!
BOB: That makes sense.

Panel 5
The man is continuing to talk to Bob, now making an emphatic gesture with his pipe. Bob snaps his fingers in agreement.
MAN: No one was angry until Martin Luther King started agitating! He’s actually making racial strife worse!
BOB: Like “Black Lives Matter” in my time!
MAN: Black lives what?

Panel 6
Bob is talking cheerfully to a black man, who has a thin mustache and wears a dark suit. The man could be MLK Jr. Bob is holding a protest sign that says “MLK GO AWAY!”
CAPTION: And so…
BOB: No one’s more against racism than ME!

“Kicker” panel (a small “extra” image below the last panel)
Bob is talking happily at the Fairy, while pridefully pointing to himself with his thumb. The Fairy facepalms.
BOB: If I lived in the 1800s, I’d definitely be an abolitionist!

This entry posted in Comics other than Hereville!, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

93 Responses to Cartoon: Back To The Future (Of Racism)

  1. 1
    nobody.really says:

    I *LOVE* that the past is in sepia tone!

    (In reading SuperButch, I just realized that reminiscences about the 1940s are in sepia tone, while reminiscences about the 1980s are in blue tones. Now I see that the 1950s are in sepia tone, too. I’m guessing that reminiscences about the 1960s and ’70s would no longer be in sepia tone–but all the reminiscences would be square and have narrow white frames around them….)

  2. 2
    Jeff says:

    I’ve actually often wondered: “Jeff, if you were raised in those days, what side of history would you have been on?” I imagine it would have hinged largely on where I was born and how I was raised. I’d like to think I’d be on the right side of history, as it were… but I don’t know that.

    That said… I struggle here… I do know that present day me sees voter ID laws as common sense, easily defended common sense… If the IDs were issued in a timely manner, free, and widely available (which I understand is not often the Republican model), and present day me even sees a certain logic to the literacy tests… even if it’s not a logic I support. But slavery was abhorrent…. Do you really think so little of the people advocating voter ID laws that you think they’d oppose emancipation?

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Most people in the US today aren’t anti-slavery because we’re better human beings in some essentialist way, compared to pro-slavery Americans of the 1800s. We’re only better because we were born into a better society, one in which being pro-slavery the way the Confederacy was pro-slavery is seen as “abhorrent.” A huge number of us white people, had we been born in the US in 1780 instead of 1980, would be pro-slavery.

    “But slavery was abhorrent.” Sure, we think that now. But many white people in the 1800s didn’t find that at all self-evident.

    What distinguishes the people advocating voter ID laws and sneering at Black Lives Matter is that they accept white supremacy’s rationalizations at face value, while looking for reasons to dismiss pro-civil-rights arguments.[*] If those same people had been born in the past, but retained these traits, of course they’d be anti-emancipation. They’d hear the rationalizations – about how slavery is actually good for Black people, about how the economy would be destroyed for everyone, etc – and they’d say “that sounds reasonable.” They’d say it was common sense. They’d dismiss the abolitionists as naive idiots and radicals and outside agitators and criminals, many of whom have ulterior motives.

    We know that’s what they’d do then, because that’s what they’re doing today.

    [*] I mean, specifically, racial civil rights, as in MLK’s arguments, abolitionist arguments, etc.

  4. 4
    Jeff says:

    Interesting. I agree on humanity not becoming more ethical over time, by the way… It’s an interesting theory, and one that’s blessedly not partisan. Many an interesting discussion was had during one of my more memorable civics classes regarding the general goodness of humanity, and whether that was a sliding scale.

    That said… Maybe I have a different perspective on this because I’m Canadian. We have voter ID. Mexico has voter ID. Most of the civilized world has one form or another of voter ID. And while voter ID laws, as with any law that restricts the institution of voting, tend to disenfranchise already disenfranchised people, I tend to view this as a bug as opposed to a feature. It’s something that has to be mitigated against, but not so disruptive as to question the validity of the system, because the base idea is not a bad one: Only the people who are voting to be represented should have a say in who represents them, and there should be a way to distinguish the people who are being represented from other people.

    I think much of the American resistance to voter ID comes from the (not unwarranted) perception that Republicans are playing dirty ball. It’s hard to pick out from the crowd which ones are genuinely motivated by a civic mind, and which are motivated by an attempt to restrict the rights of people they think won’t vote for them. It’s… easier…. I think to oppose than it is to compromise.

    But I think that’s a mistake. I think that in an increasingly technological world, voter ID is inevitable, and the discussion should shift from whether or not it will happen to how to maintain the rights of the most citizens to participate.

    But that’s just my two cents.

  5. 5
    Jake Squid says:

    Most of the civilized world has one form or another of voter ID.

    Doesn’t the USA have voter ID? I sure remember having to show proof of ID at the polls (in the old days when there were polls to go to). Even now, with vote by mail, I have to sign the envelope which can then be checked against my signature on file.

    Or does the term mean something else?

  6. 6
    Jeff says:

    Doesn’t the USA have voter ID? I sure remember having to show proof of ID at the polls (in the old days when there were polls to go to). Even now, with vote by mail, I have to sign the envelope which can then be checked against my signature on file.

    It varies drastically by state. I could be wrong (it happens from time to time) but I’m under the impression that there isn’t a national program. I’m not even sure if a national program would be constitutional, such is the relationship between the federal government and the states.

  7. 7
    Jake Squid says:

    Ah! I understand what you’re saying and you are correct that there is no national program.

  8. 8
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    So, if it’s safe to say that “supporting voter identification laws” justifies a claim “you would have supported slavery,” then surely this sort of argument holds true against progressives, right?

    They’d have been Communist spies, I suppose. They surely would have supported the various “glorious revolutions” around the world: Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Castro… If given the chance they’d probably have reported dissenters.

    Oh, sure, we know now that the Communist regime was actually really bad. We know now that a lot of uber-progressive regimes would end up killing tens of millions of people. Sure, most folks currently think of their actions as horrific rather than progressive. We know now that “reporting dissenters” was a death sentence.

    But that’s just modern sensibility speaking, right? Surely the progressives of now and the progressives of old are largely cut from the same cloth.

    Sigh.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    G&W – Your tone is weird, but of course, what you’re saying is true. There was a shameful period when many on the left defended the Soviet Union, I’d argue because of extreme partisanship and being too much in their bubble. (I’m not claiming they were the only factors, but they were major factors).

    Of course many people on the left today, and specifically those who are vulnerable to extreme partisanship and relying on bubbles for info, would have done the same thing if they were magically from that period instead of this period. That seems obvious.

    Are you assuming I wouldn’t agree with that?

  10. 10
    Ampersand says:

    That said, I don’t think defending the USSR was ever as common among Democrats as defending voter suppression measures is currently among Republicans. Defending Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Castro was a radical left view (less so with Castro than the others).

    Presidents are a reasonable example of what the party – or at least, the most influential parts of the party – think. Jimmy Carter as President was very anti-Commie. Trump is totally pro voter suppression laws, and spreads lies and myths intended to stir up panic about hoards of illegal voters turning elections.

  11. 11
    Sebastian H says:

    The comic is just fine, but I’m going to say again that this is another example of how Democrats play way too much whiny defense. Instead of complaining about unfair voter-ID laws for 40+ years, they should have just passed a fair voter ID law modeled on essentially any other major Western country that has voter IDs during one of the times they controlled Congress and the Presidency. If conservatives were afraid of the ‘mark of the beast’ or something, they would be selecting themselves out of the voter pool. Win-win.

    The problem is that making voters have an ID seems intuitively pretty obvious. We aren’t living in an age where the polling worker can be expected to visually identify every voter.

    So in order to not look like you are pro-voter fraud you have to have complicated arguments about how impossible it is for people to get IDs. Instead you should just make it way more possible for people to get IDs. There is no reason to play into the right-wing frame with something so easily and cheaply fixable.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    [Cross-posted with Sebastian.]

    It’s telling, by the way, that the voter-ID supporters here are focusing so much more on the kicker panel than on the main subject of the cartoon.

  13. 13
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    …there was a period when many on the left defended the Soviet Union…

    Are you assuming I wouldn’t agree with that?

    Agree with what I actually said? Yes; you didn’t agree. “Defending the Soviet Union” is weak tea compared to “supporting Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and Castro and the glorious revolutions,” which is what I wrote.

    I don’t think most folks would be willing to openly to support that crew; I didn’t think you would. I don’t think you do, either, given your rewrite.

    It’s telling, by the way, that the voter-ID supporters here are focusing so much more on the kicker panel than on the main subject of the cartoon.

    Amp: [posts incendiary cartoon directly accusing voting ID supporters of lying when they say they would have supported civil rights; and also implying that support for voter ID is basically evidence that your past self would have supported slavery. Which, WTF?]

    Voting ID supporters: [Successfully fight the normal “fuck you” response to such things; use nice words to address Amp and try to explain issues with that claim.

    Amp: Wow, it sure is telling that you are all discussing the “basically a modern slavemonger” thing instead of rehashing the same old dispute about voting rights for the 100th time.

    What’s next? A follow-up cartoon where your political opponents are “angry” or “unwilling to discuss voting rights?”

    This is unlike you.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    G&W:

    Okay, let me try again.

    So, if it’s safe to say that “supporting voter identification laws” justifies a claim “you would have supported slavery,” then surely this sort of argument holds true against progressives, right?

    They’d have been Communist spies, I suppose. They surely would have supported the various “glorious revolutions” around the world: Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Castro… If given the chance they’d probably have reported dissenters.

    Definitely, they would have been supporting those “glorious revolutions,” including some number who would become communist spies or report people. For instance, those leftists in the current day who think that the only real solution to capitalism is violent revolution – I think it’s safe to assume that, in the past, they would have also supported violent revolutions to overthrow capitalism.

    Where I think the parallel falls down – and I’m not assuming you disagree with me about this – is in two places: What the leadership is supporting, and what the proportions were.

    As far as I can tell – and I’m no expert – support for (to use one of your examples) Stalin was always a fringe view among the left, not the default view. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think FDR was an open Stalinist. In contrast, right now, support for laws like Voter ID is the default among conservatives, and Trump is a big fan of those laws, and also spreads demonstrably false-but-frightening stories about hoards of illegal voters.

    So yes, the same mechanism applies. But if you’re implying that any random leftist today would be as likely to support Stalinism, if they were transported to the 1950s, as a random conservative would be to oppose the civil rights movement if transported to the same decade, then I think you’re mistaken. (And maybe that’s not what you’re implying.)

    [posts incendiary cartoon directly accusing voting ID supporters of lying when they say they would have supported civil rights

    I don’t think the character in my cartoon is “lying” per se; he has a sincere but mistaken belief about whose side he would have been on in the 1950s.

  15. 15
    Katea says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about if there are any groups which consistently seem to have been on the right side of history in terms of civil rights. Certainly no political party has. I haven’t started researching it yet. But the first two groups who come to my mind are Quakers and Unitarians. Any thoughts?

  16. 16
    Ben Lehman says:

    I mean, I don’t have to question whether fringe leftists would have supported, say, Mao.

    A lot of the adults I grew up around (thankfully, not my parents) in rural California in the 80s were former or current Maoists. A lot of the current leftist fringe in the US will agree with statements like “Stalin did nothing wrong.”

    These people are abhorrent shitheads but they have very little actual power over me or my society — particularly now that I’m an adult — so I mostly ignore them and sometimes argue with them.

    Compared to the racist American right, who currently control three branches of the government*, one of these things is substantially more urgent.

    *Senate control is a bit more complicated.

