Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on Wednesday continued his critical talk of his successor, wondering how current RNC chair Reince Priebus can mesh the organization’s much-ballyhooed minority outreach with the GOP’s push for tougher voter registration laws widely viewed as discriminatory.
“How does Reince Priebus reconcile his approach and his agreement with voter registration policies that many in the black community view as anti-black, racist, whatever the term happens to be,” Steele said. “You’ve got to reconcile how people feel about your policies, not just the fact that you’re going to show up. You can show up any time. It’s what you say and what you do when you get there that matters most to people.”
I’m always gratified when a short-term conservative political and procedural tactic to win elections comes back and bites them in the ass, longer term, and threatens their ability to win elections. As I’ve said here before, I agree with Michael Steele. They have a problem with their position on voting.
I don’t think Republicans are actually reaching out to minority voters, so I disagree with Steele there. I think Republicans want to appear less bigoted and backward so they appeal to a larger, younger group of more tolerant white voters. But there is a real, practical and political problem with that. They’ve sold these voter ID laws so successfully the last 10 years that now the GOP base completely buy that voter fraud is a huge problem. They have an additional political problem along with their voting laws at the state level, and that’s the court cases brought by libertarians joining with conservatives. The Voting Rights Act is the most high profile case but there’s another case on the voting laws that target Latino voters.
Decisions in the Supreme Court won’t immediately become part of the discussion at the ground level, but these are important cases for voting rights advocates as a practical matter and those advocates will bring those decisions down to ground level. They’ll be doing that in the midst of the GOP minority outreach campaign.
The political and media side of the conservative movement set this voter fraud lie in motion, then they wrote it into law. I’m pleased it’s now headed back to the political side, no longer an effective rhetorical and political and procedural tactic, but a potential liability. Full circle.