Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere.~ STEPHEN COLBERTHaving stolen the 2000 presidential election courtesy of the Supreme Court, the Republican Party is gearing up to try to steal the 2012 election by suppressing the voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2008. They are, not coincidentally, the traditional enemies of the party and include minorities, the elderly, immigrants, college students and ex-convicts who represented an historic number of first-time voters in that watershed election.
Unlike past voter suppression efforts that were on a haphazard state-by-state basis, Rolling Stone and other media outlets are reporting that this campaign is being centrally coordinated.
Retaking the White House will be a long shot even with resorting to thuggery, although the GOP has shown in the new millennium that there is nothing it won't do to further cheapen the brand of a once-proud party, most recently trying to hold hostage the victims of Hurricane Irene and other natural disasters. Tactics, you see, have trumped principles.
The big gun behind the campaign is the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who have bankrolled the Tea Party.
With ALEC and party operatives pulling the strings, some 12 states have approved new obstacles to voting that are reminiscent of Jim Crow laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes that were used to keep black Southerners from voting. The efforts vary with the states. Texas, for example, has made it harder for the League of Women Voters to register new voters, while Maine has repealed Election Day voter registration and other states have cut short early voting periods that make it easier for the elderly and students to vote.
The typical Republican Party reply to criticism of its voter suppression efforts is that they are attempts to crack down on rampant voter fraud. The problem is that there is extremely little voter fraud, and from 2002 to 2007 the Bush Justice Department was unable to prosecute a single case. This has not stopped the GOP, and in 2006 the Justice Department fired two U.S. attorneys for refusing to pursue trumped-up voter fraud cases.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a former high-ranking Bush Justice Department adviser, is typical of the anti-voter zealots.
Kobach has adroitly played to anti-immigrant fears in successfully fighting for a new law requiring proof of citizenship in order to vote even though Kansas has prosecuted only a single voter fraud case in the last five years. He also has railed against dead people voting and cited a Kansan named Alfred K. Brewer as a typical culprit. There was only one problem: Brewer was alive and well, and the Wichita Eagle found him working in his front yard.
"I don't think this is heaven," Brewer told the paper. "Not when I'm raking leaves."