  17. 17
    desipis says:

    So if people get their sense of morality from their current cultural environment, how does society ever manage to change?

    The cartoon’s answer seems to be that it’s driven, kicking and screaming, by radicals and activists (e.g. MLK, BLM). That’s raises the question, where do radicals and activists get their sense of morality? If it’s from reason and logic, then why is it assumed their opponents aren’t also using reason and logic, and instead are being blindly lead by culture?

  18. 18
    Katea says:

    The cartoon’s answer seems to be that it’s driven, kicking and screaming, by radicals and activists (e.g. MLK, BLM).

    I think that might be true.

    That’s raises the question, where do radicals and activists get their sense of morality? If it’s from reason and logic, then why is it assumed their opponents aren’t also using reason and logic, and instead are being blindly lead by culture?

    I’d say part of it is the moral accident of being on the receiving end of genuine injustice and fighting against it out of self-interest and solidarity with ones community.
    Part of it is making a genuine connection with marginalized people, and seeing them as human beings like us.
    Also, both Unitarians and Quakers seem to have underlying principles which lead them to support abolition, civil rights and other social justice causes before they became popular. I’m looking into these groups more, and would be interested if anyone knows of any other groups that seem to foster good choices.

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    Katea, I have no groups to suggest, but I’d be interested in hearing about whatever you find or conclude.

    how does society ever manage to change?

    Desipis, that’s the central question, isn’t it? I can’t claim to have the answer. I think what Katea says makes sense, though.

  20. 20
    Kate says:

    Katea is me! I don’t know where the extra a came from.

  21. 21
    Ampersand says:

    I don’t know where the extra a came from.

    “When a mommy A and a daddy A love each other very much…”

  22. 22
    Gin-and-whiskey says:

    I always thought I knew myself better than most folks other than my mom. I was sure I knew myself better than anonymous liberal bloggers.

    Guess not.

    After all, who are you going to trust when it comes to personal motivations and beliefs? The person who has them, or his political opponents?

    Seriously, how does that not make you step back? I guess I’m not surprised any more to see that kind of stuff coming from putative liberals, but I confess I’m disappointed.

  23. 23
    Sebastian H says:

    “So yes, the same mechanism applies. But if you’re implying that any random leftist today would be as likely to support Stalinism, if they were transported to the 1950s, as a random conservative would be to oppose the civil rights movement if transported to the same decade, then I think you’re mistaken. (And maybe that’s not what you’re implying.)”

    I can’t speak for what he’s implying, but if the logic holds true we could equally say that progressives of the 1920s-1940s would be big supporters of eugenics.

    I think you’re right that a fairly large percentage of people on any given side of any given issue are where they are far more by the intersection of where the society is and which tribe they happen to fallen/been born into than by any reasoned or moral thought of their own. But I don’t think it actually maps 1 to 1 on any historical issues in any particularly useful way. You can sort of guess where people might fall on an issue by looking at certain things in a probabilistic way based on their tribe. But you can’t project that into the past because the tribe affiliation isn’t stable in the past. The Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood and was a hardcore eugenicist argument isn’t an argument that means anything useful about Planned Parenthood today.

    There is also a huge selection bias effect. You could have ended the cartoon with someone who was staunchly opposed to Stalin and Mao with the same type of ‘intellectual pedigree tracing’, but then the meaning of the cartoon is reversed.

    Basically I don’t think the knowledge that historical people weren’t as woke as us gets us anywhere. Arguably we aren’t as woke as them on class issues, so they might see our relative meh concerns about unions as appalling. And they might be right. It is a kind of guilt by association argument that doesn’t even have good associations. It doesn’t tell us anything useful about current political fights because who you trace to and who you distance yourself from is always going to be self serving.

  24. 24
    Sebastian H says:

    On the underlying voter ID issue, Democrats have really dropped the ball here.

    A huge part of successful politics is making sure that on important issues, you can easily make your opponents look like they are taking ridiculous positions and you are taking common sense ones.

    That is why there is often all sorts of wrangling about what to call things and how to talk about them.

    The common sense position on voter ID is: we don’t want people voting twice, and we don’t want people who aren’t supposed to vote voting, so there should be a voter ID.

    The Democratic Party position takes paragraphs to sound even remotely convincing and even then doesn’t refute the common sense position in any strong way. The Republicans get a lot of traction out of the issue because Democrats have to sound ridiculous fighting against it.

    This is stupid because Democrats could pretty easily reclaim the frame and get rid of most of their own objections by making a strong easy to get Voter ID. Compared to all sorts of things that Democrats want to do, this would be easy and cheap. THEN if Republicans want to argue against it THEY have to be the ones making ridiculous sounding objections. I’ve always kind of thought that neither side really wants to fix the issue because both sides used to think they were really good at gaming it locally, so the incentive to fix it wasn’t there. Well from where I sit it looks like Republicans are gaming it better, so Democrats might want to consider getting a handle on it.

  25. 25
    Harlequin says:

    how does society ever manage to change?

    IMO, any society has a distribution of people: some who are happy with the status quo, some who want to change the status quo in one way or another. Most people are happy with the status quo but don’t think that much about it, and don’t care enough to resist very hard when other people try to change things.

    In our current system, I often think of liberals and conservatives as the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Liberals wanna go somewhere else. Conservatives don’t want to go, but if we have to, they’re going to make sure we go in a controlled fashion. (In this case, “out of control” would mean changing society so fast that large groups of people splinter away. I do not think our current state of partisanship is a result of changing too fast, though.) And hard-line conservatives may go kicking and screaming, to use desipis’s phrase, but most people are kind of in the middle and just shrug and go along.

    Or, I guess, that last paragraph applied before the Tea Party and the gerrymandering that accelerated the Republican party’s downward spiral. Now it’s more like two cars stuck together by their back bumpers, both trying their darnedest to drive the joint car in opposite directions.

  26. 26
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    It’s not just a matter of making it easy to get voter ID. Having ID is an important part of living in the US, and it seems to me that it would be the better part of kindness to make it cheap and easy to get ID. Not doling it out with an eye-dropper because general quality of life doesn’t matter as much as voting.

    This might take accepting that you can’t get perfect security where ID never goes to someone who isn’t supposed to get it.

    Has anyone been pushing for better access to ID?

  27. 27
    desipis says:

    Harlequin:

    IMO, any society has a distribution of people: some who are happy with the status quo, some who want to change the status quo in one way or another. Most people are happy with the status quo but don’t think that much about it, and don’t care enough to resist very hard when other people try to change things.

    This is similar to my view, but there is one important difference. I see most people as having a limited capacity for change. If there’s a little bit of change most people will go a long, as there is more and more change however, more and more people will begin to feel uncomfortable and resist it. I see the overall pace of change in society being constrained by the sum of this capacity for change, with political and social activists only really affecting the type and direction of change that occurs.

    That’s not to say it doesn’t change at all. There would be general factors that have an effect: education and a cosmopolitan environment would increase it, while economic chaos or technological shifts could absorb people’s capacity for change limiting their desire for social or cultural change. The internet is a good example of both.

    It has increased people knowledge and understanding of the world while also exposing them to a significantly larger variety of people.and cultures than they would see in their immediate environment. This has energised people with a high capacity for change to pursue more radical agendas for social change.

    It has also forced significant and constant change onto people in terms of their day to day lives. From having to use social network sites to keep up with family and friends, to having to buy books online because the local book store shut down, to having a constant stream of strangers next door because the neighbours put their place on airbnb. This has driven people with a low capacity for change to tightly grasp their social and cultural norms in order to have some semblance of familiarity in their lives.

    I think the dynamic between these two drivers and the way it magnifies the distribution of people’s desire for change is one of the factors behind the divisiveness in politics today.

  28. 28
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#14- I don’t think it makes sense to equate the Democrats of the 1930s to 1950s with “the Left”. The Democrats of that period included the SOUTHERN DEMOCRATS, so FDR, for example, had to basically exclude blacks from Social Security to get it passed. It’s true for example that one fifth of the unions in the CIO were communist controlled- hardly a small fringe. (Also keep in mind that the French and Italian Left WERE Communist dominated at various points.)
    One similarity that you seem to be missing is that both yesterday’s leftists and today’s alt-right used “free speech” to defend individuals and organizations with utterly repugnant views. The ACLU’s first executive director, Roger Baldwin, made excuses for Soviet “excesses”, for example, in his book Liberty Under the Soviets and originally supported free speech for Nazis because he realized it was the only way to support free speech for Stalinists. (He later broke with Stalin and became a genuine believer in civil liberties.) In fact, even today, a lot of Leftists consider people like the Hollywood Ten and W.E.B Dubois heroes, even though, for example, DuBois declared kulaks bloodsuckers and praised Stalin for driving them out (which in practice meant shipping them off to remote settlements where large numbers of their children died of starvation and disease).

  29. 29
    Jeff says:

    One similarity that you seem to be missing is that both yesterday’s leftists and today’s alt-right used “free speech” to defend individuals and organizations with utterly repugnant views.

    The thing that people sometimes forget is that “free speech” isn’t necesary to discuss weather over the water cooler. Very rarely do we need free speech for the mundane… It’s just there, and we take it for granted.

    People bring up free speech when their speech is controversial, when people are attempting to silence them. That means that over time, if you lump all the people calling for their right to speak, you’re going to get some strange bedfellows. Yes, right now there’s the alt-right, and yes, in decades past, the race driven left, but MLK also had some controversial ideas, and also had to assert his freedom to speak more than once.

    The freedom to speak, even speak uncomfortable, hostile, or ugly things is important because in the best of situations it opens a dialogue that pushes good ideas forward, and scuttles bad ones to the dustbin of history.

  30. 30
    Michael says:

    Sorry, what I mean is that basically both groups use free speech to obscure the fact that the ideologies are repugnant. Left-wingers view the Hollywood Ten and W.E.B Dubois as free-speech heroes and right-wingers view Richard Spencer and a free-speech hero. It’s no violation of free speech to say that the causes they fought for were evil.

  31. 31
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    “the French and Italian Left WERE Communist dominated at various points”

    When was the French Left Communist dominated?

  32. 32
    Charles S says:

    Holy fuck, did you just equate W.E.B Dubois and Richard Spenser? Reducing Dubois down to his awful eulogy to Stalin, written when Dubois was 85, is absurd. Dubois wasn’t even a Communist Party member until he was 93, and then only as a “fuck you” to Congressi0nal anti-communism. Stalinism was not the cause Dubois spent any part of his life fighting for.

    Let’s look at the things W.E.B Dubois spent his life actually fighting for. Was anti-lynching was evil? Was developing the sociology of black people in America was evil? Was the civil rights movement was evil? Was anti-colonialism was evil? Those are the causes W.E.B Dubois fought for.

    Saying the cause W.E.B Dubois fought for was evil isn’t a violation of free speech, but it is a ridiculous lie. W.E.B. is a hero because of his life’s work, not because he eulogized Stalin. Even though he eulogized Stalin, he is still a hero.

  33. 33
    Seriously? says:

    “When was the French Left Communist dominated?”

    At least from 1945 to 1961. In the early 80s, when I lived in France, the Communists were still getting over 15% of the vote, down from over 20% just a few years earlier, but were definitely less powerful than the Socialists. It was not until the fall of the URSS that they faded away from mainstream political discourse, if not from the elections.

  34. 34
    Mookie says:

    Thank you, Charles S.

  35. 35
    Kate says:

    Seconded Charles! I just didn’t have it in me. To equate the founder of the NAACP with Richard Spencer. If W.E.B. Debois is the worst figure you can think of on the American left, that seems like an admission of defeat of “both sides do it” theory to me.

