Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Demographics of Voter Suppression

I posted this challenge to my Facebook feed along with data visualizations from 538:

If you vote republican, ask yourselves why if only non-white people voted in this country only 10% of congress would be Republican? Then ask yourself why republican lawmakers and governors across the country are making it harder for minorities to vote.

In the comments, a challenging question was asked from a non-Republican friend. What if the question were reversed, and Democrats had to answer why the result would be flipped if only white people got to vote, given that many white people in America consider themselves oppressed.

It was a fair question I believe to be in good faith, so it was worth an in-depth response.

So how would I respond?

First, I'd start with the context that white men for the first 100 years of the country were the sole voters and ever since then have been actively suppressing minority votes. So, it's not a symmetric comparison and any discussion we have can't be divorced from that crucial context.

Second, I'd acknowledge that it's understandable to be cynical and say Democrats are only making it easier to vote because it helps them in elections. I don't think that's true, but it definitely makes it a lot easier to see (especially as a white person) the voter suppression and racist history that leads to this, without having to confront as much cognitive dissonance or facts contrary to self-interest. I'd like to think that even if colors on those maps were reversed, I would still be pushing for higher voter turnout and against disenfranchisement.

Third, I don't know how to respond without directly contesting the claim that white people are oppressed (part of the reason I started with the context). It would be challenging to unpack white privilege and structural racism over the course of a single conversation, but that's the root of the issue so there's no way around addressing it. Most likely I'd start with the classic article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh.

Fourth, I'd highlight that it's less about the parties than it is about who makes up the parties. The Republicans used to be the progressive party of Lincoln, and the Democrats the party of the clan that was responsible for putting most of those early voter suppression laws in place. When the parties flipped socially in the 60s-70s, it was explicitly over the Civil Rights Act, and the Republicans took up all of the racist vote that abandoned the Democrats under Johnson. It wasn't a sudden change, but that was more-or-less the capstone of the shift. Now when you look at groups like the KKK, neo-nazis, proud boys, etc they're almost exclusively Trump supporters (except for the ones that believe Jared Kushner is Trump's Zionist puppetmaster).

Finally, isn't the point of democracy to have everyone have a say? This isn't a both-sides issue. One party is trying to make it easier for everyone to vote, and the other is trying to make it harder to vote in demographically targeted ways. Ideally we would all agree that's a bad thing right? Voting rights shouldn't be a partisan issue. The fact that we don't have national automatic registration is shameful.

There's no equivalency between the parties on this issue, but both parties should at least agree that more people voting is good right?

Friday, October 26, 2018

Starting again

This blog has fallen idle for quite a while, primarily because I got a job that took so much of my time and energy I had to cut back somewhere.

I find myself having a lot to say over the last two years though, and my mini-blogs on Facebook and Twitter just aren't sufficient anymore. I need this outlet again.

So I'm going to try to write something as often as I can. With one of the most important elections of my lifetime (to date) coming up in only a week, I suspect I'll be writing about politics a lot.