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May 12, 2014 11:54 AM The Backlash to Rand Paul’s Disavowal of Voter ID Laws

By Ed Kilgore

Like (I hope) a lot of progressive writers, I applauded Sen. Rand Paul’s statement on Friday that having discussed the issue with a group of African-American ministers, he though the Republican Party should declare a cease-fire in the War on Voting, and stop promoting voter ID laws and other efforts to restrict the franchise. But I also figured he’d get some blowback from other Republicans. And boy, is that happening.

Check out this rant from the featured post today at RedState, from Leon Wolf, under the calm headline: “Rand Paul and his Lickspittles Strike Again:”

Last Friday, Rand Paul made waves with all the wrong people when he announced after meeting with some black pastors that the GOP needs to “lay off” Voter ID laws because “it’s offending people.” According to the story, Paul does not dispute that Voter ID laws are meritorious or that voter fraud is real; in fact, he is quoted as acknowledging that dead people vote, voter fraud is real, and that Voter ID laws are an effective deterrent to this fraud. Paul’s basis for opposition has solely to do with the optics of pushing for this admittedly meritorious legislation among the minority community. Predictably, Rand Paul’s many online lickspittles rushed to pen defenses of this asinine position, proving that there is nothing so politically stupid that some people will not defend it if a Paul says it.
It is really difficult to know where to begin with this tin-eared garbage. A good place might be to note that an astounding 74% of Americans favor Voter ID laws. Another place would be to note that the 23% who oppose them are likely to be the least persuadable voters in all of America to be persuadable to vote Republican under any circumstances even if the GOP were to drop support for voter ID. Another would be to note that successfully passing Voter ID laws would eliminate votes that tend to overwhelmingly lean Democrat in actual elections - to wit, fake/dead voters in Democrat machine precincts.

In other words, Paul is crazy to oppose Voter ID laws that are popular among white folks; unpopular only among black folks who aren’t voting Republican anyway; and thus help Republicans win elections.

Interestingly enough, the post goes on to ask that if Paul is so solicitous of the views of African-Americans, why did he keep a neo-Confederate on his payroll for so long, and why did he struggle to reconcile himself with the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 until quite recently? Good questions.

Now from what I know about the kind of people who write for and read RedState, Rand Paul is never going to be a popular figure there unless he somehow wins the Republican presidential nomination. But this reaction suggests that his flip-flop on voting restrictions is going to be criticized publicly and especially privately by all sorts of Republicans. For one thing, he’s embarrassing an extraordinary number of GOP pols at both the federal and state levels who have defended Voter ID laws in the past. And for another, support for these kind of measures transcends ideology: many Republicans promote them for the hammerheaded reason that they help their party win, and they can be expected to resent Rand Paul of all people getting pious about the appearance of racial discrimination associated with them.

So while most Republicans probably won’t use the kind of language deployed by Wolf in public comments, the private fury towards him could be pretty damaging to his presidential prospects.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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