Key Republican electoral strategy is collapsing

After the 2012 loss in the presidential election that seemed to take by surprise candidate Mitt Romney and the Republican leadership, though the writing on the wall had been visible for weeks before, the party conducted a serious post-mortem that concluded that in the future they had to find ways to reach out to minority groups, since the party’s share of those votes had been steadily declining since George W. Bush ran, while the proportion of minority groups was steadily rising.

The party also felt that the chaotic primary race in 2012, with the large number of candidates that started out, also hurt the party by damaging the establishment candidate Romney. The large number of primary debates was also seen as counter-productive. They vowed to correct all those things this time around but as we have seen, that did not quite work out as planned.

One cannot completely blame the party for this year’s debacle. They could not have anticipated that Donald Trump would enter the race and act like a bull in a china shop, though they can be blamed for planting the seeds of anger and resentment of minorities that enabled him to ride a wave of xenophobia and nativism and bigotry to crush this year’s establishment candidate Jeb Bush and seize the nomination.

Since voting rates in America are quite low, of the order of 60%, there are a large number of non-voters who can be appealed to. Trump clearly seems to think that if he can enrage white voters enough so that traditional non-voters can be persuaded to come out this year and vote on election day in sufficiently large numbers, and if the party can suppress the votes of minority and the poor by imposing barriers to their registration and voting, then they could offset the low support they had from these latter groups.

While the idea of appealing to minorities has gone down the tubes with Trump’s campaign rhetoric, their voter suppression efforts initially received a huge boost with the US Supreme Court’s 2013 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder that struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states that had a history of disenfranchising minority voters to require pre-clearance from the Justice Department before implementing any changes in voting laws.

For Republican-controlled states it was as if Christmas had arrived early. Under the guise of preventing voter fraud, a non-existent problem, they rushed into place all manner of regulations that made it harder to register and vote. North Carolina, Wisconsin, Ohio, Texas, and Kansas were among states enacting such laws.

But what has happened this year is that the courts have been partially or completely striking down the laws in all these states with the most significant rulings coming in the cases of North Carolina and Texas.

In the North Carolina ruling, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously made the point that just because the restrictions were targeted at reducing the voting of groups that normally support the Democratic party, that did not mean that they could be treated as simply part of the normal political process whereby each party tries to maximize its political advantage. They said that the record showed that the law was carefully crafted on the basis of correlations found between racial groups and their voting patterns. The ruling said that the laws targeted minorities with almost “surgical precision”. They found that every one of the new voting requirements were those that minority groups that voted Democratic tended to lack or would find hard to get. So although the Republicans might argue that their intent was to merely suppress Democratic votes, the effect of their laws was to make it harder for minority groups to vote, and thus these laws came under the kind of scrutiny required whenever issues involving racial discrimination is involved.

Voting restrictions were also struck down by a US District Court judge in Wisconsin and a state county judge Kansas, while the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the most conservative of all the Appeals Courts, struck down by a 9-6 majority the Texas law. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on August 4th about laws passed by Ohio in 2014 that make it difficult for particularly African-Americans and low-income voters to vote. Similar fights are taking place in other states.

Back in North Carolina, the governor Pat McCrory says that he will take his appeal to the US Supreme Court even though his own attorney general says that his office will not appeal the ruling. Such an appeal seems pointless given the fact that, even if granted, any ruling will likely be tied 4-4 in the absence of justice Scalia. This means that the Appeals Court verdict will stand.

Back on October 23, 2013, The Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi had a great piece on the North Carolina law suppressing the vote where a Republican official named Don Yelton freely conceded that the purpose of the voting laws was to suppress Democratic votes. In the process he revealed his views on race, which were not pretty. Soon after, he was fired by the GOP for his remarks.

Yelton’s comments on the show that “If [SL 2013-381] hurts the whites so be it. If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it” even made it into a footnote of the Appeals Court opinion. Yelton is furious at the way he is being treated by his own party and has issued a tirade against the GOP leadership.

