Democrats need clean hands on voting rights

I’ve already railed once against the Clinton campaign’s vote suppression lawsuit in Nevada.  In yesterday’s post, I argued that winning Nevada in this way might actually damage Clinton’s campaign more than it would help, at least over the long haul.  John Kerry, in a post at TPM Cafe today, makes the same point, noting:

Here’s the bottom line. I understand people gut it out to win on Election Day. But certain tactics make victory pyrrhic – empty – hollow – and it’s not worth winning if you lose what really counts in the process. And you know what, if the Culinary Workers had backed someone besides my choice in this race - Barack Obama - I’d still say it’s right for every candidate to make sure these workers get to vote.

Kerry’s right on the money here, of course.  But in addition to his principle based arguments today (and my more practical “watch out you may turn a lot of Democrats against you” argument in yesterday’s post), there’s another overriding reason why this lawsuit stinks: It creates a precedent for GOP vote suppression during the general election.

Can anyone doubt for a nanosecond that the Republicans, now finding their political backs up against the wall, will hesitate for even a micro-nanosecond before pulling every dirty trick in the book to disenfranchise minorities and other potential Democratic voters?  Of course, they’ll do it.  They’ve demonstrated their willingness — eagerness even — to do so time after time.

So let’s assume Hillary Clinton ends up being the Democratic nominee.  Can you guess what’s going to happen when she tries going to the mat to fight such Republican vote suppression, accusing the GOP of unconscionable conduct?  You’ve got it.  All they’ll have to do in response is to say: “Yeah, right, if it’s so awful why’d you pull the same crap in Nevada?”

Point, set, match. 

No, as Josh Marshall says today, “This is a critically important issue that is about no less than keeping Democrats on the right side of the right to vote.”

This anti-democratic (and anti-Democratic) gambit by Clinton’s forces must fail, or if it succeeds it must be punished at the polls by other Democratic voters.  Otherwise, it’s the GOP and its vote suppressers who will win in the end.

Update: A little bird just whispered into my ear the suggestion that I may be guilty of a false equivalency here.  Can it honestly be said that the lawsuit by Clinton’s supporters is the moral equivalent of GOP efforts to “cleanse” voter rolls of “undesirables,” intimidate minority voters and the like?

To which I would answer: Probably not, but it doesn’t matter.  The bottom line here is that the Clinton campaign is using legal technicalities to try to suppress votes, and that’s not a Democratic Party value.  It might be a more arguable point if the plaintiffs in the lawsuit had complained about the “super caucuses” from the start: but they didn’t.  Four of the plaintiffs were present when the rule was unanimously adopted.  To wait until a labor union endorsement goes against your candidate before suddenly discovering “one man one vote” concerns is disingenuous.

Besides, while there probably is not moral equivalency here in fact, in appearance there is.  And that’s all the GOP will need to use this as a precedent.

No, this is one point on which the Democrats need to be squeaky-clean.

3 Responses to “Democrats need clean hands on voting rights”

  1. richl Says:

    Steve, every once in a while one of your statements, such as “…and that’s not a Democratic Party value.” surprises me.

    The moral and ethical position of both Democrats and Republicans is ‘Whatever it takes to get elected.’ The position is based on the individual and collective desire to control as large a portion of the population as possible by way of snake oil salesmanship, bribery or intimidation.

    That may sound pessimistic but as far as I can tell there is no difference between pessimism and reality when it comes to viewing American politics today.

    Rich L

  2. trvljac Says:

    Talk about disenfranchising… what about a whole state being disenfranchised? Vegas is only one city….

    Florida Dems are being robbed of their votes in the primary… by the DNC!! How’s THAT for fairness?? The Jan. 29 date was set by a GOP governor and legislature, but the stupid DNC decides to throw out the baby with the bath water! FLA. is a vital swing state, but the DNC sees fit to shoot itself in the foot!!

    I’m voting, but it will be with an empty heart.

  3. Larkrise Says:

    The Clintons are shooting the Democratic Party in the foot. As you say, Steve, it will end up hobbling the candidate in the end. STOOOOOOOPID!

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