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Fear of a Fair Election

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As Jamelle Bouie notes, the wave of Republican vote suppression and fanatical opposition to federal voting rights legislation reflects a party that has effectively given up on winning national majorities, despite there being no reason that they can’t be competitive with some changes:

The other side of this effort to restrict the vote is a full-court press against the “For the People Act,” which would pre-empt most Republican voter-suppression bills. “It kind of feels like an all-hands-on-deck moment for the conservative movement, when the movement writ large realizes the sanctity of our elections is paramount and voter distrust is at an all-time high,” Jessica Anderson of Heritage Action for America told The Associated Press.

And in a recording of an address to Republican state legislators obtained by the A.P., Senator Ted Cruz of Texas warned that a voter-protection bill would spell the end of the Republican Party as a viable national party. “H.R. 1’s only objective is to ensure that Democrats can never again lose another election, that they will win and maintain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate and of the state legislatures for the next century,” he said.

Some of this is undoubtedly cynical, a brazen attempt to capitalize on the conspiratorial rhetoric of the former president. But some of it is sincere, a genuine belief that the Republican Party will cease to exist if it cannot secure “election integrity.”

What’s striking about all this is that, far from evidence of Republican decline, the 2020 election is proof of Republican resilience, even strength. Trump won more than 74 million votes last year. He made substantial gains with Hispanic voters — reversing more than a decade of Republican decline — and improved with Black voters too. He lost, yes, but he left his party in better-than-expected shape in both the House and the Senate.

If Republicans could break themselves of Trump and look at last November with clear eyes, they would see that their fears of demographic eclipse are overblown and that they can compete — even thrive — in the kinds of high-turnout elections envisioned by voting rights activists.

Indeed, the great irony of the Republican Party’s drive to restrict the vote in the name of Trump is that it burdens the exact voters he brought to the polls. Under Trump, the Republican Party swapped some of the most likely voters — white college-educated moderates — for some of the least likely — blue-collar men.

Aside from the ban on partisan gerrymanders (the most important part of HR1), it’s not even clear how much the vote suppression tactics help the current Republican coalition — the suburban wine moms are a lot more likely to show up at midterm elections than the first-time voters who went for Trump in the Rio Grande Valley. And it’s not like it would be impossible for Republicans to win actual democratic elections in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, or North Carolina. Republicans fear democracy as a matter of general principle at this point.

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