  36. 36
    Jokuvaan says:

    Going by that logic it would be discriminating not to let people open a bank account, board a plane, buy tickets online, buy alcohol or buy a gun without a valid ID.

  37. 37
    Harlequin says:

    Jokuvaan, a few points:
    – You can do several of the things on your list without a valid ID, though it is a hassle.
    – Of the ones that do require an ID, the requirements may be significantly looser than the modern Republican idea of a suitable voter ID.
    – None of the things you list are as fundamental a right as voting.
    – Yes, the requirement for ID likely does cause discriminatory effects in those cases. But we should weigh the costs and benefits of the ID restriction. Lots of minors would buy alcohol, given the opportunity. Few people engage in voter impersonation fraud, the supposed reason for voter ID.
    – It is relevant that voter ID laws are specifically designed to suppress the Democratic vote, as Republican legislators occasionally slip up and say out loud. Whereas I don’t think it’s a widespread opinion that ID to get on an airplane is great because it keeps poor people out. (The cost does that just fine.)

  38. 38
    Jeff says:

    Michael @ 30: “right-wingers view Richard Spencer and a free-speech hero”

    I can’t speak for everyone right of center, but my God no I don’t. I view Spencer as a lightning rod for censorious people. If a line can be drawn in the sand at Richard Spencer, the worst of the worst, and won, then all the other battles that would have been easier to fight are won by default.

    Richard Spencer wasn’t even a conservative brand name, he and his very small following were wallowing in obscurity until the left went searching for examples of Nazism among right leaning people, found it, and gave it a huge platform from which to spout their nonsense.

    In my opinion, and I know this will be contested, but in my opinion Richard Spencer is more of a hero to the extreme left because they needed a poster boy for all the toxic things they wanted to smear the rest of the right with, and he very rarely fails to deliver that pure toxicity.

  39. 39
    jokuvaan says:

    – You can do several of the things on your list without a valid ID, though it is a hassle.

    Not in all countries.

    – Of the ones that do require an ID, the requirements may be significantly looser than the modern Republican idea of a suitable voter ID.

    A credible ID like say drivers license with a picture should suffice yes.

    – None of the things you list are as fundamental a right as voting.

    However for the individual it may be less significant.

    – Yes, the requirement for ID likely does cause discriminatory effects in those cases. But we should weigh the costs and benefits of the ID restriction. Lots of minors would buy alcohol, given the opportunity. Few people engage in voter impersonation fraud, the supposed reason for voter ID.

    What you are missing here is the risk of organised voter fraud and the legality and credibility of the election.
    I find it highly amusing that democrats are worried about Russia rigging a election by releasing information about one candidate and a information campaign but at the same time want to make it more easy to actually physically rig a election.
    Like imagine if a democrat wins the next president election, however its found out that at least thousands were not allowed to vote due to someone already supposedly having voted with their names. Most of them republicans and it turns out that the false people all voted for the democrat candidate.
    At the same wikileaks reveals (fake but credible) material strongly suggesting that the democratic campaign had connections with FSB and later significant (planted) money stashes are discovered on the properties of people involved in the election process.
    Can you imagine the shitstorm that would ensue?

    – It is relevant that voter ID laws are specifically designed to suppress the Democratic vote, as Republican legislators occasionally slip up and say out loud.

    So establish a reasonable process that kills both flies at once.

    Whereas I don’t think it’s a widespread opinion that ID to get on an airplane is great because it keeps poor people out. (The cost does that just fine.)

    Er you know some firms like Ryanair do offer some pretty significant discounts. Heck I have visited a foreign country more cheaply than what it costs to visit our capital.

  40. 40
    Chris says:

    Good lord, those are some terrible rebuttals.

    Not in all countries.

    Irrelevant. We are talking about voting rights in the United States.

    A credible ID like say drivers license with a picture should suffice yes.

    So people should have to be able to drive in order to vote? Is that your position?

    However for the individual it may be less significant.

    Completely irrelevant. The question is rights, not what people want to do. For some individuals it may be more significant that they get “Hamilton” tickets than that they are allowed to vote. That does not mean we as a society need to concern ourselves with the issue of who gets access to “Hamilton” tickets.

    What you are missing here is the risk of organised voter fraud and the legality and credibility of the election.
    I find it highly amusing that democrats are worried about Russia rigging a election by releasing information about one candidate and a information campaign but at the same time want to make it more easy to actually physically rig a election.

    There is plenty of evidence that Russia attempted to rig the election by releasing information, some of it real, some of it fake, some of it illegally accessed and nearly all of it weighted against one candidate in particular (to say nothing of the evidence that the Trump campaign assisted, or at least encouraged, these efforts). There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

    Like imagine if a democrat wins the next president election, however its found out that at least thousands were not allowed to vote due to someone already supposedly having voted with their names. Most of them republicans and it turns out that the false people all voted for the democrat candidate.
    At the same wikileaks reveals (fake but credible) material strongly suggesting that the democratic campaign had connections with FSB and later significant (planted) money stashes are discovered on the properties of people involved in the election process.

    Can you imagine the shitstorm that would ensue?

    Imagine if the White Walkers attack, and we’re unprepared for it. Clearly, we must immediately take precautions against them. Why won’t the Democrats support building a wall in the North to deal with this potential threat?

    Since there is about as much evidence of thousands of people being unable to vote due to someone already voting under their names as there is for the existence of White Walkers, can you see why your hypothetical is not convincing as a reason for voter ID laws?

  41. 41
    Kate says:

    Like imagine if a democrat wins the next president election, however its found out that at least thousands were not allowed to vote due to someone already supposedly having voted with their names. Most of them republicans and it turns out that the false people all voted for the democrat candidate.

    Why would someone trying to manipulate an election risk detection by starting a conspiracy asking thousands of people (each a potential leaker) to risk arrest voting frauduleantly in person, when the Russians have already demonstrated that it is easy enough to hack into the programs they need to manipulate the vote with a few key strokes? According to law enforcement agencies, the Russians did not manipulate the votes. But, they could have.

  42. 42
    Jake Squid says:

    Imagine if the White Walkers attack, and we’re unprepared for it.

    Oh! The memories this brings back of the absurd hypotheticals used by anti-abortion commenters here 10 or 15 years ago. I haven’t thought of the womanbabykeet in quite some time.

  43. 43
    jokuvaan says:

    So people should have to be able to drive in order to vote? Is that your position?

    Should have some ID, drivers license, passport, ect

    Completely irrelevant. The question is rights, not what people want to do. For some individuals it may be more significant that they get “Hamilton” tickets than that they are allowed to vote. That does not mean we as a society need to concern ourselves with the issue of who gets access to “Hamilton” tickets.

    If thats the case then the right to vote should include the right to have a proper ID.

    There is plenty of evidence that Russia attempted to rig the election by releasing information, some of it real, some of it fake, some of it illegally accessed and nearly all of it weighted against one candidate in particular (to say nothing of the evidence that the Trump campaign assisted, or at least encouraged, these efforts). There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

    Exactly, thats a argument for the current system not for making the system more vulnerable to foreign or domestic large scale voting fraud.

    Imagine if the White Walkers attack, and we’re unprepared for it. Clearly, we must immediately take precautions against them. Why won’t the Democrats support building a wall in the North to deal with this potential threat?

    I don’t think you understand what these people are willing to do to achieve their objectives.
    Anything that causes chaos in the US is in their favor.

    Since there is about as much evidence of thousands of people being unable to vote due to someone already voting under their names as there is for the existence of White Walkers, can you see why your hypothetical is not convincing as a reason for voter ID laws?

    Again thats a argument for the current system, not for one where voters can’t be required to identify.

    Why would someone trying to manipulate an election risk detection by starting a conspiracy asking thousands of people (each a potential leaker) to risk arrest voting frauduleantly in person, when the Russians have already demonstrated that it is easy enough to hack into the programs they need to manipulate the vote with a few key strokes? According to law enforcement agencies, the Russians did not manipulate the votes. But, they could have.

    And no ID requirement would remove one of the alarm bells. There would be at first no record proving that the hacking took place and that the people are not simply lying.
    In large scale it would be obivious enough but that is not proof nor would there be a exact idea of how many votes were rigged.

    No voter ID and concern about elections getting rigged are mutually exclusive positions on the issue.
    Choose one.

  44. 44
    Charles S says:

    Voter ID is not a reasonable defense against election hacking. Ensuring that voting machines produce a verifiable paper trail and that the election results are subject to a risk-limiting post-election audit (in which an initial small-scale random audit automatically triggers a cascade of larger scale audits if the results of the audit are inconsistent with the election result) is the way to defend against election hacking.

    Voter ID laws would in no way protect against your white walkers invade and vote scenario. The FSB would simply need to provide the white walkers with good forgeries of voter ID to circumvent your great voter ID Ice Wall. If they can raise up an army of thousands of white walkers willing to vote illegally and go to jail, they can also manage to score some fake ID.

    A system of providing everyone in the country with free voter ID (a right to a voter ID) would be fine. It would be expensive and subject to errors, and would deny the voting rights of people who are prone to losing their ID, but it wouldn’t be a horrible thing. It would also merely require a Republican presidency or a Republic controlled budget to turn into a not-at-all free system of making it difficult for everyone to get their voter ID. Or, since it would actually be run by the states individually, since the states are the ones who both handle elections and handle most forms of ID, it would be a patchwork of voter suppression efforts in Republican controlled states, but with a Federal endorsement of the voter ID requirement.

  45. 45
    Charles S says:

    Voter ID is also not a defense against election fraud by the election authorities (e.g. ballot box stuffing), which is the way elections mostly get rigged. It is also not a defense against election fraud by absentee ballot. The White Walkers merely need to request absentee ballots for the poor Republicans and then turn in their ballots before election day for the poor Republicans to be turned away at the polls (and slaughtered and raised up as new White Walkers?). No voter ID required, even in a state with a voter ID requirement.

  46. 46
    Kate says:

    Not being able to get ID is a huge problem in the U.S., for more reasons than just voting. Not being able to open a bank account is a huge obstacle, requiring people to pay large fees to get their checks cashed, for starters.
    I’d like to see a system whereby, for free, you could go into any post office, town hall, courthouse, school, welfare office, etc., get fingerprinted and put in for a background check and immediately get a provisional ID, and then either come back to get the permanent ID in 6-8 weeks or receive it in the mail.
    Barring that, I can’t see myself supporting voter ID.
    The Republicans will never support this, because voter ID is not about preventing voter fraud – it is about preventing poor people who support Democrats from voting.

  47. 47
    Sebastian H says:

    Ugh. Again, it is about making your opponents take the silly looking side of the argument.

    You know the argument that lots of countries pull off gun control and lots of countries pull off universal health care? Lots of countries pull off Voter ID, including countries with rather nasty racial histories.

    If you think Republicans use voter ID as a serious vote suppression tool, the fix is to remove that tool from them by creating a comprehensive and easy to use voter ID system like any of the ones that exist in dozens of countries. That fix is easy, and cheaper than almost anything else on the Democratic Party wishlist. You aren’t doing it to fix “voter fraud”. You are doing it to fix “Republican Voter ID misuse”.

    Voter ID is exceedingly difficult to argue against without looking silly to anyone who isn’t a super hardcore political junky–as Democrats find out literally every time they try to argue against it. So turn that to your advantage when passing a good system.

    Next time we are in power just take it off the table.

  48. 48
    Ampersand says:

    Lots of countries pull off Voter ID, including countries with rather nasty racial histories.

