Political Animal


June 06, 2011 3:50 PM The specter of Jim Crow laws

By Steve Benen

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the newly-elected chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee used some provocative language over the weekend while pointing to an important problem

[Wasserman Schultz] accused Republicans of trying to resurrect Jim Crow laws in the form of stricter laws at the state level that could limit access to ballots by some voters.

“Now you have the Republicans, who want to literally drag us all the way back to Jim Crow laws and literally — and very transparently — block access to the polls to voters who are more likely to vote for Democratic candidates than Republican candidates,” she told host Roland Martin on “Washington Watch” this weekend. “And it’s nothing short of that blatant.”

This, apparently, caused a bit of a stir, and this afternoon, the DNC chair walked the comments back. “Jim Crow was the wrong analogy to use,” Wasserman Schultz said. “But I don’t regret calling attention to the efforts in a number of states with Republican dominated legislatures, including Florida, to restrict access to the ballot box for all kinds of voters, but particularly young voters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans.”

I can understand why DWS backed off, but I’m not sure she was entirely wrong in the first place.

There is a concerted national effort on the part of many Republican state policymakers to make it harder for traditional Democratic voters to participate in the 2012 elections. Under the auspices of rooting out “voter fraud” — a problem that appears to exist largely in the over-active imaginations of GOP activists — Republicans are passing voter-ID measures and approving new laws restricting voter-registration drives. It’s not subtle, but it is disgraceful. The GOP fears losing in a fair fight, so the party is trying to rig the game.

Is this “literally dragging us all the way back to Jim Crow laws”? No, not really. But it’s not unreasonable to consider these efforts Jim Crow-style tactics for the 21st century. The point of both is identical — identifying those the right doesn’t want to vote and passing laws that put barriers between them and the ballot box.

More to the point, though, we’ve seen one Republican presidential candidate recently raise the specter of poll tests, and another Republican presidential candidate explain his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In other words, we do have prominent GOP voices who are talking about literally going back to Jim Crow-era laws.

Were Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s comments provocative? Sure. Were they wildly off-base? I really don’t think so.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • max on June 06, 2011 4:02 PM:

    "Were Debbie Wasserman Schultzís comments provocative? Sure. Were they wildly off-base? I really donít think so."

    They weren't provocative at all, they were accurate. Rednecks just hate to be called out. Crank up the fake outrage/crybaby machine.

  • bignose on June 06, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Do. Not. Apologize.

    Doing so only makes the story about how wrong you were, not how right.

  • c u n d gulag on June 06, 2011 4:08 PM:

    Yup, she was right.

    The ideal voter - according to Repbulicans:
    And over 41.

    Also, too - owns a home, a gun, and a pick-up.

    And it's ok if that voter is a female - as long as she's a born-again Christian Mom, who's never even thought about an abortion, but grimly took whatever God and her husband demanded of her.

    All others need NOT apply!

  • Mr. Serf Man on June 06, 2011 4:10 PM:

    Ditto : Do. Not. Apologize.
    How about asking for proof of the alleged voter fraud driving this .
    Give me the proof then I'll apologize you lying sacks of shit.

  • Ron Byers on June 06, 2011 4:13 PM:

    I love Debbie's walk back, it was as pointed as the original comment. It had the benefit of being totally true.

    DWS--You go girl.

  • Another Steve on June 06, 2011 4:17 PM:

    Great. So, they're actually only dragging us half the way back to Jim Crow laws. That's much better.

  • Realist on June 06, 2011 4:18 PM:

    Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ. Republicans lie with impunity and no one raises an eyebrow. A Democrat tells the *TRUTH* and gets pilloried.

    Don't apologize and don't back down. Fuck the chickenshits and crybabies.

    (Question for captcha: Was onstrave man one of those debunked fossils like Piltdown Man?)

  • DAY on June 06, 2011 4:18 PM:

    What's the big problem? Go ahead, let the Dummycraps vote however they please, since the Republicans OWN THE VOTING MACHINES!

    (Have we forgotten 2000?)

    father hedidn: but mother did!

  • exlibra on June 06, 2011 4:29 PM:

    ďBut I donít regret calling attention to the efforts in a number of states with Republican dominated legislatures, including Florida, to restrict access to the ballot box for all kinds of voters, but particularly young voters, African Americans and Hispanic Americans.Ē -- Debbie Wasserman Schultz

    Or, in other words: "I'll give you the Jim Crow rhetoric and take this opportunity to reinforce the substance of my statement." As Ron Byers says above: you go, girl! Just watch out for that drunk Breitbart loading a barely-bra photo to your Twitter account and claiming it's yours.

    "ilingus Cimatti,". Now, now, Debbie; no need to be *that* outspoken of your criticism of the SOBs and their tactics.

