'Too Incompetent or Lazy to Get ID? You Don't Deserve to Vote'

07/16/2012 12:50 pm ET | Updated Sep 15, 2012
  • Ian Reifowitz Author of 'Obama’s America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity'

I hope most Republican officials don't believe that statement. Even for those who do, I can't imagine any high-ranking politician publicly declaring that those folks who can't obtain the specific form of ID being demanded in certain states don't deserve to vote. But if you dig a bit deeper, and go into the Republican base, that's exactly what they believe, and some of them will even say it out loud.

Here's a post on a small right-wing website that serves as an example. Yes, it's one example from a small site, not a scientific survey. I'm arguing that this is, deep down, what many on the right believe, no matter how many people say it publicly. Take a look:

"Too Incompetent or Lazy to Get ID? You Don't Deserve to Vote."

(snip) Voting isn't a right specifically guaranteed by the constitution... It's a privilege. Felons have it taken from them. People who are too lazy to get an ID shouldn't have the privilege, either.

Felons? Yep. He went there. I'm just going to let that analogy speak for itself.

Liberals have dug up some 93-year-old codger [the reference is to Viviette Applewhite] in Pennsylvania who's too lazy or incompetent to get ID so she can vote and they're demanding we leave the election in that state wide open to fraud in order to cater to her.

(snip) Applewhite no longer has a copy of her birth certificate, and she does not have a drivers' license. Without either of these things, the new Pennsylvania restrictions say that she is ineligible to vote.

If you don't have a birth certificate, guess what? You can order another one. If you don't have a driver's license, that's fine. You can also use, "non-license photo IDs, a U.S. passport, a U.S. military ID (or) a photo ID from an accredited Pennsylvania public or private college." If Viviette Applewhite or anyone else says it's impossible for her to get the identification she needs to vote, they're simply not telling the truth. Moreover, if you're not willing to go through the trouble it takes to get ID, then voting apparently isn't very important to you in the first place.

Now, take a deep breath. Put aside for a second the ignorance of this comment in terms of the process of obtaining a photo ID in difficult cases. The person who wrote this post really believes that an American who can't overcome the obstacles the Republican governor and Republican-dominated legislature of Pennsylvania have placed in her way doesn't deserve to vote. The same would go for the obstacles put in the way of voters in Texas, Florida, et. al.

Never mind that these obstacles were justified, by those who voted for them, as remedies for an essentially non-existent problem of voter fraud. At least that's according to the Bush administration's multiyear investigation. That's irrelevant. The obstacles are like a test. You gotta really want it baaaaad in order to vote in our country. It's a privilege, not a right. This is what the Republican base really believes.

This belief is related to the Tea Party concept that divides Americans into the deserving and the undeserving. On that more broadly, please see the groundbreaking book The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism by Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson.

But we know that there have long been brave Americans who wanted the right to vote baaaaad enough that they were willing to fight for it, and some have even died fighting for it.

They fought and died so that the right to vote would be guaranteed. So that it wouldn't be a privilege, something easily taken away. Any system, scheme, or law that prevents a rightful voter from exercising that right is a crime against morality and against democracy, and is a slap in the face to those, and this should be every American, who believe in justice and equality.

That's what Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are fighting for.

That's what Joe Biden was talking about Thursday when he spoke at the NAACP convention:

And by the way, I want to remind everybody of one thing -- remember what this at its core was all about -- why this organization at its core was all about. It was the franchise. It was about the right to vote.

Because when you have the right to vote, you have the right to change things.

And we -- the president and I and Eric [Holder] and all of us -- we see a future where those rights are expanded not diminished.