Now Trump is using these reversals on limiting voting to pre-emptively explain away a possible loss in November and buttress his argument that the election is rigged against him because now people may vote as many as ten times.


  1. johnson catman says

    Well, I live in NC, and I plan to vote as many times as I can. Which is exactly once per election. The claims of “voter fraud” are totally detached from reality. I welcome the rulings that strike down the discriminatory laws. I would like to see the gerrymandered districts eliminated also. There have been partial victories regarding districts, but it still has an unfair republican tilt.

  2. says

    Another reason for left-leaning Clinton-haters to get over themselves. Real change isn’t going to happen if a Trump-stuffed Supreme Court makes elections completely meaningless.

  3. hyphenman says

    @Tabby Lavalamp, No. 2

    You write:

    Real change isn’t going to happen if a Trump-stuffed Supreme Court makes elections completely meaningless.

    Feel free to set me straight, but that, to me, implies that real change will happen if a Clinton-stuffed Supreme Court makes elections completely meaningful.

    As a solid, left-leaning progressive (I don’t hate Clinton, I just have no evidence that she is in any way trustworthy) I reject both statements.

    Do all you can to make today a better day,

    Jeff Hess
    Have Coffee Will Write

  4. Pierce R. Butler says

    If only I were just slightly more unethical, I’d cook up and sell to the Repubs a scheme for identifying and gerrymandering gay neighborhoods…

  5. Matt G says

    Those lucky blacks, they get EVERYTHING! First they get to be slaves, and now they get to vote ten times! Mommy, why can’t I be black?

  6. says

    Feel free to set me straight, but that, to me, implies that real change will happen if a Clinton-stuffed Supreme Court makes elections completely meaningful.

    No, it does not imply that.
    What an odd assumption to make -- he’s saying that voting to keep Trump out will keep Trump from fucking things up worse. Nowhere does he say that Hillary will do better.

    “A sucks” does not mean “… therefore B is good” it just means “A sucks”

  7. KG says

    So although the Republicans might argue that their intent was to merely suppress Democratic votes -- Mano

    It’s truly gobsmacking to a non-American that this could itself be admitted, and considered legitimate. Sure, European political parties push through electoral legislation that has the intended effect of discouraging voters for their opponents (in the UK, the Tories have pushed thorugh a change in electoral registration from household basis to individual basis that has precisely that effect, and was clearly intended to) -- but they certainly don’t admit it!

  8. doublereed says

    Of course Hillary will do better. Honestly, liberal justices would dramatically improve things on the Supreme Court. There is nothing to suggest that Clinton will appoint bad people to the Court.

    Clinton has just called for automatic voter registration which I don’t even think Sanders talked about. There’s plenty of things to criticize Clinton on without resorting to bullshit.

  9. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 6: Nowhere does he say that Hillary will do better.

    Not to start another pronoun war, but if this concerns hyphenman’s response @ # 3 to Tabby Lavalamp’s comment @ # 2, I vaguely recall that TL has previously identified as a female-type sort of “she” person. (Lavalamp -- pls correct if appropriate.)

    And I read Lavalamp’s statement as implying Clinton will indeed “do better” -- than Trump. (Admittedly, a bar set so low that it presents a danger from tripping over the gap trench canyon set into the ground to position it.)

  10. says

    TL has previously identified as a female-type sort of “she” person

    I really screwed that up; if you read how I write I’m usually pretty careful to try to avoid pronouns at all…
    If I got that wrong, Tabby Lavalamp, I am sorry and I’ll avoid that mistake in the future.

    I read Lavalamp’s statement as implying Clinton will indeed “do better” – than Trump

    I read Lavalamp’s statement as that lefties who are talking about sitting it out because they don’t like Clinton should take another think and look at Trump, then not sit it out. That implies that they should vote for Clinton (because: Trump sucks) not that Clinton is good.

