You’d think Republicans would be satisfied to stand on their merits in the Senate race in TN, where Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker is running even or ahead of Rep. Harold Ford in most polls.Instead, the Republican National Committee is running ads against Ford that range from despicable and quasi-racist smears to basic lies about his voting record.If you read a lot of blogs, you probably know about the so-called “bimbo” ad that the RNC ran and then was forced to take down. If you haven’t seen it, follow the link; it’s truly breathtaking. Nestled amidst several mischaracterizations of Harold Ford’s voting record, you see a trashy-flashy white woman who leeringly says she met Harold at “the Playboy Party,” presumably a heavy-handed allusion to Ford’s meaningless drive-by appearance at a 2000 Democratic Convention event sponsored by the Bunny Empire. And at the very end of the ad, the self-same trashy-flashy woman re-appears to wink and say: “Call me, Harold.”In case you didn’t know this, Harold Ford is a good-looking young African-American man. Thus, this ad was about as subtle as a Klan cross-burning. As a southerner, I really hate this kind of crap, and thought it had been buried decades ago. Apparently not.After pulling down the “bimbo ad,” the RNC immediately put up a new ad that avoids the overt racism, but that’s full of lies and distortions about Ford’s record, suggesting he is the champion of rampant pornography, state-sponsored teen abortions, and gay marriage.Anyone who has followed Ford’s career or his campaign understands that his voting record and his campaign message diverge from the RNC smears by about 180 degrees. Hell, my colleague The Moose, the very scourge of Democratic cultural liberalism, has suggested Harold Ford could and perhaps should become the first African-American president.I hope and pray that these attacks on Harold Ford will backfire, not just because Ford is a bright young rising star in the national Democratic constellation, but because his national and Tennessee GOP opponents have gone so far over the line to try to defeat him. Tennessee voters have an unparalleled opportunity to let the whole world know that the worst political wedge tactics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries won’t work, even in a culturally conservative red state. Personally, I’ll renounce my own Georgia-based prejudices and sing a couple of choruses of Rocky Top on Election Night if the Volunteer State sends Harold Ford to the Senate.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
As someone who closely monitored Donald Trump’s campaign against voting by mail in 2020, I am discouraged but not surprised to report that Republican state legislators are now reversing the kinds of access to mail ballots they use to support, as I explained at New York:
Donald Trump’s relentless attacks on voting by mail throughout the 2020 presidential-election cycle were clearly designed to set up a bogus election contest by creating a partisan gap in voting methods, an early Republican lead on Election Night, and a host of empty but redundant claims of voter fraud. But while his effort to reverse the election results failed, his determination to restrict the franchise live on wherever Republicans control the state legislature. According to the Brennan Center for Justice,
“Thirty-three states have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access. These proposals primarily seek to: (1) limit mail voting access; (2) impose stricter voter ID requirements; (3) slash voter registration opportunities; and (4) enable more aggressive voter roll purges. These bills are an unmistakable response to the unfounded and dangerous lies about fraud that followed the 2020 election.”
While voter-ID requirements, tougher voter-registration procedures, and aggressive voter-roll purges are perennial Republican “ideas” in this era of adverse demographic trends for the GOP, the attack on voting by mail is actually rather new. The big bipartisan trend prior to 2020 was toward liberalized voting by mail, a convenience measure favored in some states by Republicans in particular (most notably in the all-mail-voting jurisdiction of Utah but also in states, such as Florida, with histories of heavy no-excuse absentee voting). All in all, 34 states entered 2020 allowing any registered voter to cast a mail ballot without an excuse, including the battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Notably, Republicans controlled the legislatures in all of these states other than Maine.
While Pennsylvania’s Republican legislature approved no-excuse voting by mail in 2019, as Michigan voters had before them in a 2018 ballot initiative, some of the states now looking at mail-ballot restrictions haven’t had them in a long time. Florida’s GOP governor and legislature introduced no-excuse absentee ballots in 2002, as did Georgia’s in 2005. In Arizona, such ballots were first permitted in 1991. Thanks to Trump, there are now strong Republican efforts under way to restrict eligibility in all these states.
The most blatant of them may be in Georgia, where Trump-generated hostility toward voting by mail has been augmented by a flank-covering maneuver from Trump nemesis Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state, who refused to “find” the 45th president enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s Georgia victory. Raffensperger, who had already annoyed the White House by proactively sending mail ballots to voters qualified for the 2020 primaries, now backs new excuse requirements and redundant voter-ID rules. Legislation is currently moving in both chambers of the Georgia legislature to accomplish these and other “reforms.” The chief state-senate bill would restrict voting by mail to people who (a) are over 75, (b) have a disability, or (c) are physically absent from the voting jurisdiction on Election Day.
Republicans are promoting a subtler effort to undermine access to mail ballots in Florida. Until now, Florida, like a number of other states, allowed people to register in advance to vote by mail for multiple elections (under current law, someone registering to vote by mail in 202a could continue to do so through 2024). Republican-sponsored legislation would require reregistration for every election cycle.
Particulars aside, these developments show a depressing retreat by Republicans from “convenience voting” measures that, before Trump started attacking them, were considered at least as friendly to Republican voters as to Democrats. The countertrend parallels and reinforces the more general GOP retreat from the very concept of voting as a right rather than a privilege, with the privileged having a thumb on the scales. And it underlines the urgency of federal voting-rights legislation to create a level playing field.