As voter ID falls again, Republicans are still confusing predator with prey

As voter ID falls again, Republicans are still confusing predator with prey

Image: Adobe Stock

Say one thing for Congressman Dan Bishop and his nihilistic pals in the Republican Party: They see the farce in New Year’s resolutions. 

Resolutions come in shiny and new, be-tuxed and coiffed, and scuttle out the club’s emergency exit in the mid-morning light, face a mess. So why bother? 

Perhaps Bishop thought to himself, ‘Why bother?’ before issuing his Dec. 27 Tweet. Why bother with the truth now? Why bother with a genuine position now? Why bother? 

“Obama judge suppresses 2,049,121 NC voters,” Bishop charged. “Nov 2018: Voters enact voter ID into state constitution by 10-point margin. Day before yesterday: Judge nullifies it by simple docket notation, no explanation.”

Bishop is part of a ruling conservative majority in North Carolina that has governed with extreme belligerence for most of a decade, so it is natural that we should expect belligerence when it is challenged, as District Court Judge Loretta Biggs did when she blocked a voter ID law — at least until a 2020 trial — she deemed, most appropriately, to have “racially discriminatory intent.” 

Biggs signaled her intent a week ago to head off a voter ID mailer from state election officials, but the 60-page explanation arrived Tuesday.     

That it takes hurricane-force gall or extraordinary cognitive dissonance to suggest Biggs’ concern with an aggressive voter suppression law is, in itself, an act of voter suppression is hardly the point.

Bishop is the rhetorically hallucinatory politician who spearheaded HB2, a Frankenstein’s monster of anti-LGBTQ policy, to protect apparently cringing women and children from cross-dressing perverts in the ladies’ room in March 2016. Bishop’s bill managed to toss in a few anti-union dispensations for good measure, because, well, why the hell not? 

And it cost the state about $3.7 billion in lost business as the rest of the country looked askance at the confused big-business, small-government bigots from North Carolina yet again. 

Bishop, and the Republican Party, know just as well their dogged intent in crafting voter ID laws, which disproportionately impact poor, Black and elderly voters, groups with the unmitigated temerity to prefer Democrats more than they prefer Republicans. Such a crime has made them semi-permanent target practice for conservatives, who insist upon the existence of widespread voter fraud that is simply not there.

Biggs was right.  

The Republican National Committee had discriminatory intent when it paid out millions to the late Republican web-spinner Thomas Hofeller from 2009 to 2018 to draw gerrymandered maps diminishing the power of progressive voters, particularly Black ones, in voting districts across the country. 

And North Carolina Republicans had discriminatory intent when they scrutinized Black voting trends prior to their first voter ID bill in 2013, one later overturned by the courts for its “surgical precision.”

Presumably, Bishop couldn’t fit this sordid history within Twitter’s 240-character limit. A toddler would have the shame to skulk away from this issue. Indeed, the most notorious example of voter fraud perpetrated by anyone in North Carolina will be remembered as the work of GOP political operatives in Congressional District 9, the district now served by Bishop in D.C.   

I have no desire to meet Bishop — who surely must see a victim every time he peers into a mirror — or to feign respect for his beliefs, whatever they may be. But if we did cross paths, I would humbly beseech the lawmaker from Charlotte and his party to, once and for all, stop confusing predator with prey.  

North Carolina Republicans were catastrophically overeager when the U.S. Supreme Court revoked portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 (which had required federal approval of voting reforms in the old Jim Crow states), approving an omnibus voting bill one month to the day later.

It was as if North Carolina spent five decades in detention for pulling the fire alarm and its first act upon release was to pull the fire alarm. 

Even modest progressives who wondered, in a post-amniotic fit of naivete, whether federal oversight was still required in a state that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 might have been stunned with the speed at which North Carolina Republicans answered that question. 

“In what comes as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times, the State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race — specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise,” Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in 2016 when the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the law.

Republicans, after being advised that their laws violated constitutional rights, predictably acted to rewrite the state constitution, asking voters in 2018 to pass a constitutional amendment — the same one referred to in Bishop’s tweet — that paved the way for a voter ID law that the legislature hadn’t even authored yet. 

That ‘majority rules’ and authoritarianism have been conflated and compounded before is hardly surprising. Such an ethos is fatally flawed when it concerns a majority voting on the rights of a minority. Only an insouciant privileged majority could believe in the inherent “wisdom of the people” in such a matter. Those who’ve spent a lifetime on the other side of privilege knew as much about the “wisdom of the people” long ago. 

North Carolina Republicans indicated last week they will appeal Biggs’ ruling with all haste, but they should give up on this ill-conceived voting scheme as they did last year when North Carolina courts bounced the state’s gerrymandered legislative districts. 

Then, Republicans most likely saw their case in the hands of a state Supreme Court with little sympathy for such political machinations. Now, they likely know their case might have better fortunes in the federal courts. 

But if Republicans are to make a resolution, make it this one: Govern as if someday you will be in the minority. Govern as if the courts see, as they do, through this plastic wrap excuse for voter ID.

And govern with the knowledge that what is good for the Republican Party, or any party for that matter, will not always be good for North Carolina.