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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kilgore: GOP Voter Suppression Has No Equivalent in Dem Strategy

In his “False Equivalency Watch” Washington Monthly post, Ed Kilgore takes New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall to task for a sloppy comparison Edsall makes in today’s New York Times:

[Obama] is running a two-track campaign. One track of his re-election drive seeks to boost turnout among core liberal groups; the other aims to suppress turnout and minimize his margin of defeat in the most hostile segment of the electorate, whites without college degrees….Over the past two years, Republican-controlled state legislatures have been conducting an aggressive vote-suppression strategy of their own through the passage of voter identification laws and laws imposing harsh restrictions on voter registration drives.

Kilgore, a self-described “fan” of the usually lucid and insightful Edsall, corrects the Times columnist’s mess:

Even if you buy Edsall’s assumption that the Obama campaign’s anti-Romney ads are designed to convince non-college educated white voters who won’t support the incumbent to give Romney a pass as well, it is fundamentally wrong to treat such efforts as equivalent to utilizing the power of government to bar voters from the polls altogether. Voters hypothetically convinced by the Obama ads to “stay home” in the presidential contest are perfectly free to skip that ballot line and vote their preferences for other offices, just as they are perfectly free to ignore both presidential campaigns’ attack ads and make a “hard choice” between two candidates they aren’t crazy about. Lumping negative ads together with voter disenfrancisement under the rubric of “vote suppression” legitimizes the latter as a campaign tactic rather than what it actually is: an assault on the exercise of fundamental democratic rights.

Put another way, ‘suppression’ is about unjust laws and practices designed to prevent specific groups from voting at all, which is very different from any strategy to persuade a group from voluntarily voting for a candidate.

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