    None of those countries have the population size and complexity of government (i.e., fifty state governments) of the US. And I’m sure some have nasty histories, but do any of them have a history (continuing through the present day) of voter suppression comparable to the US’s history? And how do you know that none of them currently have voter suppression problems?

    If you think Republicans use voter ID as a serious vote suppression tool, the fix is to remove that tool from them by creating a comprehensive and easy to use voter ID system like any of the ones that exist in dozens of countries. T

    If the Democrats were all-powerful dictators who get to do whatever they want in all fifty state governments by waving a wand, and who can depend on the Republicans never taking power again, then your argument here would make a lot more sense.

    But that’s not how it works. Do you know what would have happened if the Democrats created a “voter ID must be easy to get or else the federal government will penalize you?” law when they had majorities in Congress and Obama was president?

    Well, first of all, they might not have been able to get sixty votes together to overcome the inevitable Senate filibuster. During the very, very narrow window of time during which Democrats even had sixty Senate votes. (Should they have made this a higher priority than health care?)

    Second, dozens of GOP secretaries of state would have sued, claiming that the Federal government was infringing on the state’s constitutional right to direct their own election procedures. And, considering the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, it’s very plausible that the GOP would have won that.

    Third, even if the GOP hadn’t filibustered, and even if the SCOTUS hadn’t quashed such a law, it certainly would have been sabotaged or undone once the GOP retook power. This isn’t like Obamacare; voter IDs have simply never been the third rail of politics that medical care is. If Obamacare has only survived by the skin of its teeth, I don’t think you can assume that this hypothetical federal voter ID law would have survived at all.

    Voter ID is exceedingly difficult to argue against without looking silly to anyone who isn’t a super hardcore political junky–as Democrats find out literally every time they try to argue against it.

    Where is this coming from? I get that you think it’s silly, and seemingly you think Democrats are losing elections over this issue. But do you have any legitimate polls or evidence? Why assume everyone thinks like you do?

    There’s no evidence at all, that I know of, that the particular arguments made by either party regarding voter ID changes any voters’ minds at all (in the sense of getting a GOP voter to vote for a Democrat, or vice versa). There is a lot of evidence, however, that voter suppression tactics – including but not limited to voter ID – do help Republicans in elections. That seems like a higher priority to me than your “silliness” argument.

  49. 49
    kate says:

    You know the argument that lots of countries pull off gun control and lots of countries pull off universal health care? Lots of countries pull off Voter ID, including countries with rather nasty racial histories.

    In my experience, this argument doesn’t work on conservatives on either gun control or universal healthcare.

  50. 50
    Harlequin says:

    jokuvaan, I think the other commenters have been doing a good job at rebuttals, but quickly:

    Again thats a argument for the current system, not for one where voters can’t be required to identify.

    The laws that Democrats object to (the “strict photo” and “strict non-photo” ones, generally) have been put in place in about the last decade. And much of the harshest resistance is applied to new laws: for example, the voter ID law in Pennsylvania that never went into effect because of the state’s failure to adequately provide its promised voter ID for people without driver’s licenses. Wisconsin’s law that probably suppressed tens of thousands of votes was new for this election.

    I agree with you that the status quo is working well. That’s why I oppose the new voter ID laws proposed by Republican legislators. There are certainly sensible voter ID laws in some states in the US, but that’s not the kind people are trying to implement now.

  51. 51
    Jeff says:

    Barry @ 48

    None of those countries have the population size and complexity of government (i.e., fifty state governments) of the US. And I’m sure some have nasty histories, but do any of them have a history (continuing through the present day) of voter suppression comparable to the US’s history? And how do you know that none of them currently have voter suppression problems?

    Size and complexity? India… Off the top of my head. Something like 1.2 billion people and 40 odd state governments, and they have a card specifically for voting. But more, this is a bad argument for a progressive… So many of the policies that progressives like hinge on comparisons to other countries. If “America is bigger and more complicated and different” is enough to rebut an idea, then why should anyone give credit to comparisons to the Canadian healthcare system, for instance? I mean… America is bigger, and more complicated, and different.

    If the Democrats were all-powerful dictators who get to do whatever they want in all fifty state governments by waving a wand, and who can depend on the Republicans never taking power again, then your argument here would make a lot more sense.

    I mean… Nothing stopped Democrats when Obama had his super majority, it’s why you have the ACA. But more, by what logic could Republicans possibly fail to support voter ID laws, even with the caveats that the ID be free, available, and quick? It would be like Democrats failing to pass gun control legislation just because it came from Republicans.

    Well, first of all, they might not have been able to get sixty votes together to overcome the inevitable Senate filibuster. During the very, very narrow window of time during which Democrats even had sixty Senate votes. (Should they have made this a higher priority than health care?)

    Than health care? Maybe not. But let’s not pretend that the ACA was the first, or only piece of legislation that Obama passed during that time frame. Women were already guaranteed equal pay to men, which is why Lilly Ledbetter was such a strange piece of legislation to come out of the gate with, as an example. And with the relatively greased wheels available to a super majority, I feel that Obama could have done more if he really wanted to. Do you not?

    Second, dozens of GOP secretaries of state would have sued, claiming that the Federal government was infringing on the state’s constitutional right to direct their own election procedures. And, considering the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, it’s very plausible that the GOP would have won that.

    That’s actually probably true. But God, wouldn’t that be a coup for the Democrats? The GOP suing Democrats for instituting voter ID? How could they ever argue for it again?

    Third, even if the GOP hadn’t filibustered, and even if the SCOTUS hadn’t quashed such a law, it certainly would have been sabotaged or undone once the GOP retook power. This isn’t like Obamacare; voter IDs have simply never been the third rail of politics that medical care is. If Obamacare has only survived by the skin of its teeth, I don’t think you can assume that this hypothetical federal voter ID law would have survived at all.

    But… Why would they? Is the expectation that politics is so deeply polarized that legislation sponsored by political opponents, even legislation that you agree with, will be opposed out of spite? I think it bears noting that a majority of bills passed through government go through basically unopposed. We just don’t hear about them because they aren’t controversial.

    Where is this coming from? I get that you think it’s silly, and seemingly you think Democrats are losing elections over this issue. But do you have any legitimate polls or evidence? Why assume everyone thinks like you do?

    Losing elections? Not on the one issue, very few people are single issue voters, and voter ID isn’t going to be the kind of issue that collects single issue voters, but I’m sure that it paints Democrats as unreasonable in certain contexts, and that might sway some independents.

    But polls and evidence? I couldn’t find a poll with less than 70% support,

    Gallup pegs it at 80%:

    http://news.gallup.com/poll/194741/four-five-americans-support-voter-laws-early-voting.aspx

    Fox, strangely, only found 70%

    http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/206300-poll-70-percent-support-voter-id-laws

    And this non-scientific poll comes out in the middle:

    https://www.isidewith.com/poll/393570626

  52. 52
    Chris says:

    I don’t think you understand what these people are willing to do to achieve their objectives.
    Anything that causes chaos in the US is in their favor.

    Since you didn’t specify who “these people” are, I’m going to assume you mean White Walkers since it’s funnier that way.

  53. 53
    Ampersand says:

    Size and complexity? India… Off the top of my head. Something like 1.2 billion people and 40 odd state governments, and they have a card specifically for voting.

    In India, a single central authority sets the rules, including the rules for voter ID cards, for the entire country. The state governments do not have the power to arbitrarily make their own voter ID rules. So no, that’s not comparable. (I’m pretty sure India’s central authority design would be unconstitutional in the US.)

    But more, this is a bad argument for a progressive… So many of the policies that progressives like hinge on comparisons to other countries. If “America is bigger and more complicated and different” is enough to rebut an idea, then why should anyone give credit to comparisons to the Canadian healthcare system, for instance? I mean… America is bigger, and more complicated, and different.

    But the Canadian system can’t simply be transported to the US, because the US is a different country. Those progressives who think we can simply switch to Canadian-style or to single-payer health care are being extremely naive, just as Sebastian’s argument earlier was naive.

    I think an argument that universal health care is not inherently impossible, because it has been achieved many times in other countries, is reasonable. But anyone suggesting that because it’s been done elsewhere, therefore it would be simple to implement in the US, or can be instituted without regard to the US’s existing context, is mistaken.

    BTW, I’m hardly unique in saying this. Some of the most prominent Democrats and conservatives progressives in the US public health care discussion – people like President Obama, Atul Gawande, and Ron Pollack – have been saying for years that improvements on the US health care system have to be built on the US’s specific context.

    That said, unlike Voter ID, it’s not unconstitutional to have the Federal government running national healthcare systems (like Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA). So universal health care is achievable through the Federal government in a way that a universal Voter ID card is not.

    Nothing stopped Democrats when Obama had his super majority, it’s why you have the ACA.

    The ACA was incredibly hard to achieve, and what was finally passed was, most Dems and all progressives agree, an extreme compromise compared to what was initially proposed. Much of the plan for what the ACA was supposed to be – such as the public option – was stopped while “Obama had his super majority.” Furthermore, the Medicaid expansion – arguably the biggest and most consequential part of the ACA – still doesn’t exist in almost 40% of states. (19 states.) And, as we’ve seen under Trump, the GOP – even while failing to overtly get rid of the ACA – has been able to sabotage its functioning.

    The rest of your argument seems to hinge on saying that the GOP wouldn’t dare oppose a voter ID law. Why not? They openly oppose the idea that global warming exists. They opposed carbon taxes after years of supporting carbon taxes. They oppose a Romneycare style health care system after choosing Romney as their candidate for President. Republicans consistently call for cutting taxes and increasing military spending, sometimes literally in the same speeches in which they talk about eliminating deficit spending.

    All they’d have to say is “this Democratic plan claims to be voter ID, but would actually tie states’ hands and prevent states from protecting the vote from illegal aliens” and that would be all the cover needed. That you think this wouldn’t happen – or that Republicans would “agree with” any voter ID plan that would impair their ability to suppress Black and Latinx voters – is, in my view, very naive.

  54. 54
    Kate says:

    But God, wouldn’t that be a coup for the Democrats? The GOPsuing Democrats for instituting voter ID? How could they ever argue for it again?

    The right wing in the U.S. is very paranoid about national ID’s. They would frame it as creeping fascism. Even if it were optional, they would pretend it isn’t.

    Is the expectation that politics is so deeply polarized that legislation sponsored by political opponents, even legislation that you agree with, will be opposed out of spite?

    No. The expectation is that Republicans will oppose legislation that they agree with when Democrats are in control to try to make it impossible for Democrats to govern. Democrats want government to work and will do things, like help a Republican president and Republican congress pass a bill helping hurricane victims in Florida and Texas (both red states) because they believe it is the right thing to do.

  55. 55
    Sebastian H says:

    “There’s no evidence at all, that I know of, that the particular arguments made by either party regarding voter ID changes any voters’ minds at all (in the sense of getting a GOP voter to vote for a Democrat, or vice versa). There is a lot of evidence, however, that voter suppression tactics – including but not limited to voter ID – do help Republicans in elections. That seems like a higher priority to me than your “silliness” argument.”

    I feel like you are confusing tactics and strategy. You seem to want Democrats to be in infinite tactical skirmishes and I’m asking you to focus on the strategy.

    You, and Democrats all over, are constantly complaining about bad Voter ID being a potential voter suppression tactic. But instead of thinking strategically (how do we remove this allegedly effective weapon from the table) we have fought hundreds of little battles all over the place–and frankly lost a lot of them.

    Why? Because strategically arguing against Voter ID makes you look silly. Does the single issue move the dial? Who knows? Polling isn’t that fine grained. But it is another example of “jeez Democrats are so partisan that they don’t even want there to be proper voter IDs” which plays super easily into the suspicion that Democrats kind of want illegal aliens to vote for them.

