If you’ve read a magazine at any point in the last decade, then you’ve probably heard of the Stanford marshmallow test. A young child is placed at a table with a marshmallow and told that she can eat it now or wait a while and get an even better treat. The experiment is supposed to measure a child’s capacity for delayed gratification. The longer she can wait, the more likely it is she has good impulse control, and that is associated with better life outcomes, as measured by health and educational attainment.
In overturning Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act—which sets down a formula for identifying which state and local governments have to preclear changes to voting law with the federal government—the Supreme Court has all but placed a huge marshmallow in front of the Republican Party. But instead of a sugary treat, it’s an opportunity to pursue harsh new restrictions on voting—the kinds of policies that would have been blocked under the Voting Rights Act before the court’s ruling.
But the Republican Party doesn’t have to reach for that marshmallow. It has another choice: It can wait. Indeed, it can work to patch the new hole in the Voting Rights Act and restore it to its former glory. No, this doesn’t offer an immediate electorate advantage. What it does do, however, is show minority voters that Republicans care about both their interests and their fundamental rights. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this message.
Wow! Where to begin?
For starters, let’s dispense with the ridiculous notion that the GOP cares about the interests and fundamental rights of minorities. Since the decision came down, no less than four states announced they would be instituting harsh voter ID laws with the express purpose of disenfranchising minority voters. Expect that number to balloon over the next few months. Without section 4 of the VRA, there is nothing to stop them. Parties that care about attracting voters do not behave in such a shameful manner.
But the real mistake that Bouie makes, and the one that all good-meaning, well-intentioned souls make, is ignoring the simple fact that the GOP has known for quite some time that its message isn’t getting through to minority voters. They have hired pollsters, held their own retreat at, of all places, a converted plantation, and they are acutely aware that on virtually every major issue there is from equal rights to the environment to even the economy, they are misfiring. And not just with minority voters. Across the board, they are out of step with main-stream America.
They also can read maps and, despite their love affair with supply-side economics, can add. They know the country’s demographics are changing and not for their betterment. Within the next four decades, whites will be a minority in the United States. It is inevitable. There is nothing they can do to stop that.
So they have opted, instead, for Plan B. If they can’t woo minorities, they will do whatever it takes to prevent as many of them as possible from voting. Disenfranchisement is now the stated goal of the national Republican Party. They have trumped up this voter fraud canard to try and convince as many gullible people as they can that their actions are justified; that their only interest is voter integrity. But it isn’t working. People aren’t buying it. Anyone even remotely familiar with the facts knows that voter fraud hardly ever occurs in this country. It’s a non-issue. Period.
But that hasn’t stopped the Republican Party from making it harder and harder for minorities, the poor and the elderly to vote. Their motives are as transparent as glass. They aren’t even shy about their diabolical intentions. Just last year, Pennsylvania’s Republican House Majority Leader unabashedly predicted that his state’s voter ID law would allow Mitt Romney to win it. The only thing that stopped that from happening was a court order which prevented the law from being implemented.
And now that John Roberts and four other blind mice have removed the last line of defense to the GOP playbook, I am deeply concerned for the future of minority voting in this nation. States such as North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan – all crucial in presidential election years – have flirted with or instituted voter ID laws. Virtually all of them have been tossed or, as in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, curtailed. I fully expect each of them, now that there is nothing standing in their way, to move ahead with their draconian measures.
Yes, I am aware that, with the exception of North Carolina and Virginia, the rest of the aforementioned states would not have been covered under section 4 to begin with. So what? The point is if you are black, Latino, poor or elderly, you are about to discover just how determined the Republican Party is to render you politically irrelevant.
This has nothing to do with delaying instant gratification for a better, more optimistic future. There isn’t any and the Republicans know it full well. All they have left in their playbook is the here and now. Even the immigration bill, which a few of the less insane among them hope will save the day, is nothing more than a rouse. They’re not doing it because they want to; they’re doing it because they’re desperate. Whether it passes or not – and my money’s on not – it will only delay the inevitable. The sad truth is the only people Republicans are fooling these days are the very same people who are dwindling in numbers.
So, in an attempt to hold onto what little power they have left and perhaps steal what little else they can get their hands on, they will stop at nothing to suppress any threat to it. That’s the trouble with relying on old, white men as your primary voter base. They have a nasty habit of dying off way too soon.