  11. moarscienceplz says

    I wonder how Roberts, Kennedy, and Alito are feeling about their Shelby County v. Holder votes now, since their thesis was that race-based voter discrimination is just so last century. We are all color-blind now, donchaknow!

    Thomas, of course, has no doubts about his vote, since his skull is 100% neutronium.

  12. Chiroptera says

    Mano Singham: …the party conducted a serious post-mortem that concluded that in the future they had to find ways to reach out to minority groups….

    And I remember thinking at the time that there was no way the Republican Party was going to make that work. Their election strategy has relied too much and for too long fanning the fires of racial fear. They would have ended up losing too much of their carefully cultivated racist base than they could have gained from a few minority voters switching sides.

    I mean, take out the racism, and what do the Republicans have left? African and Hispanic Americans have even less to gain from their reverse Robin Hood polices than middle class white racists do.

  13. lanir says

    Frankly it’s nice to see them being stupid on their own account after they’ve spent so much time and effort being stupid and trying to drag the rest of us with them. This really looks a lot like the political version of “the solution to too many guns is more guns” or “poor people are not doing well so we need to hand more money to rich people” or any of their other fake solutions that really imply that we need more of the initial problem.

    I fully endorse this application of their usual vapid stupidity and hope it continues for at least the next several election cycles.

  14. hyphenman says

    @ Marcus Ranum, No. 10,

    That’s true, you’re absolutely correct. “A sucks” does not mean that “B does not suck.”

    That is why I was careful to write “Feel free to set me straight, but that, to me, implies that…” because I was seeking clarification from Tabby Lavalamp as to whether or not my inference was correct.

    My understanding arose from the introduction to Tabby’s statement: “Another reason for left-leaning Clinton-haters to get over themselves.” I see “Clinton-haters” as a pejorative hinting with undertones of misogyny suggesting that Clinton would not suck. I may be wrong. Tabby may indeed be making a lesser-of-two-evils evaluation.

    I look forward to Tabby’s return and clarification.


  15. hyphenman says

    @ doublereed, no. 8,

    You wrote: Of course Hillary will do better.

    I’m far less certain for two reasons.

    First, any nominee must get past, at this point, a solidly Republican Senate. Trump may hurt the down-ticket votes sufficiently to return control of the Senate to the Democrats, but that, again at this point, is a big if.

    Second, I agree that Clinton would nominate candidates further to the left than those named by Trump, but given the centrist position of New Democrats in general and Clinton in particular, I think we would be more likely to see judges who were centrist rather than liberal. Remember, Reagan-Bush Neo-Conservatives are coming out in favor of Clinton.

    Perhaps I should concede that yes, Hillary would do better, but suggest that those hypothetical judges would not be “better enough.”


  16. doublereed says

    Judges are usually a bit different politically than the rest of the population. I generally am not sure what a “centrist” judge is. Kennedy and Roberts are conservatives appointed by conservatives and they’re the “swing” justices. Are any of the Obama appointees considered “centrist” judges?

  17. doublereed says

    All I’m saying is that a centrist democrat president would still pick pretty liberal judges just because of the way the courts, politics, and law work. Ginsburg was appointed by Bill Clinton, and she’s certainly no centrist.

  18. Chiroptera says

    doublereed, #17: Ginsburg was appointed by Bill Clinton, and she’s certainly no centrist.

    And to further your point, Sotomayer and Kagan were appointed by Obama.

    Speaking of whom, Obama’s current nominee, Merrick Garland, seems centrist to me. ‘Course in contemporary political discourse, that would make him a liberal. In fact, it appears that liberal includes “conservative but not bat-shit delusional like those other guys.”

  19. doublereed says

    Yea, Garland is definitely conservative, but he hasn’t actually been appointed so I felt it weird to include him. He definitely seems exceptional (in a bad way) and hopefully Clinton will appoint someone better.

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