    The reason it is so easy to lose on the Voter ID issue is because the appeal to wanting to make sure that only authorized people are voting is super intuitive. Arguing against it at all makes you look like a potential crook.

    Finding hundreds of little battles that make you look like a potential crook each time is a horrible strategy. So if you think Voter ID really is an effective voter suppression tactic, you can’t do that.

    So what should you do? You should turn it around. Bad Voter ID is an awful tool in the Republican hands. Good easy to obtain Voter ID isn’t. So you champion that.

    I’m not saying that Republicans CANT CANT CANT argue against.

    I’m saying that you have now strategically wrong footed them, so that they are the ones who have to look like idiots.

    Does that ONE SINGLE ONLY thing fix everything wrong with our politics? Of course not.

    But if you treat things strategically in that fashion, you win because you are constantly wrong footing them, instead of letting them constantly wrong foot you.

    And I don’t know why you think it would be unconstitutional. It would be unconstitutional for STATE elections, not FEDERAL ones. Lets fix one thing at a time. But look how that wrong foots them again. “This is great for FEDERAL elections, but we are going to make stronger rules for STATE ones”. Sure they CAN do that, but it ends up being much more transparently shady than the current situation.

  56. 56
    Sebastian H says:

    I want to step back just a little bit from my previous post but its been up long enough that I won’t edit it.

    It is important to realize that there is no “just one trick to keeping anyone from voting Republican again”. There isn’t “one funny thing that lets us win all the elections”. I’m not under the impression that fixing voter ID would fix everything. I’m not under the impression that Republicans would be incapable of mustering some sort of opposition to it.

    I’m not saying anything like that. What I’m saying is that a big part of long term political strategy is about constantly putting your opponents in positions where they have to look silly. Eventually that changes voters’ perceptions. Maybe not immediately. Maybe not in a single election. But over time that is how strong movements are made.

    But what looks silly to you only if you are a political junky isn’t what I’m talking about. That kind of stuff doesn’t work because most voters aren’t political junkies. Voter ID is just a really clear example of what I’m talking about. The Republican talking points on voter ID are super intuitive to any non-junkie. You can’t effectively counter it with a dissertation on how special the US is that it can’t possibly pull off voter ID.

    If there was absolutely nothing else available, you just deal with it. Some things you can’t compromise on to have good messaging. But this isn’t one of them. This one you can easily flip the political frame for non junkies. You propose a strong and easy ID system. Then in order to counter it the Republicans are the ones making non-intuitive dissertation arguments which won’t be listened to by non-junkies.

    Will the Republican junkies buy the Republican dissertation arguments? Probably. So what? They would buy a;dlfkjafonsiofvna;lkl;kj sd sn as an argument from the right source. We aren’t talking about them.

    But more importantly, if you believe that voter ID is an weapon being effectively deployed by Republicans, you take it away from them as an EFFECTIVE weapon. If it becomes a bunch of griping and a ritual talking point, but an INEFFECTIVE weapon you are way better off.

  57. 57
    Ben Lehman says:

    If you think that the Obama administration could have successfully implemented a national ID card, I don’t really think that you have a realistic understanding of American politics.

    A future Democratic administration? Maybe. Obama? No.

  58. 58
    Sebastian H says:

    I’m not sure how that is relevant. No Democratic administration can do important things without laying the groundwork for it. Should the original Clinton administration in the 1990s have started laying the groundwork for it? Probably. If your only argument is that we haven’t started to start soon enough, I would respond with “let’s start”.

  59. 59
    LizardBreath says:

    I think you’re overreaching quite a bit if you think opposition to the current spate of Voter ID laws inevitably makes Democrats look silly. It’s an objective fact that there is no problem that anyone has been able to detect, even in the states with the loosest requirements, with fraudulent voting of the sort that would be remedied by stricter ID requirements. And good lord have people been looking. Votes by people who are not who they purport to be have been found by ones and twos at very, very long intervals, and never in quantities that could possibly sway an election: https://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/debunking-voter-fraud-myth . There is no genuine problem that Voter ID solves, and anyone who pays any attention to the issue knows this.

    At that point, stricter Voter ID requirements that are imperfectly imposed are going to deprive significant numbers of qualified voters of the ability to vote. A perfect, free, trivially-easily accessible national Voter ID might not, but it would be incredibly politically difficult to implement, and would do literally nothing useful, because there is no genuine problem that Voter ID solves.

    If you think having failed to make this happen makes Democrats look silly, I suggest that you may possibly be looking through a partisan lens.

  60. 60
    Sebastian H says:

    “I think you’re overreaching quite a bit if you think opposition to the current spate of Voter ID laws inevitably makes Democrats look silly.”

    Inevitably is a very strong word. In a perfect word, where voters will listen to long discussions which prove points against their initial understanding of common sense, it wouldn’t make Democrats look silly. We don’t live in the world.

    “If you think having failed to make this happen makes Democrats look silly, I suggest that you may possibly be looking through a partisan lens.”

    No, it isn’t the having failed to make this happen that makes Democrats look silly. It is the arguing against voter ID laws that makes Democrats look silly. If we don’t think that the new voter ID laws were making a problem, we could just ignore the whole thing. But the received wisdom is that the new voter ID laws are disenfranchising enough of our voters to be a problem. So then we have to fight it somehow. Which puts us really on the wrong foot because the argument against voter ID pretty much makes it sound like you want to cheat the system.

  61. 61
    LizardBreath says:

    It’s only common sense that Voter ID laws are necessary if you believe that voter impersonation fraud happens. If you know it doesn’t (to any significant extent) happen, the argument against them (that they disenfranchise poor people) is what’s common sense.

    And the only voters who believe that voter impersonation fraud happens are the ones who uncritically believe lies being told by the right. Defusing the Voter ID issue by performing the Herculean task of implementing a national voter ID that somehow doesn’t disenfranchise people won’t do Democrats any good, because Republicans will just switch the lies they tell, and the same segment of the population will keep eating it up.

    We can’t fight back by ‘solving’ imaginary problems, because they can just keep making them up. We have to peel voters away from listening to the lies. I don’t know how to do that, either, but nothing else is going to work.

  62. 62
    Mandolin says:

    Counter argument (which I don’t thiiiink I believe?)

    This is a known potential hack, even if it hasn’t been done. Over and over, we see groups take advantage of potential hacks that haven’t been a problem before, with enough vehemence to corrupt election decisions. With a political election, that’s a terrible thing to happen, even once. Is it worth planning to make sure the system is strong enough to resist known possible hacks?

    Which throws it to a risk/penalty/reward issue, I guess:

    Risk — it hasn’t happened, but some group of assholes could try to make it happen. I think this would be exceedingly difficult, but I don’t know offhand how difficult. It is very bad if it happens even once.

    Penalty: a known penalty of enacting as-is ID laws is voter suppression. This is extremely bad and unacceptable, and itself is a hack of the system that corrupts electoral outcomes.

    Reward: avoiding a potentially severe problem.

    The logic doesn’t hold as-is. The cure of voter suppression is unacceptably bad to solve an unacceptably bad — but so far nonexistent– problem. We shouldn’t do an unacceptably bad thing to prevent another from happening. And we should NOT base our decisions on false information– i.e. That voter fraud currently exists in a substantial, disease-like form. We should know we’re tackling a theoretical problem.

    But tackling a theoretical problem that would be unacceptably bad may be worth doing — if we can find a non-unacceptably-bad palliative. One isn’t on the table that I know of. Is it worth expending resources to find one?

    This is a bipartisan argument, but not made from that pov, frankly. Republicans have been cheating their way through elections a lot, using legal but dubious methods. I have no doubt the fringier, wilder weirdo group (which may be small, but small groups can have outsized effects when cheating) could try an illegal hack, especially one they’ve already accused other people (falsely) of doing first.

  63. 63
    Sebastian H says:

    The actual voter suppression effects of medium strong voter ID laws is not well established. (I mean by this voter ID laws as talked about under pre 2013 structures). So assuming that it is unacceptably bad seems to assume the conclusion. This is especially true if a national effort to get people IDs was made. Which is exactly what you would do if you made a voter ID law.

    Which by the way is another avenue for Democrats, get people IDs under current law.

    Most people have IDs already. About 10% dont. So get them IDs. Spend five years and a few hundred million dollars getting those people IDs. There will be people so off the grid that after a multi year effort you still can’t get them IDs or even find them, but the vast majority of people that off the grid aren’t voters anyway.

    This whole fatalism about the courts and voter ID laws is just backwards.

    Lizardbreath, I think you’re just empirically wrong about people who think voter fraud is possible are. I’ve met dozens of people who are Democrats and don’t understand what Democrats have against voter ID. And I’m just not that social to have met all of them in the country.

  64. 64
    LizardBreath says:

    You misunderstand me. Not everyone who believes Republican lies uncritically is a Republican voter. My father’s been a left-liberal all of his life, and he believed a whole lot of pernicious nonsense Republicans said about Hillary in 2016. He voted for her anyway, because he’s a decent person who understood what a horror Trump was, and he’s a Democrat, but he believed the lies.

    Anyone who thinks that there is currently a voter impersonation problem, let alone one significant enough that it needs stronger voter ID to solve it, believes it because they have been listening to lies, whether they’re personally a Democrat or a Republican. Spending billions of dollars to solve an imaginary problem invented by liars is pointless; if we solve the ‘Voter ID problem’, they can just invent something different.

  65. 65
    LizardBreath says:

    I mean, you don’t honestly believe there’s any meaningful problem Voter ID solves, right? You’re suggesting that the Democratic Party should be devoting itself to instituting a national voter ID purely to defuse the imaginary political issue, in the same way we might institute national distribution of garlic and crucifixes if the Republicans sold the voters on the idea that they should be afraid of vampire attacks?

  66. 66
    Sebastian H says:

    Lizardbreath, I’m not really sure I understand your position. Is it that Republicans have not really used voter ID to suppress Democratic voters? Or at least not successfully?

    I actually think that is a pretty defensible position even if it is not widely held around here. So if that is where you are coming from we have a completely different discussion. Is that your point, that it just isn’t a big deal anyway?

    But if you do think Republicans are successfully using it, the question is how do we best fight it. Echoing Mandolin, it is a point of possible weakness anyway that has been successfully closed in all sorts of other nations. So a good way to fight it is to just take it away. Ideally you would politically leverage the Russian attempts at tampering to make comprehensive changes at a number of weak points: paper trails, potential for fraud in mail voting, voter ID.

    Your vampire analogy is better than you think. If Republicans were *winning elections* on their vampire scare strategies, we would have to come up with a good counter even if we don’t believe in vampires. We might have to say things like “vampires don’t exist, but we are happy to allay your concerns further by doing X”. You don’t get to pick your electorate, you have to work with it in some areas and try to lead it away in others. The problem is deciding which is which. You probably can’t debunk EVERYTHING, so you need to decide which things you debunk and which things you exercise harm reduction against.

    If something is hard to debunk, but easy to mitigate, you should probably just mitigate its importance away. That it is a better use of your political time and energy. We can’t easily fix the bad effects of global warming for example, so we have to debunk global warming denialism. We can easily fix the suppressive use of Voter ID by making a cleaner voter ID, and making a clean voter ID is not a betrayal of our principles, so it makes more sense to just do that rather than have twenty years of losing battles on how often voter impersonation happens.

