It became increasingly clear during the last election that the Republican party strategy in several states was to try and suppress the minority vote by adopting various local rules that made it harder to register and vote and also removing minority voters from the rolls on dubious grounds, fearing that that vote would go overwhelmingly for the Democratic party. That strategy failed to sway the eventual outcome (at least at the presidential level) but now with the US Supreme Court striking down the provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required certain parts of the country to get pre-clearance from the US Justice Department before changing voting rules, some elements of the party seem to think that this gives them much greater freedom to adopt measures that can suppress the minority vote more effectively.
I think that trying to do so is a bad tactical move on their part. While the way the political system is set up in the US is such that the two major parties are both controlled by the oligarchy and have little to offer other people, including minorities, the symbolic act of voting still carries with it great emotional weight. People are willing to fight and die for that right. Attempts to suppress it, rather than discouraging voters, are likely to make them even more determined to get people registered to vote, to make sure all eligible voters are on the rolls, and to have them actually vote on election day.
At the last election, we saw long lines of voters in minority-dominated areas braving bad weather to vote. I expect that phenomenon to be even more pronounced the next time around. It is true that in the last election minority voters had a candidate that they could more closely identify with in Barack Obama. But in the next election establishing the right to vote could also be a powerful motivating factor.
The GOP would have been better off trusting to apathy to lower the voting rate. Now, even if the minority communities feel that neither party really offers them much hope, they may be galvanized to vote against the GOP in order to punish them for trying to deprive them of their right.
Another bad misstep was the fact that not a single Republican leader, though invited, accepted the invitation to speak at the event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the famous march on Washington for jobs and justice. This was idiotic beyond belief. Did they not realize the great symbolism of the event and how their absence would be viewed? The reasons given for their absence only seemed to make things worse.
While it is true that there is a powerful and vocal segment of the party and its supporting media that views any overtures to minority voters as some sort of betrayal of white people, participating in this particular celebration would not have been a problem, I think, because Martin Luther King has become a kind of national icon to be genuflected towards even if one disagrees with what he stood for. So I don’t think that any GOP member would have paid a price for being at the event and speaking. This is what makes the total absence of any well-known Republican leader so telling. It will simply harden even more the perception in the minority community that the Republican party is deliberately slighting them.
The Republican leadership seems particularly obtuse when it comes to understanding minority perceptions, especially surprising given the increasing importance of that vote.