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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Freaking Out About Voter Registration in Ferguson

It appears that our Republican brethren are getting a little twitchy about the political fallout emerging from the tragic slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. As Simon Maloy writes in his Salon post, “GOP’s insane Ferguson crusade: Now they’re denouncing voter registration drives“:

…With the situation spiraling out of control in the streets, activists and community leaders have set up voter registration drives in Ferguson. This act of civic engagement is drawing howls of outrage from conservatives and Republicans.
Before we get into the complaints from the right, let’s just take a moment to appreciate what is actually happening. Every night, the streets of Ferguson are filled with tear gas and less-than-lethal ordinance as cops decked out in military gear respond to protests over the killing of an unarmed black teenager. The situation is extremely tense and the threat of violence hangs over everything. In response to that, activists are saying to the community: “Yes, the system has failed you, so sign these forms and work within that same system to peacefully and proactively ameliorate the situation.”
And as ThinkProgress points out, low black voter turnout (combined with an unusual election calendar) has resulted in a local government that looks nothing like the population of Ferguson. The community is majority black, but the mayor is white, and five of the six City Council members are white. For members of the community who feel their interests aren’t being represented, the first step toward changing that is registering to vote.

Maloy relates that Missouri Republican Party executive director Matt Wills got all bent out of shape about the voter registration drive and responded “I think it’s not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.” Maloy reminds his readers, “Again, this is in response to a voter registration drive in a majority black community.”
The GOP response to the voter registration effort continues on in like fashion, including some disparaging jabber about “politicizing” the death of Michael Brown. Sadly, it appears that the Republican Party is finally reduced to openly saying more voting by African Americans is a bad thing. As Maloy concludes, “They’re evangelizing faith in the political system and encouraging people to act within established political norms. I’m not sure how one can view that as “disgusting” and “completely inappropriate.”
In his Plum Line post, “By all means, we should ‘politicize’ Ferguson,” Paul Waldman writes, referring to the Republican expressions of disgust:

This argument isn’t just wrong, it’s precisely backward. “Politicizing” this crisis is exactly what we should be doing….”Let’s not politicize this” is something we hear whenever a dramatic (and especially tragic) event occurs, and talk inevitably turns to the larger issues and policy implications raised by the event in question. The guardians of the status quo always say that this isn’t the time to talk about those implications (this is particularly true of gun advocates, who inevitably argue that the latest mass shooting isn’t the time to talk about the fact that our nation is drowning in firearms).
But what’s a better time to talk about those larger issues than when the nation’s attention is focused on a particular crisis or tragedy? The events in Ferguson have highlighted a number of critical issues — the treatment of black people by police, the unequal distribution of power in so many communities, the militarization of law enforcement, and many others. Does anyone think that if we all agreed not to propose any steps to address any of those problems for a few months, that we’d actually restart the debate over these issues unless there was another tragedy that forced it into the news?
…Meanwhile, people in that community may be thinking more about their lack of political power, which might lead them to do things like register voters. I’m sure that all over the country, local activists are starting to ask questions about their own police departments and whether they suffer from some of the pathologies we’ve seen in Ferguson. That’s not exploitation, it’s the political process in action.

Or, if you prefer, Democracy.

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