  67. 67
    Kate says:

    We can easily fix the suppressive use of Voter ID by making a cleaner voter ID

    This is where you’re losing me. Helping people get ID will be very, very expensive. How do we convince people who think that getting ID is easy because it was easy for THEM to get ID to spend that money? Also, there are powerful interests, like pay day lenders, who make a lot of money off of people NOT having ID. I think that fight is worth having in its own right, but don’t fool yourself that it will be easy.

  68. 68
    LizardBreath says:

    If something is hard to debunk, but easy to mitigate, you should probably just mitigate its importance away.

    I think believing that national Voter ID that won’t have the effect of disenfranchising people would be ‘easy’ to put in place is nuts. I haven’t costed it out, but you called it ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars above, and that seems both like an incredibly low number in terms of what it’s actually likely to cost (two million dollars per state? I really don’t think so) and an insane waste of money on distributing vampire repellent.

    Also, if implementation is imperfect, which you couldn’t know before committing to it, but is highly likely because most things are imperfect, the national Voter ID would itself end up disenfranchising people. Imperfect government programs with some bad side effects happen, and it’s okay if the useful purpose of the program outweighs the bad side effect. Disenfranchising people to fight off imaginary monsters is not worth it.

    And finally, the key thing is that real world programs are slow and expensive, and lies are fluid, agile, and cheap. Mitigating an imaginary issue that exists only because Republicans have invented it out of whole cloth costs the government real, serious money, has real, serious, ill-effects, and does nothing to forestall the next set of lies they come up with, which they can do with no more investment than a little dishonest creativity.

    Debunking lies and discrediting liars is hard, and I don’t know how to do it. But letting liars define the landscape of what needs to be done in the real world, tacitly agreeing to pretend that their nonsense is true, is never, never going to do anyone any good except the liars.

  69. 69
    Harlequin says:

    There are also other possible ways of mitigating the damage then national voter ID. Examples might be pushing other electoral reforms (absentee ballots, etc) or increased voter registration pushes. Or, I’m sure, plenty of other things I haven’t thought of.

    I also think, as others here do, that you’re far overstating the utility of a national voter ID law to address this issue, Sebastian H. In particular, in places where voter ID laws have been implemented, there’s been no change in voters’ trust in the elections. So whatever fear the Republicans are exploiting will still exist and can be used to promote a further restriction of voting rights–only now the Democrats have 1. lost ground because it’s more likely than not that any ID law would result in a net loss of people who can vote (even if it’s smaller than it would be under Republican plans) and 2. given credence to the issue by making it a policy they spent political capital implementing. And that’s aside from the fact that there are a finite number of things that can be accomplished in a given term and it seems unlikely to me that this is the best use of those resources.

    One other point: you’ve said taking the side against voter ID makes Democrats look silly. But that’s a very narrowly constructed view of the debate. “Republicans don’t want black and Latino people to vote” works pretty well when you commit to it, for example, and has the benefit of being true.

  70. 70
    Sebastian H says:

    “In particular, in places where voter ID laws have been implemented, there’s been no change in voters’ trust in the elections.”

    Where do we have enough experience to suggest that this statement is true? All of the cases I can think of are either very very recent, were mostly tied up in court so only very recently implemented, or relatively trivial.

    “One other point: you’ve said taking the side against voter ID makes Democrats look silly. But that’s a very narrowly constructed view of the debate. ”

    I don’t know what to say about it. It isn’t the debate that I have constructed, it is the debate that has actually occurred. Tribalism is strong enough in the current US that you can pretty much just find out what someone’s political affiliation is and predict what they think on any of the major topics. The fact that I encounter many Democrats who think that there should probably be picture ID for voting suggests that whatever view you think the Democrats ought to be pushing is not actually getting through effectively.

    Now again it may very well be that the Voter ID thing just doesn’t have a lot of political valence. But that raises the question of how Republicans are able to use it so effectively.

    “Debunking lies and discrediting liars is hard, and I don’t know how to do it. But letting liars define the landscape of what needs to be done in the real world, tacitly agreeing to pretend that their nonsense is true, is never, never going to do anyone any good except the liars.”

    This treats all lies as equally false. The fact is that, Trump exempted, most lies have kernels of truth that make dealing with some of them easier than others. Also I think I object to a good voter ID program as potentially “disenfranchising” people. The question is not: “does everyone presently have a perfect ID” such that if they do not they are ‘disenfranchised’. The question is: “have we given every legitimate voter an easy opportunity to get such an ID with minimal cost and effort to them.”? At some point, if we make it very easy to get, we have to accept that some people still won’t get them. That isn’t ‘disenfranchisement’. Disenfranchisement is trying to make it difficult such that legitimate voters can’t get proper ID. Right?

    I mean we could maximally enfranchise people by not requiring any ID cross check at all. That would of course open up massive voter fraud, so the question isn’t “any ID?” but rather “which ID?”, right?

  71. 71
    Sebastian H says:

    Examples of polling

    “Proposals to require voters to show photo identification before being allowed to vote draw overwhelming support. By 77% to 20%, voters favor a requirement that those voting be required to show photo ID. Opinion about this is little changed from six years ago, when 80% of voters supported voter photo ID requirements…

    There are partisan differences in views of photo ID requirements for voters, though majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents favor such requirements. Fully 95% of Republican voters say a photo ID should be required to vote, as do 83% of independents. By comparison, 61% of Democrats who say photo identification should be required; 34% say it should not. Liberal Democrats are about equally divided on this question (46% should be required, 48% should not).”

    So even just among Democrats, 61% think Photo ID should be required.

  72. 72
    LizardBreath says:

    Disenfranchising someone is keeping them from voting when they are a person who should be entitled to vote. Having photo ID isn’t a moral virtue that makes you a better voter, it’s a practical means of preventing fraud.

    To the extent that we can make a pretty good estimate of how many cases of voter impersonation fraud are prevented by a given voter ID requirement, that’s the whole benefit of that requirement, and it needs to be set off against the number of people who don’t vote because of the same requirement. And the latter group of people — people who don’t vote because of the new voter ID requirement — have been disenfranchised even if you think that they should have been able to overcome any difficulties.

    So long as it looks like tightening voter ID requirements is going to prevent thousands, or tens of thousands, of legal voters from voting, even if they would have been able to vote if they’d tried harder, while only preventing possibly dozens of cases of voter fraud, tightening those requirements is a bad idea that unnecessarily disenfranchises legal voters.

  73. 73
    Sebastian H says:

    Should we be loosening them so no identification requirement whatsoever is needed? Just let people show up and vote without a name or identification at all? It is virtually certain that some people aren’t voting because they didn’t register in time. Should we just allow anyone who appears at any polling place to vote without attesting that they are citizens? Should mere “I’m a citizen” be enough? Should “I’m a citizen and haven’t voted anywhere else” be enough?

    We are talking about where the line is to be drawn, but you are making arguments that imply no line ought to be drawn at all. I don’t think you really believe that, so the question is not “is ANY alleged disenfranchisement damning to voter rules”? The question should be ease of access to LEGITIMATE voters. That means to me that if we make it free and easy to access, that is enough. If you want to argue that certain rules aren’t easy enough, I’m right there with you. But you aren’t arguing that. You are arguing that ANY rule which prevents thousands of legal voters from voting is too much. There are 300 million people in the US., so literally any rule we have will prevent thousands of legal voters from voting. The question is not “will this rule every now and then cause problems for people who might theoretically want to vote”. The question is “have we fairly given people the opportunity to easily fulfill the requirements”. Yes, current Republican plans don’t and should be opposed. But you’re not arguing against those plans. You’re arguing against even national rules even if proposed by Democratic Congresses and signed by Democratic Presidents.

    I’ll close with Jimmy Carter’s Center’s points on voter ID as drawn from the bipartisan center on Election Reform (2005):

    In 2005, we led a bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform and concluded that both parties’ concerns were legitimate — a free and fair election requires both ballot security and full access to voting. We offered a proposal to bridge the partisan divide by suggesting a uniform voter photo ID, based on the federal Real ID Act of 2005, to be phased in over five years. To help with the transition, states would provide free voter photo ID cards for eligible citizens; mobile units would be sent out to provide the IDs and register voters. (Of the 21 members of the commission, only three dissented on the requirement for an ID.)

    No state has yet accepted our proposal. What’s more, when it comes to ID laws, confusion reigns. The laws on the books, mainly backed by Republicans, have not made it easy enough for voters to acquire an ID. At the same time, Democrats have tended to try to block voter ID legislation outright instead of seeking to revise that legislation to promote accessibility. When lower courts have considered challenges to state laws on the question of access, their decisions have not been consistent. And in too many instances, individual judges have appeared to vote along partisan lines.

    Fortunately, the Supreme Court has taken on a case involving a challenge to Indiana’s voter ID law. The court, which heard arguments last month and is expected to render a judgment this term, has the power finally to bring clarity to this crucial issue. A study by American University’s Center for Democracy and Election Management — led by Robert Pastor, who also organized the voting commission — illustrates the problem at hand. The center found that in three states with ID requirements — Indiana, Mississippi and Maryland — only about 1.2 percent of registered voters lacked a photo ID. While the sample was small, and the margin of error was therefore high, we were pleased to see that so few registered voters lacked photo IDs. That was pretty good news.

    The bad news, however, was this: While the numbers of registered voters without valid photo IDs were few, the groups least likely to have them were women, African-Americans and Democrats. Surveys in other states, of course, may well present a different result.

    We hope the court will approach the challenges posed by the Indiana law in a bipartisan or nonpartisan way. As we stated in our 2005 report, voter ID laws are not a problem in and of themselves. Rather, the current crop of laws are not being phased in gradually and in a fair manner that would increase — not reduce — voter participation. The recent decision by the Department of Homeland Security to delay putting in place the Real ID Act for at least five years suggests that states should move to photo ID requirements gradually and should do more to ensure that free photo IDs are easily available.

    The Supreme Court faces a difficult and important decision. If the justices divide along partisan lines, as lower courts have, they would add to the political polarization in the country. We hope that they will find a nonpartisan path that combines both legitimate concerns — ballot security and full access to voting — and underscores the importance of applying these laws in a fair and gradual way. It is also important to remember that our commission’s report addressed other pressing election concerns. There is much more that Congress and state legislatures need to do to improve the electoral process and restore confidence in our democracy. We have outlined 87 such steps in our commission report.

    In the meantime, the Supreme Court can lead the way on the voter ID issue. It has the opportunity to inspire the states, our national leaders and the entire country to bridge the partisan divide on a matter that is important to our democracy. It can support voter ID laws that make it easy to vote but tough to cheat.

  74. 74
    Jake Squid says:

    … while only preventing possibly dozens of cases of voter fraud…

    And even that is, afaict, a huge overstatement of the number of voter fraud by impersonation cases that have been documented.

    Should we be loosening them so no identification requirement whatsoever is needed?

    What strawman is this I see before me?

  75. 75
    Kate says:

    Should we be loosening them so no identification requirement whatsoever is needed? Just let people show up and vote without a name or identification at all?

    Said nobody anywhere ever.

  76. 76
    Harlequin says:

    Where do we have enough experience to suggest that this statement is true? All of the cases I can think of are either very very recent, were mostly tied up in court so only very recently implemented, or relatively trivial.

    For example, or here. (Some further interesting thoughts here, including some things I didn’t know.)

    “One other point: you’ve said taking the side against voter ID makes Democrats look silly. But that’s a very narrowly constructed view of the debate. ”

    I don’t know what to say about it. It isn’t the debate that I have constructed, it is the debate that has actually occurred.

