10/01/2012 04:04 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Voter ID and the Republican Brand

Largely missing from the Voter ID debate is the "what-comes-after" for the victors, that is, the Republican Party. Assuming that nearly all of the multi-state Vote ID amendments will pass, it shouldn't take a fiction writer to imagine a bitter harvest.

The first problem for the Republicans is one of ownership. "Voter ID/Republican Party" are as joined at the hip as "Neil Armstrong/ Moon Landing." The opponents of Voter ID have already laid out the downsides: elections that are confused and without clarity for days or weeks as "provisional" ballots are counted, enormous and unforeseen costs to taxpayers, etc. But the media's true red meat will be those voters turned away--the weepy little old lady who no longer drives, the homeless veteran, the woman in transition to a new name and new life. Their sob stories will be filmed for the nightly news just outside polling places, and the political hay from them will fill a very large barn. "This did not have to happen," the Democrats can rightfully say.

Second, while it's possible that voters turned away from the polls won't know what hit them (it's likely that their lives were already stressed by circumstances), it's more likely that they will blame Republicans sooner if not later. They will be more than a little motivated never to vote Republican the rest of their lives.

In a nutshell, the Republican Party of 2012 is betting short term election gains against its long term reputation. Moderate, thoughtful Republicans (are there any left?) must be greatly dismayed. The Tea Party, by its extremism, will likely hand the presidential election to the Democrats. The Tea Party might well win the Voter ID battle, but it will be to the Republican brand like a mouse in the cereal box, the fingernail in the pickle jar--fatal without a complete overhaul of its image and identity.

Good novels have been written about less.