  • Mr. Serf Man on June 06, 2011 4:31 PM:

    Rot Row
    Weiner Confesses

    Weiner: I have made terrible mistakes.

    Confesses to sending original Twitter pic.

    Tearful apology to family and friends. "I came here to accept the full responsibility for what i have done."

    "I am not resigning."

  • ManOutOfTime on June 06, 2011 4:40 PM:

    i understand DWS's walk-back and I am proud that Progressives at least try to be reasonable and reality-based. But I do wish she had doubled-down on the charge instead. The disenfranchisement of the working poor, immigrants, people of color, is worse than Jim Crow in the sense that it's the 21st Century and people know better. 19th Century ignorance and spite were ugly but Jim Crow happened out in the open and over time the Supreme Court stood up for human rights. The current movement is happening out of sight and under cover of flimflammery that it is the solution to the injustice it actually creates, and it is an attempt to roll back rights that people died to establish. Where is the outrage? Where is the conscience of this nation? It is heartbreaking.

  • JS on June 06, 2011 4:49 PM:

    I thought it was a constitutional right, even a responsibility of citizenship to vote, when did this change?

  • square1 on June 06, 2011 4:51 PM:

    Democrats = weakness. It is in their DNA.

    Don't apologize. Except for Weiner. He can apologize.

    If I was DWS, here would be my response: "It is a fact that Republicans are promoting electoral policies that have the effect of blocking access to the polls by young voters and minorities. Maybe that isn't their intent. Maybe -- unlike during Jim Crow -- Republicans aren't intentionally trying to disenfranchise minorities. Maybe that isn't their intent. Well, if that is the case, I invite them to prove me wrong.

    Now that Republicans know what effect their policies have, I invite them to show that they care. And if the Republican party proves me wrong and immediately stops erecting barriers to the voting box, then--and only then--I will be the first to apologize."

  • FRP on June 06, 2011 5:07 PM:

    Women received the vote in New Zealand in 1893 . The change can be understood that they were contributing on a balanced scale with men , by paying taxes . By being able to reach the ancient requirement of defending the city state with satisfying the vital requirement of blood in coin they could take their place amongst the glorious men .
    It is very entertaining to reminisce over the passages from one age to the next , but the requirements , like breathing , have had very little alteration because no vital case is made for it .
    Our devoted right wing friends , in my opinion , wish to change the game on the basis of privilege . Privilege has little of the glory or vitality of protecting something of real value , from a city state to a majority rule democratic republic . It does seem to be "athwart" the persistent dynamic from our past to embrace the jim crow bait offered by the tee pee legislatures signed by the tee pee governors . If , after all , women had to prove themselves by contributing treasure what can be seen as equal from the loudmouth know nothings Ayn Rand acolytes and night is day doctrinaire savvy of the keep your government hands off my Medicare geniuses ?

  • rrk1 on June 06, 2011 5:09 PM:

    A smaller electorate is easier to predict and control. Besides the Rethugs believe that the only legitimate vote is one for them. All others are, by their definition, fraudulent. They don't care who votes for them, although the characteristics of those voters are hardly a secret (see C u n d Gulog above). They have identified those who likely will not vote Republican, and obviously will try every shady, sleazy, underhanded tactic they can to prevent those people from voting at all.

    There has been a deafening silence about rigged electronic voting machines of late, and that's more than a little worrisome. Have we really solved the problem of rigged machines, and compiler tampering? If so, how? We know that in 2004 Bush stole the election in Ohio and Florida with the help of secret hackers changing votes and vote totals. Every close election in recent years that went to the Rethugs is suspect, yet we hear no more about REAL voter fraud being perpetrated by the those shouting the loudest about the nonexistent voter fraud these new Jim Crow laws are allegedly meant to stop..

  • AJB on June 06, 2011 5:56 PM:

    You act like this a problem. No real American would mind having to show their country club membership card before they can vote.

  • dj spellchecka on June 06, 2011 6:02 PM:

    ny times editorial notes that southern states are reducing the length of early voting periods because early voters were solidly black and they voted overwhelmingly for obama.

    black politicians from north carolina called it "a modern whiff of jim crow."


  • Stephen Stralka on June 06, 2011 6:11 PM:

    Yes, the Dems need to get on top of all the efforts to rig the election right now, without apologies. Say it clearly, say it over and over and over: They can't win a fair election, so they're trying to rig the game.

    I think that must be part of the reason for the release of Obama's birth certificate. All those bills in the Republican-controlled state houses were basically about keeping him off the ballot.

  • John Puma on June 07, 2011 2:43 AM:

    The GOP's hysteria over "voter fraud" is simply a distraction from its own ripe tradition of election fraud.