Lately, the airwaves have been filled with accusations of GOP voter suppression. Certain states are pushing laws requiring onerous ID requirements, registration requirements and deadlines that are supposedly aimed at stopping minorities, specifically blacks, from voting. The argument is that blacks are disproportionately poor, so any additional requirements are more difficult for blacks to meet. Such accusations have created a firestorm for the left; they are claiming that such efforts are reminiscent of the poll taxes and Black Codes of the early 19th century.
Obviously any effort to suppress a group’s vote instead of earning it is unacceptable and indefensible; however, TOC would like to offer some counter arguments to the conversation.
First, if it is true to say that onerous registration and ID requirements disenfranchise the poor and are racist because blacks are disproportionately poor, is it not fairer to say that such laws disenfranchise the poor? In other words, who is more disenfranchised, the black middle class man who has a passport or the poor white elderly woman who does not drive anymore? The answer is clear, so is the left saying that no blacks are in the middle class? Why call these policies racist when the term anti-poor would be more fitting? All societies have rich and poor, that has a limited taboo. Saying a policy is racist stirs up the emotional pain and stigma from a dark era in our country. It unearths a deep distrust in the black community, but is it a fair accusation, or is it manipulative in order to gain political power? The charge of racism is a very powerful one. The Fed recently announced it would buy a massive amount of securities and would work to keep interest rates low. Blacks are relatively more dependent on fixed incomes (social security, for example) and are less likely to be in a position to benefit directly from the Fed’s purchasing program (invested in a financial services companies or financial securities, for example). Since blacks could be disproportionately negatively affected from the Fed’s actions, does that make the Fed racist?
Second, what is more damaging, voter apathy or voter suppression? The voter turnout for blacks in the 2008 election was a relatively high 65%, compared to prior years (according to the Pew Research Center). That rate is an improvement against the 60% figure for 2004 and the 54% figure for 2000 (according to the Census Bureau). While this rate has been increasing over the last three elections, it still leaves a lot to be desired. If this data is correct, in an election where the first black president was to be elected, blacks still failed to vote at an equivalent rate as whites (66% according to the Pew Research Center). Of course, there is a large effort every election cycle to mobilize black voters, but as TOC discussed in a previous entry, a voter that is not taking the effort to become aware of the issues and forming an opinion on his own or her own is not actually voting. That person is just ceding his or her vote over to whoever is pushing that person to register in the first place. We do not just need more than 65% of our people voting in every election, including local elections and off-year elections, we need many more people engaged with issues and challenging politicians. Not getting engaged due to lack of resources is one thing, but TOC finds it hard to believe that 35% of all voting-age blacks lack the resources to vote and lack the resources to be informed.
TOC presents the above counterpoints as further consideration to the charges of voter suppression; however, TOC does believe that conservatives must do far more to gain the vote of blacks. The struggle of the black Conservative and black Republican is to do just that. While it remains unclear to me personally whether or not there is a systematic effort to prevent blacks from voting in the next election, TOC remains resilient that conservatism is best for blacks in the long run. The challenge is to communicate this message clearly and effectively. One thing is certainly clear, until the other side is forced to clearly explain how its programs and ideology will close the gaps between blacks and other groups in this country, we will never have the dialogue necessary to close those gaps. The other side does not need to do such if it can wield accusations of racism (merited or unmerited).
Let us all do everything to make sure this conversation takes place.