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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Chait: Voter Suppression Driven By GOP Fear of Demographic Change

Jonathan Chait’s “Suppression vs. Turnout, the 2012 War” at New York magazine makes a persuasive case that the GOP is riddled with anxiety about demographic change and driven to panic and voter suppression because of it.

When Pennsylvania Republican and State House Majority Leader Mike Turzai boasted that the state’s restrictive new voter ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania,” he committed a classic Kinsley Gaffe, in which a politician inadvertently blurts out what he really believes instead of what he is supposed to say. Turzai’s gaffe was actually a Bond Villain Gaffe, which is a subset of the Kinsley Gaffe, in which rampant egomania drives you to unadvisedly confess your evil scheme.
The Pennsylvania law, which would knock some three quarters of a million disproportionately Democratic voters off the rolls, is best understood in the context of an electorate that is rapidly growing more Democratic. Ruy Teixeira and John Judis argued a decade ago that the electorate was transforming, so that the groups most loyal to the GOP were shrinking while those most loyal to the Democrats were increasing. I argued in a print story this year that panic over this demographic change was underlying much of the GOP’s behavior in recent years. Conservatives like Sean Trende insisted that the demographic trends that have occurred in recent elections, during which the minority share of the electorate has steadily grown, may not continue.

Chait references Teixeira’s and William Frey’s “new and fascinating column showing for the first time that the trends underlying the Emerging Democratic Majority have indeed continued.” Chait is not exaggerating. The Teixeira/Frey TNR column is shaking up the common wisdom among pundits across the political spectrum. Chait’s point is that GOP fear of demographic transformation is what is driving their all-out war on voting.
You don’t have to be a social psychologist to see that the modern GOP is energized more by fear of political destruction than anything else. Their predictable response is often to suppress others, in this case non-white voters. As Chait puts it, “…The overwhelming thrust of the myriad changes to voting introduced by Republicans since 2010 is to make voting a bigger hassle and discourage marginal, transient, and first-time voters — that is, the component parts of the emerging Democratic coalition.”

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