COUNTING THE VOTES….Commenting on the Count Every Vote Act, a piece of good government earnestness currently supported solely by Democrats, Julie Saltman wonders how Republicans will justify opposing it ? and then answers her own question:
So here’s the interesting question. Republicans can’t oppose this on the merits: in a just society this bill would be passed. One can debate the minor points, but decent people will be fundamentally in favor of it. But the Republicans will want to oppose it out of self-interest, which means they’ll have to invent some spurious arguments to support their position. I have no doubt that they’ll use the “Democrats want criminals to decide who gets to be president” approach.
I think that’s part of it ? although the primary line of defense will probably be to just bottle it up in committee and ignore it. Unless Dems figure out a way to take this cause big time and make it an election issue next year ? and there are a very limited number of topics you can do that with ? that’s all it will take.
But suppopse it takes off. Then what? Based on past precedent, I’d guess at two possible strategies:
Give it the Willie Horton treatment. Don’t just claim that Democrats want criminals to pick your next president, find the meanest, scariest, most sociopathic ex-con in the contiguous 48 and make his name a household word. “Do you want him in the voting booth next to you? Democrats do.” But best to find a white guy this time! No need to open yourself up to charges of race baiting.
(Prior precedent for this strategy: Willie Horton himself, of course, but also the debate over the repeal of the estate tax, where Republicans were able to justify it by pointing to one trivial segment of the population that evoked public sympathy ? small family farms ? and claiming they’d be driven out of business. Remember: you don’t have to fight an entire bill, just demonize one part sufficiently to bring the entire thing down in flames. See also Basketball, Midnight.)
Pretend it was your idea. If public sentiment shifts even slightly on this, my guess is that President Bush will quickly endorse CEVA or else introduce a similar bill of his own (sans voting rights for felons, of course). By the time it’s passed, everyone will forget it was a Democratic idea in the first place. In fact, by that time Dems will be thought of as the obstructionists and the Rose Garden signing ceremony won’t have a Democrat in sight.
(Prior precedents for this strategy: Sarbanes-Oxley and the Homeland Security Department.)
So how do Dems fight back? I hate to say it, but ditching felon voting rights is probably part of it, which is too bad since felons who have served their time should no more have their voting rights taken away than their right to free speech. Second, it has to gain national attention as an initiative associated solely with Democrats. Given everything else going on ? Social Security, tort reform, Iraq, etc. ? it’s hard to see how that will happen. Hopefully Sens. Kerry and Clinton will surprise me.