Voter supression

Really enjoyed this post from Tim Noah complaining about the fact that not even the reality-based conservatives have come out against the voter suppression efforts of the GOP:

But for anyone who’s free to contemplate voter suppression from a more disinterested journalistic perch, the utter phoniness of the GOP’s movement to squelch voter fraud must surely be obvious. It’s not as if conservative commentators are going out of their way to defend these practices, as they might be expected to do if they actually believed all the GOP’s partisan nonsense about large-scale voter fraud, which has been disproven time and again…

In Ohio, Franklin County Republican Chairman Doug Preisse, when asked whether it was fair to end weekend voting, said, “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine.”

These shenanigans have, of course, been going on a long time; William Rehnquist, for instance, was a “ballot security” activist before he went on the Supreme Court, and did his best to keep minorities from voting in Arizona. But now voter suppression has gone respectable, with Voter ID laws in 33 states, and it’s acquired a growing urgency as the country’s white majority slips away. The suppression techniques have become so blatant that judges in Ohio and Pennsylvania recently ruled against them, even though the Supreme Court has extended them some (wrong-headed) protection. Tova Wang points out in The Politics Of Voter Suppression that it has become common for conservative politicians to assert that voting is a privilege, not a right. (“This is a hard-fought privilege,” Florida State Sen. Michael Bennett said in defense of that state’s unusually draconian anti-“fraud” bill. “You want to make it convenient? The guy who died to give you that right, it was not convenient. Why would we make it any easier?”)

That is not an argument, or a set of practices, that any principled conservative should tolerate. I’m surprised and disheartened that so many do.

I’m not surprised.  Or maybe the “principled conservatives really aren’t principled.  I was on an election panel yesterday with an actual principled conservative and it was not hard to come to agreement across the ideological spectrum that if the government was going to provide photo ID to vote that it was incumbent upon the government to ensure that this burden was as low as possible.  Democrats don’t object to photo ID in principle, only in the reality that it is a significant burden for many to obtain a photo ID.  Sadly, it’s that very fact that has instigated so many Republicans to push these laws.

Photo of the day

Oldest known photograph of a human:

The oldest known photograph of a person, 1838 – a Parisian getting his shoes shined. It was taken in the middle of a busy street, but because the exposure time was over 10 minutes, the moving traffic wasn’t captured. Because the man stood still long enough to have his boots polished, he was captured in the daguerreotype. 

The oldest known photograph of a person, 1838 – a Parisian getting his shoes shined. It was taken in the middle of a busy street, but because the exposure time was over 10 minutes, the moving traffic wasn’t captured. Because the man stood still long enough to have his boots polished, he was captured in the daguerreotype. 

Political scientists are trying to ruin journalists’ fun

Great piece in Bloomberg View:

Wright then produces a menu of Romney comeback narratives for reporters to seize upon, mercilessly flog and then abandon in turn for still fresher diversions.

Anyone who has witnessed a presidential campaign or two will find this premise familiar. As long as there are newspapers to sell, web traffic to juice and TV ratings to increase, we’ll have incentives for an “October surprise” or a “game changer” or whatever cliché comes next.

But look around: This sacred tradition is increasingly imperiled. In fact, the media’s capacity for creating self-serving, fanciful political narratives is more constrained today than ever. An army of spoilsports — many with Ph.Ds in political science — has established camp on the banks of the Web, from which it takes aim at whatever diaphanous journalistic concoctions float past.

Take John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington who runs the annoyingly excellentMonkey Cage blog (and who co-authored this for Bloomberg View). The guy is a total downer.

Every time some reporter starts to have a little narrative fun, Sides gets all political science-y on them. Here he is tsk-tsking Politico’s Jonathan Martin for writing that, based on a reading of grim economic data, Barack Obama‘s re-election should be “close to a mathematical impossibility.”

First, I wish Martin had at least quoted some political science or some forecasting model or something. Anything, really. Because otherwise the evidence for this assertion is terribly lacking.

Martin actually hedged his assertion, in part by attributing it to Republicans bewildered by Obama’s campaign strength. But here is Monkey Cage contributor Andrew Gelman of Columbia analyzing an unhedged version of the pitch by Niall Ferguson. (If you don’t want to click through, just trust me: It isn’t pretty.)

To bring this home, here’s Sides again stating that regardless of what you’ve heard or imagined, the economic fundamentals do not spell doom for Obama. If anything, they might give him a slight edge in the campaign.

Look, I’m basically on the side of the “narrative” guys. I enjoy making up half-baked theories and then sending them downstream and seeing what happens. But these Monkey Cage types are draining all the hijinx out of the game. This is war.

The campaign narrative is so much more fun.  It’s hard even for many of us political scientists to resist it.  Sides and others have certainly created a much-needed corrective to the media seeing pretty much everything as about the campaign.  That said, some elements of the campaign are going to matter in a close race.  E.g., I think the 47% matters at the margins and I think the fact that Romney really is rich plutocrat who struggles to connect with ordinary voters matters.  I just think the state of the economy, partisanship, and presidential approval matters a lot more.

Hello Springfield!

Mitt Romney campaigned in my hometown of Springfield, VA yesterday.  Dana Milbank took it on with his characteristic snark:

Meet Willard Mitt Romney, champion of the common man.

“Do you realize over the last four years the median income in America has dropped every single year?” the candidate asked his supporters during a stop in Springfield on Thursday. “At the same time,” he added, “food prices are up; electric prices are up; gasoline prices have doubled. These are tough times for the American people.”

But these are not tough times for a lot of Romney boosters, judging by the look of things.

Romney made this stand for the little guy in the heart of Fairfax County, which has thesecond-highest household income in the nation (neighboring Loudoun County is No. 1). Seemingly everyone in the 200-strong crowd was fingering a smartphone, with the exception of the guy in the polo shirt in the second row reading the Wall Street Journal, and the linen-blazer-clad guy in the eighth row checking the Drudge Report on his iPad.

To get a better sense of the economic status of the invitation-only crowd, I strolled the parking lot — and found a fleet of BMW, Mercedes, Volvo and Cadillac SUVs, as well as Jaguar, Audi, Lexus and BMW sports cars. Parked near the entrance: a black Rolls-Royce Silver Spur III with vanity plates saying “MY ROLLS” — and a Romney bumper sticker.

When it comes to speaking up for the downtrodden, Romney isn’t just another man of the people. He is the Rolls-Royce of populists.

Obviously, I was from the wrong side of the tracks in Springfield.  Most of my friends and neighbors were far more likely to have a Camry or Accord (including the Greene household) than a BMW or Mercedes.  My dad finally bought a Jaguar a few years back after he had actually shifted away from the Republican party.

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