From The Archives -- The Cowardice Of Their Convictions

[ Posted Thursday, April 8th, 2021 – 17:05 UTC ]

Program Note: I was unable to write today due to external commitments, sorry. Instead, I am running a column from almost exactly a year ago, just because not much has changed. This should help to remind everyone that this is not some brand-new problem that was a result of Donald Trump trying to overturn a fair and free election. That all just fed into something that had been going on for quite some time, that's all. The column below is just as pertinent now as it was a year ago, because things have only intensified over time. Republicans still don't have much of an agenda, so they have moved all their voter-suppression ideas into overdrive. But, like I said, this is not exactly a new phenomenon. So again, apologies for the lack of new column today, new columns will return tomorrow for our regular Friday rundown, so I will see you back here for that then.


Originally published April 9, 2020

The Republican Party has now been reduced to being so deathly afraid of the unpopularity of their political agenda among the electorate at large that they are now openly admitting that the only way for them to win elections is to suppress as many votes as possible. This is the exact opposite of "having the courage of your convictions," folks. Republicans are quaking in fear of the efforts to expand voting to make it easier and (much more important) safer for everyone, because they think they'll lose if that happens.

This used to be the sort of thing that was left unsaid. It used to be just the murmuring from the smoke-filled rooms in the back, where Republicans felt free to talk among themselves. This is no longer true, since Donald Trump is now openly admitting what they've been fearing all along -- that mail-in voting would mean (as Trump put it): "you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again." And now that he's just coming right out and admitting it, this has freed up other Republicans to 'fess up to the real truth of their multi-decade attack on easy voting: it was never about "fraud," it has always been about suppressing Democratic votes, period.

Of course, the Republican Party didn't used to be so scared of the voters. They used to actually have the courage of their convictions, a few decades ago. They used to stand for things and have an actual political agenda. They were so convinced of the superiority of that agenda that they would actively try to poach segments of the population that usually voted for Democrats. Conservatives actually used to sincerely court African-American and Latino voters. They'd argue to African-Americans that they wanted to see black businesses start up everywhere and that this was the best way to raise up the community, as opposed to the Democrats who just wanted to prolong the welfare state. "A hand up, not a handout" was their motto. They actively courted Latinos by leaning heavily on "family values," which mostly meant being anti-abortion. This, it was seen, would be a good fit for the overwhelmingly-Catholic Latino population. Republicans used to make these arguments and more to prove that their ideology was a much better fit for America than what the Democrats were peddling.

That was then, this is now. Most of those GOP minority-outreach efforts have now withered on the vine. This is in large part due to the fact that the party itself simply doesn't stand for much of anything anymore, other than tax cuts for the wealthy. That seems to be the only guiding principle they have left. Think about it: when Democrats held the White House and both houses of Congress (at the start of Obama's term), they passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. When the Republicans held all three for the first two years of Donald Trump, the only thing they could manage to agree upon was (you guessed it) yet another tax giveaway to the wealthy and Wall Street. What else did they manage to pass from their agenda? Nothing. Not a thing. Nothing proves that the Republican ideas cupboard is bare more than their absolute failure to do anything for two solid years, even though they controlled the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office.

With so little to brag about, it is no wonder they got slammed in the 2018 midterms. And now they're reduced to openly fighting against making the voting process safe in the age of coronavirus. That's downright pathetic, because it means they have all but given up trying to convince anyone that they even have an ideology left, at this point, other than: "Let's give your boss another big raise and maybe one day it'll finally trickle down to you!" This has utterly failed to materialize each and every time Republicans promise it, and by now people are tired of even hearing it. The one big thing Trump and the Republican Congress passed was a gigantic tax cut, and for the first time it was actually unpopular. This too is a measure of how the Republican arguments have utterly failed to grow their party in any way. So now they're reduced to fighting mail-in voting. They're not even trying to convince anyone that theirs is the better way any more.

There are two rather ironic aspects to this, both involving Florida. The first is that Trump himself just voted absentee (by mail) in their primary. When he was asked about this discrepancy -- why it was fine for him to use mail-in voting but it wasn't fine for Democrats to do so -- he had no answer at all. He needs to get this question repeatedly, just to see him squirm. The second is that in Florida, Republicans have actually very successfully utilized the expansion of mail-in voting in recent years. The state got rid of most of the hurdles for doing so a while back, so now anyone can get an absentee ballot for any reason (or no reason). The Florida GOP was proactive and started signing up hundreds of thousands of its voters to do so, and they've been winning statewide elections partly as a result of dominating the absentee voting. If Trump is going to push the "mail-in voting is bad" line, then that could actually depress GOP turnout in a very key state -- which would indeed be ironic in the extreme.

Mail-in voting is no different, really, than in-person voting. If parties exert themselves, then they can convince lots of their voters that it is the way to go -- as Florida should prove. The parties actually love mail-in voting because most people mail their ballots in early, which means any last-minute "October surprise" news cannot affect these votes. So there really should be no partisan reason why Republicans cannot effectively compete for mail-in votes. But they're obviously terrified to even make the attempt.

Which, again, proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Republican vote-suppression efforts are only about making it as hard as possible for Democratic voters to cast their ballots. There is no reason for them to believe that expanded (or even universal) mail-in voting would give the Democrats an advantage unless it would allow people who have been effectively disenfranchised a much easier path to casting their ballot.

I actually miss the Republican Party of old, when they would engage in a debate over the superiority of their ideology versus the Democratic agenda. The partisan divide used to be a battle in the marketplace of ideas over who had the best plan to move the country forward. Back then, the GOP wasn't totally bereft of ideas other than "another giant tax cut for the wealthy will certainly solve everything." Back then, they actually did have the courage of their convictions, even though (in my opinion) most of those convictions were pretty wrong-headed. But they'd never admit as much, they'd engage in an intellectual argument on the subject. Nowadays, they can't even bestir themselves to do that. Instead they fight as hard as they can to keep as many citizens from voting as possible, because they think that is the only remaining way they can win elections. Nowadays, they have nothing to rely on than the cowardice of their own convictions, it seems.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “From The Archives -- The Cowardice Of Their Convictions”

  1. [1] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: I was unable to write today due to external commitments.

    I feel ya. ;)

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    that really is a great video.

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well, there's a win for bezos

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