It’s difficult to believe that those who are in favor of strict voter ID laws do not know that illegal voter impersonation is very rare. It makes zero sense to falsely impersonate another voter, breaking federal election laws in the process, and illegally cast a single vote that has virtually no chance of changing the outcome of the election. Not to mention that where fraud is more likely to be committed, through mail-in ballots, no voter ID is required. A simple signature is all that is needed.
This Palinesque logic, however, misses the point. We know that the lower-income demographic and minorities are less likely to have a valid form of voter identification, and upwards of twenty-one million eligible citizens may be affected by voter ID laws. We also know that in the last five years, of the millions of votes cast there were only several dozen cases filed with the Justice Department related to voter fraud.
But the point of voter ID laws is not only to erect barriers to participation for those most likely to vote against the GOP, but mostly the point is: What else are Republicans to do?
They could do the sensible thing one might expect out of a political party and try to convince Latinos that the GOP understands their problems, admires their entrepreneurial spirit, and has a vision that can help them achieve the American Dream. Or they can do what they are currently doing, catering to white anxiety over the changing demographic landscape. One is noble, democratic, and unifying. The other, not so much.
The GOP will need to transition into some kind of expansion mode sooner or later, but unlike Romney’s impressive stock portfolio, his party is over leveraged and lacks any diversity. This may have been fine in the good ol’ Southern Strategy days, where the black population had largely plateaued, but the game is different with Latinos. Ironically, Reagan knew this. George H.W. Bush knew this. Decades ago.
But here we are. Over 90 percent of the voters in the GOP primary were white. One might think that Romney would move to the center for the general election, but his advisers think his best shot is to go long, to double down on the tactic of offending minorities. This is what the voter ID debate is about. Sure, it will more than likely disenfranchise large swaths of Americans, but this is the 47 percent. The moochers.
It is like cat nip for Romney voters, to bathe in ones heightened self-image of oneself while righteously casting moral contempt on “those people.”
It was thought that the state of the economy would give Mitt Romney an advantage against President Obama, with unemployment levels at 8.1 percent. But while that may be the unemployment rate for all Americans, Mitt Romney’s Americans have a much lower unemployment rate. The latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor statistics shows that unemployment among whites is at 7.2 percent and among white men over twenty years old its even lower, at 6.8 percent.
That’s not bad when compared to black folks, who are facing 14.1 percent unemployment and Hispanics who are facing 10.2 percent unemployment. With numbers like those, the GOP might have a decent shot at the presidency by convincing minorities to vote for new leadership, if there was an inkling of trust among minorities of the GOP. But there’s not, so the GOP is stuck with a homogenous demographic that is doing relatively well on the economic front.
So how does one excite such a group into action? Well, 6.8 percent unemployment may not be bad, but it’s not great. Perhaps these folks didn’t get that raise this year. Maybe they had to stay with their current job because nobody else is hiring. They’re not quite falling down, yet. In other words, these people are not quite there and the only thing holding them back is, you guessed it, all those moocher 47 percenters who by the way want to steal the next election with all their illegal voter reconquista cousins. Better get out and vote.
This is where the GOP lies today. This is their best shot. They built this.
Stephen A. Nuño, Ph.D., NBC Latino contributor and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University. He is currently writing a book on Republican outreach into the Latino Community.