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree. My experience, when discussing this with liberal-leaning folks who don’t have lots of political engagement, is that–while not universal–many of them are disgusted by what they see as Republican attempts to keep people like them or their friends from voting. But I don’t think it’s that surprising we talk to different sorts of people (as I assume I talk to a different selection of people than everybody round these parts…)

    Now again it may very well be that the Voter ID thing just doesn’t have a lot of political valence. But that raises the question of how Republicans are able to use it so effectively.

    Are they using it so effectively in an electoral sense? Sure, they’re effectively implementing it (because Republicans have control of a lot of state legislatures). But it’s not clear to me that this is changing anyone’s minds. Like, of those 60% of Democrats who think we should have voter ID laws (which, again, we do in the majority of states)–are there are any who will vote for Republicans based on the Republican implementations of voter ID?

  77. 77
    Charles says:

    If Republicans were using the imaginary need for voter ID laws to convince voters to vote Republican, then Democratic candidates and officials would be endorsing the Carter Center’s proposals. Elected officials do plenty of polling, have a firm grip on what issues are actually being raised in campaigns, and may of them are pretty craven. If they think that selling out poor people and black people will earn them more votes than it will cost them, then that’s where plenty of them will go.

    That we don’t see any sign of Democrats endorsing or implementing those proposals suggests to me that Democrats are not running scared on voter ID issues, because Republicans aren’t using those claims to influence voters, just to do voter suppression after they win on other issues.

    And while the “Oh, let’s let people vote without anything!” strawman is ridiculous and not connected to anything anyone said, same day registration, which Sebastian also tried to use as a reductio ad absurdum, is standard in 14 states, has been shown to increase voting, and has never been shown to be a cause of election fraud. So, yes, we should let people register on election day, because that way more resident citizens will register and vote.

    The Carter Center’s proposal would be fine if it could be implemented in some way that was magically protected from interference by governments committed to vote suppression, but that is a Utopian fantasy. If the Carter Center proposals were implemented at the state level, they’d be ferociously undermined and stripped of the pro-voter registration and free ID components in all the states that are currently engaged in voter suppression. If they were implemented Federally (say, under Obama), they’d first be contested in the courts by all those states, and if they had somehow passed muster in the Roberts court, they would now be being gutted of all the pro-voting components by the Trump administration. The Carter Center Proposal would simply have handed the Trump administration a device for doing Federal voter suppression (or at best an unfunded mandate to the Democrat controlled states to fend off voter suppression).

    It’s weird for a libertarian, who is usually on the “be careful what powers you give to the government” side, to be blithely imagining that a free and universal voter ID system would not get turned into an un-free and non-universal system at the drop of a hat, particularly when we already have an entire political party actively working to specifically and intentionally create maximally un-free and non-universal voter ID systems.

    This isn’t a speculative situation, we already know what Republican policy is for voter ID, and we know why that is their policy (because they say it openly- well, they mostly lie about the racial aspect, but they are open about the partisan aspect). The Republicans aren’t accidentally failing to implement the Carter Center proposals, they are actively opposed to measures that make it easier for legitimate but marginalized voters to vote.

  78. 78
    Kate says:

    There are also ways to establish identity other than photo ID. When I first started voting, they matched singnitures on the voting roll – we now have the technology to add photos, taken when the voter registers, to the voting roll itself (this would also eliminate the problem of fake ID’s). There are also signed afadavits, attesting to a person’s identity, and fingerprints or thumbprints.

  79. 79
    Jeff says:

    Harlequin @ 76

    My experience, when discussing this with liberal-leaning folks who don’t have lots of political engagement, is that–while not universal–many of them are disgusted by what they see as Republican attempts to keep people like them or their friends from voting. But I don’t think it’s that surprising we talk to different sorts of people.

    See this is interesting, I suppose as a Canadian, my interactions with Americans is somewhat abridged, but what interaction I have, and if it comes up, is almost opposite. The progressives who care deeply don’t often fear for their own ability to vote, they often speak on behalf of some vague person who for some reason is unable to procure ID… And the people who care less think the discussion is foolish. The bubbles we swim in, I suppose. But feelings are fickle things, impossible to debate against, which is why “I feel that this disenfranchises my vote”, I think, is unimportant if that person’s vote is not actually disenfranchised. More important to ask, if the legislation passed, would you actually still be able to vote? Do you have the necessary ID? And if not, how do we get it to you? If you WOULD still be able to vote… Then the impression that the law might disenfranchise you seems like a baseless fear, no?

    Charles @ 78

    the imaginary need for voter ID

    Imaginary…. Interesting. Why is it, do you think, that every other modern democracy on Earth has some form of voter ID? Is America’s election system so much more secure than the rest of the world that it inherently does not need it? Or is the rest of the world neurotic, and they do not need it?

    Elected officials do plenty of polling, have a firm grip on what issues are actually being raised in campaigns, and may of them are pretty craven.

    Then why are Democrats so bad at winning elections? If they have their finger so firmly on the pulse of what the American people want, why is Donald Trump the president?

    Kate @78

    There are also ways to establish identity other than photo ID.

    I mean… Yes, there are. But is there really a system better than a photo ID card? God knows that in 2017, we should be able to get cards that have pictures on them to American citizens in a timely manner. When I go in to my bank to get a replacement debit card, they take my picture, and make the card in front of me.

  80. 80
    Sebastian H says:

    Kate, “When I first started voting, they matched singnitures on the voting roll – we now have the technology to add photos, taken when the voter registers, to the voting roll itself (this would also eliminate the problem of fake ID’s).”

    I would be happy with this. I suspect pretty much no one else upthread who doesn’t want picture voter ID would be.

    Harlequin: “My experience, when discussing this with liberal-leaning folks who don’t have lots of political engagement, is that–while not universal–many of them are disgusted by what they see as Republican attempts to keep people like them or their friends from voting. ”

    This doesn’t contradict my experience at all. My liberal leaning friends are disgusted by Republican attempts to MISUSE Voter ID, but they have the standard liberal reaction to government MISUSE which is “make better regulations for voter ID”. And since that appears to represent about 60% of Democrats, that doesn’t seem like a shockingly strange position even in the Democratic Party.

    “Sure, they’re effectively implementing it (because Republicans have control of a lot of state legislatures). But it’s not clear to me that this is changing anyone’s minds. Like, of those 60% of Democrats who think we should have voter ID laws (which, again, we do in the majority of states)–are there are any who will vote for Republicans based on the Republican implementations of voter ID?”

    I don’t understand this objection. Republicans don’t have to ‘change minds’ because a huge majority of people already agree that Voter ID is appropriate. Because of that it is difficult to oppose Voter ID as an idea, you have to oppose the specific implementation of specific Voter ID proposals. I.e. you have to count on a huge number of people paying attention enough for a long period of time that they will catch each and every instance of bad implementation. That’s horrible politics because most people aren’t political junkies but your plan requires political junky level engagement. If the status quo is a good Picture ID program, that requires Republicans in the position of counting on people to be political junkies, because they have to argue why a good Picture ID program isn’t good enough for Mississippi. It also puts them on the wrong foot in court cases.

    Jake: “What strawman is this I see before me?”

    This isn’t a strawman because I’m not attributing the argument to anyone. I know that isn’t the argument, I’m trying to understand why the logic ONLY ONLY ONLY applies to picture IDs. It appears to be equally applicable to all non-photo ID cases. It is definitely applicable to Social Security cards, it is applicable to mail with your name on the address, it is applicable to signatures, it is applicable to literally every form of ID currently used. So why is the argument “PICTURE IDs” disenfranchise voters instead of IDs disenfranchise voters? I’m objecting to using loaded language like ‘disenfranchise’ in one case but not all the others. Under Lizardbreath’s formulation for ‘disenfranchise’ ALL demands for ID ‘disenfranchise’ voters. But that is way overloading the term ‘disenfranchise’ and inappropriately smuggling in the moral valence of ‘disenfranchise’. Requiring SOME ID isn’t not ‘disenfranchisement’. The question is how much and when.

    Charles “It’s weird for a libertarian, who is usually on the “be careful what powers you give to the government” side, to be blithely imagining that a free and universal voter ID system would not get turned into an un-free and non-universal system at the drop of a hat”

    That would be true if there weren’t governments already exercising “Voter ID regulations”. But every state has “Voter ID regulations”. So the question isn’t “should we have Voter ID regulations” the question is “which ones should we have”. My libertarian bent would tend to be “different states can have different voter ID regulations”. Normally I would be happy with that.

    But at some point I’m merely informed by the libertarian critique, I don’t believe it is infinitely helpful. So if I see evidence that “Voter ID regulations” are being used unfairly on a large scale, I lean toward making uniform “Voter ID regulations”.

    Also I’d like to push back on “documented voter fraud by impersonation”. Statistics are notoriously difficult to appropriately get from systems which are specifically designed to be opaque. (See for example abuse by prison guards and those at least have people other than the perpetrators who know that I crime has been committed). Under the California system if I show up to vote and there is already a check next to my name, there might be voter impersonation (there might also be a mistake by the poll worker). How will you investigate that? There was no ID required so you literally have no idea who voted instead of me. If you go through the work of tracing the registration packet to an empty lot, is it verified yet (no). If you trace the packet to someone’s house and they deny seeing it, is it verified yet (no). And then what? You are going to verify the signature? Oh really? Enough to prosecute somebody and convict them beyond a reasonable doubt? No.

  81. 81
    Charles says:

    “When I first started voting, they matched singnitures on the voting roll – we now have the technology to add photos, taken when the voter registers, to the voting roll itself (this would also eliminate the problem of fake ID’s).”
    … I suspect pretty much no one else upthread who doesn’t want picture voter ID would be.

    I have no idea why you think that. I’d be fine with that. What legitimate voters would be prevented from voting by having to have a picture taken at some point in the voter registration process? Making sure that the small minority of people who don’t have existing ID got a photo into the voting system would be vastly easier than making sure they got a replacement birth certificate or got a certified DS-10.

    Under the California system if I show up to vote and there is already a check next to my name, there might be voter impersonation (there might also be a mistake by the poll worker). How will you investigate that?

    Unlike many other forms of election fraud, 50% of cases of voter impersonation should leave a visible record (since about 50% of registered voters vote, 50% of voter impersonation will be detected). How many cases are there of people going into vote and being told that they have already voted? In how many of those cases is the person who shows up to vote not actually the voter? In how many of those cases did the illegitimate person (or the mistaken person) who voted first vote at the very first opportunity to vote (necessary if you don’t want to get caught out as the second voter)? What does the signature of the person who voted first look like? Is it just a case of someone signing on the wrong line? Etc. There is plenty of material there for investigation. There have been plenty of investigations. Your push back is empty speculation and silly incredulity. How many cases of potential voter impersonation are there that are developed to even the level of someone noticing that someone else voted in their place, even if the criminal can not be found?

    Anyway, voter ID wouldn’t particularly help against the committed voter impersonator. If the person impersonating you had a fake ID, the investigation would be just as unpossible (or not) as you claim it would be now. Likewise, the person impersonating you could just request an absentee ballot, steal it from your mailbox, and then vote absentee without you knowing. No ID required. Still a risky and completely ineffective form of election fraud.

    Plus, we still have the White Walkers problem. Who exactly are these people doing voter impersonation fraud, and why would they possibly bother? Most voter impersonation fraud that actually happens seems to be people pretending to be their family members to vote in their stead because they don’t think their family member is going to vote (often because their family member is recently dead). That requires an excessive commitment to the civic process combined with poor impulse control and a poor sense of proportion, which is a sort of weird combination. It is also mostly absentee ballot voter impersonation fraud, which voter ID does nothing to prevent or detect.

