Holder Throws Down

Attorney General Eric Holder, who was recently held in contempt by the U.S. House of Representatives for not giving Darrell Issa everything he wanted in an investigation of a gun-walking operation gone wrong, is clearly not trying to make nice with his tormenters, per this report from Think Progress’ Scott Keyes:

As conservatives threaten the voting rights of millions of Americans with new voter ID laws, Attorney General Eric Holder shot back on Tuesday, calling the laws an unconstitutional “poll tax.”

During a speech to the national NAACP Convention, Holder denounced the fact that a number of states are beginning to require voters to present particular forms of photo identification or be turned away from the polls. “Under proposed voter ID laws, many would struggle to pay for IDs needed to vote. We call this a poll tax,” Holder declared to loud applause.

He’s right, of course. But I personally wish Holder would conduct a high-profile–made higher by the notoriety House Republicans have granted him–refutation of the idea that there is any evidence for the voter fraud that voter ID laws claim to address. Maybe he did some of that in his NAACP address (I haven’t found the full text yet), but he really does need to do it fully, particularly now that he’s been anathematized by Republicans and has no particular need to project any sort of insincere bipartisanship beyond the requirements of his job.

What makes the poll tax analogy powerful is the suggestion that today’s conservatives, like yesterday’s, are determined to use every avenue possible to build what William F. Buckley used to favorably describe as “potholes” on the path to the ballot box. That’s bad enough, but what makes it worse is the realization that the rationale for these “potholes” is as imaginary and as morally invidious as the belief that anyone who couldn’t pay a poll tax had no business participating in the central ritual of democracy.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.