    We’ve seen real election fraud done (sort of) through voter impersonation fraud historically but that was, like most real election fraud, committed with the full complicity of election officials. Once the election officials are in on it, voter ID isn’t the relevant point at which to try to protect the system.

    Wait, one last thing:

    systems which are specifically designed to be opaque. (See for example abuse by prison guards

    Are you really saying that the California election system is specifically designed to be opaque? That it is designed to allow election fraud? That it is comparable to the ways the opacity of the prison system is designed to protest prison employees? really?

    Honestly, that’s kind of wandered into Black Helicopter territory for me. I’d need something a lot more substantial than your unsupported speculation and accusations to make me think that made any kind of sense.

  82. 82
    Sebastian H says:

    Of course it is opaque. That isn’t speculation, that is a description. The whole secret ballot process is intentionally opaque because it makes pressuring voters and bribing them much harder. But there is balance to be had between the intentional opacity to prevent bribery and coercion and the legitimate need to keep non-citizens from voting. A balance which is struck in all sorts of developed countries by having a picture voter ID somewhere in the mix. Government programs don’t get designed in ways that specifically evade oversight unless someone wants to evade oversight. See also corporate oversight rules.

    Considering that my last major example of that was late term abortion rules, I’m even more convinced that is true now than when I used to merely suspect it I was told for decades (including on this very site) that women never have late term abortions for non-medical reasons, and even if they wanted to no doctor would perform them” So when I would complain that California like rules make oversight impossible for the technically illegal act of aborting fully viable fetuses (even to the point of neither requiring that a doctor report a late term abortion AT ALL nor that he even say that it was medically necessary) I was told that it was a completely imaginary problem. And to be honest, I didn’t believe that it was an imaginary problem, but I worried that I might be wrong.

    But it turns out that we discovered Gosnell. When he was discovered as providing dangerous abortions, we also found out that he had provided abortions on more than 100 fully viable fetuses. This showed that in a single clinic, in one state, by one doctor, in only a five year period, at least 100 abortions that allegedly just wouldn’t exist anywhere in the United States, did in fact exist. That is more than 100 women who sought out an abortion for a viable fetus from just a single doctor. And that was in a state that at least makes you check a box saying that the abortion is of a non-viable fetus (though you don’t have to document why you think so). In California, where you don’t even have to report that anything at all occurred, can you still say that zero women seek abortions for fully viable fetuses and zero doctors perform them? Well people do. But it looks much less likely to be true now that we’ve seen specific counter-examples. But people still use the line “women don’t seek abortions for viable fetuses” on every single time I see an abortion debate.

    When you see government design unaccountable systems, I have trouble believing it is an accident.

    (Citation) From page 228 of the grand jury report:

    Gosnell’s students parroted his grisly techniques. Massof himself admitted to us that, of the many spinal cords he cut, there were about 100 instances where he did so after seeing a breath or some sign of life. The shocking regularity of killing babies who were born alive, who moved and breathed, as testified to by Gosnell’s employees, demonstrates that these murders were intentional and collaborative.

    Why only charged with 7 murders? The statute of limitations on infanticide was 2 years and many of the remains could not be definitely proven to be within the 2 year statute of limitations.

  83. 83
    Charles says:

    That’s kind of a bizarre jump in topic.

  84. 84
    Sebastian H says:

    The topic jump was from deliberately opaque-from-oversight rules to even more deliberately opaque-from-oversight rules and blithe “it never happens” claims regarding deliberately opaque-from-oversight rules.

  85. 85
    Charles S says:

    So, Black Helicopters.

    Personally, I prefer the ones with the complex murals depicting birds of prey diving.

  86. 86
    Sebastian H says:

    The helicopters were real in the abortion question, and the incentives there for politicians to play self serving games are much lower than for elections. My personal feeling on elections is that until recently both sides were convinced that they were better at tipping the scales than the other side so neither side had an incentive to push real reforms. That is certainly the case with gerrymandering for example. Democrats were pros at it for decades. No real interest in changing it in a neutral way until very recently–as they lost too much power to using the cheating to their advantage on a large enough scale. You shouldn’t let partisanship blind you to things like that. That was also the case with the big city machines in places like NYC and Chicago. And I use ‘was’ somewhat reservedly.

  87. 87
    Harlequin says:

    Okay. A few points and then I think I’m done with this thread.

    1. “I would be happy with this. I suspect pretty much no one else upthread who doesn’t want picture voter ID would be.”

    My very first post in this thread on ID requirements in general: “But we should weigh the costs and benefits of the ID restriction.” I think our current system of checks is enough to deter fraud at a level where further restrictions are very much weighted towards suppressing votes more than deterring fraud. But that doesn’t mean I think getting rid of all of our current checks would reduce vote suppression more than it would increase fraud.

    My next comment: “There are certainly sensible voter ID laws in some states in the US, but that’s not the kind people are trying to implement now.” And in that comment I mentioned the strict vs non-strict ID laws, which is really what it comes down to. The problem is not requiring photo ID in general. It’s what you do when somebody doesn’t have that ID. Non-strict laws have established procedures for people who are unable to provide ID. The current crop of voter ID laws are “If you don’t have a very specific set of (usually photo) IDs, too fucking bad.” This argument is also applicable to the non-picture IDs, like social security cards, mail with addresses on it, etc. “Strict” is a bigger problem than “picture,” but picture’s easier to talk about, so the strict part gets elided sometimes. Something to work on in my own communication about this issue.

    2.

    If the status quo is a good Picture ID program, that requires Republicans in the position of counting on people to be political junkies, because they have to argue why a good Picture ID program isn’t good enough for Mississippi. It also puts them on the wrong foot in court cases.

    If you go back to this link, you’ll see that many of these stricter laws have been successfully implemented in places that already had existing ID laws. Including existing photo ID laws, cf Tennessee. Some of them were overturned by courts, but not all, and it’s not clear the existence of a non-strict ID law in those states had much to do with the laws being overturned (it might have played a role in some–I don’t have time to research every single one). So, at the very least, getting a rhetorical and/or a legal advantage is a crap shoot, and might be completely useless.

    3.

    Also I’d like to push back on “documented voter fraud by impersonation”. Statistics are notoriously difficult to appropriately get from systems which are specifically designed to be opaque.

    I’ll echo Charles on the “designed to be opaque” thing. But also, you’re conflating two things: knowing that voter impersonation fraud happened, and knowing who did it. If you have somebody who voted twice, your choices are basically “typographical or data entry error”, “double voter”, or “voter impersonation.” Not all voter impersonation will be a double vote, but some will. So you can at least put an upper limit on how much voter impersonation fraud there is, based on reasonable measurements of double voting, data entry and typographical errors, and success rates of fraud; and what you come up with is very, very small. Exactly how small is uncertain, but there’s an upper limit, and it’s very low.

    (As an amusing side note, when I quickly proofread this comment, I somehow had “double voting” in that last list twice! Freudian slip?)

    4. I do remember that ridiculous abortion argument, but I’m not that eager to take it up again. So I’ll just say I noticed a few parallels to this argument before you even brought it up; the big one is that you have a preferred method (picture ID) for detecting and/or deterring an illegal behavior (voter impersonation fraud), and, even though other methods exist and may be more effective or have fewer side effects, and even though such methods have been mentioned by people arguing against you, your arguments here appear to take opposition to your particular method as opposition to detecting and/or deterring the illegal behavior. (I could be misreading that, I don’t know what’s really in your head, but it’s a strong impression that I get from your comments.) In this case, it’s worth noting that people have been caught engaging in voter impersonation fraud both in places that do and don’t have strict photo ID requirements, and the photo ID usually doesn’t have anything to do with them being caught in places that require it. There will be a deterrent effect, sure, but there’s no reason to think it’s a large one, and the rate of voter impersonation fraud is–again–really, really low already.

    Anyway, I’m finding myself getting a little too tense about this debate, so I’ll probably step out at this point. This did help me clarify some of my thinking on this issue, so thanks for arguing against me, even if I wasn’t ultimately convinced.

  88. 88
    Charles S says:

    Sebastian:

    You shouldn’t let partisanship blind you to things like that.

    Harlequin’s summary of the state of the discussion is better and more courteous than I can manage, so I will let her words speak for me as well.

  89. 89
    Sebastian_h says:

    To be clear, I think all sorts of other election fraud are also not only possible, but very probable–including especially fraud through many of the various mail voting systems. I think it is not remotely shocking to note that they also are designed to be very difficult to verify and that politician interest in making them secure appears to be very low. It is difficult for politicians to do the right thing when it in their interests not to. Well that’s true of everyone I suppose.

  90. 90
    Sebastian_h says:

    “So I’ll just say I noticed a few parallels to this argument before you even brought it up; the big one is that you have a preferred method (picture ID) for detecting and/or deterring an illegal behavior (voter impersonation fraud), and, even though other methods exist and may be more effective or have fewer side effects, and even though such methods have been mentioned by people arguing against you, your arguments here appear to take opposition to your particular method as opposition to detecting and/or deterring the illegal behavior. (I could be misreading that, I don’t know what’s really in your head, but it’s a strong impression that I get from your comments.”

    No that isn’t right at all. If I saw any major effort on the Democratic Party side to take steps for securer elections I would feel much better about the whole thing. I thought after the hanging chad debacle in 2000 that Democrats surely would get on board with making the whole election process better, cleaner, and more transparent. There were tiny bits of movement that direction through the Carter Foundation but that was it. Again and again I see both sides preferring to chew their resentments about things over and over rather than just put anything to rest through improvements.

    In any kind of a normal system you would expect the 2000 election debacle to have spurred the losing side to clear reforms. Maybe or maybe not getting them successfully through depending on all sorts of factors, but at the very least a very strong push. That did not happen at all. Systemically is going on around elections that isn’t healthy. On the republican side I am clearer about what it is, but there are lots of troubling signs on the Democratic side which seem to be washed over very easily by tribalism. Again, If there were prominent liberal groups changing that I wouldn’t be as suspicious. Systemically they seem much happier to stick to griping.

  91. 91
    kate says:

    In any kind of a normal system you would expect the 2000 election debacle to have spurred the losing side to clear reforms.

    The U.S. system isn’t “normal”. It has fifty separate voting systems, many of which are controlled by heavily partisan legislatures. The Democrats are currently focused on the most importing voting reform issue, one that ought to be non-partisan – Russian hacking of voter registration systems and voting machines.

  92. 92
    Charles says:

    In any kind of a normal system you would expect the 2000 election debacle to have spurred the losing side to clear reforms. Maybe or maybe not getting them successfully through depending on all sorts of factors, but at the very least a very strong push. That did not happen at all.

    The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002: bipartisan legislation that implemented ID requirements for first time voters, started the phase out of punchcard and lever voting machines, established certification for electronic voting machines, required verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines, established provisional voting for contested voters, required state-level registration databases, created programs for training new poll workers, created the (ineffectual) EAC, required the biennial Election Administration and Voting Survey (2016) and the voluntary voting system guidelines. That didn’t happen at all?

    [edited to add: Also, the creation of the shitty Crosscheck system and the much better ERIC system post-date 2000 substantially, so it isn’t as though attempts to monitor and improve the US voting systems stopped in 2002.]

  93. 93
    Charles says:

    Interesting NYTimes article on state responses to the Russian election interference threat and the dismal state of US election machinery. Colorado (pdf) and Rhode Island are implementing risk-limiting post-election audits. Delaware is finally abandoning its awful no-paper-trail voting machines (although half a dozen other states also still have worthless unverifiable systems).

    Voter ID nonsense doesn’t get a mention.

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