While racism has of course always been front-and-center in reactionary arguments for restricting the franchise, another intertwined reason is that they think a broad electorate cannot be trusted to support the economic interests of the very wealthy. Stephen Moore’s upper-class tax cut outfit provides an excellent illustration of this:
The Club for Growth bills itself as “the leading free-enterprise advocacy group in the nation,” whose mission is to “exert maximum pressure on lawmakers to vote like free-market, limited government conservatives.” Politico reports that its newest campaign is to support primary challenges against two prominent House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump over his unsuccessful putsch.
Perhaps this sounds confusing. What does “free enterprise” have to do with taking revenge on Republicans who didn’t want Trump to seize an unelected second term? Indeed, the two Republican targets of the campaign, Liz Cheney and Anthony Gonzalez, are fervent advocates of precisely the model of ossified Reaganite anti-government dogma the Club for Growth promotes.
What this intervention illustrates is how deeply intertwined the supply-side movement has become with Donald Trump and his authoritarian style.
The alliance between Trump and the supply-siders has a natural basis. Despite his populist rhetoric, Trump is a well-to-do heir who equates wealth with virtue and has a deep interest in minimizing his tax rates by any means necessary. What’s more, the supply-siders have an ingrained distrust for democracy exceeding that of any other conservative faction. After all, while social conservatives and defense hawks have regularly found ways to make their themes appeal to the public, cutting taxes for the rich has never been popular. From the standpoint of wealthy libertarians, democracy is a fundamental threat to liberty, because it enables the numerical majority to redistribute property from the economic minority.
Even during the immediate aftermath of the Capitol riot, when the entire Republican elite briefly entertained the notion of abandoning Trump wholesale, the supply-siders remained relatively unmoved. “It isn’t going to affect tax rates. How about monetary policy? Allow me to stay pure to my turf,” Laffer told the Washington Post, in a story that ran two days after the insurrection.
As the father of the modern conservative movement, William F. Buckey, said in his passionate defense of Jim Crow:
Millions who have the vote do not care to exercise it; millions who have it do not know how to exercise it and do not care to learn. The great majority of the Negroes of the South who do not vote do not care to vote, and would not know for what to vote if they could. Overwhelming numbers of White people in the South do not vote. Universal suffrage is not the beginning of wisdom or the beginning of freedom. Reasonable limitations upon the vote are not exclusively the recommendations of tyrants or oligarchists (was Jefferson either?). The problem in the South is not how to get the vote for the Negro, but how to equip the Negro–and a great many Whites–to cast an enlightened and responsible vote.
By “enlightened vote,” of course, he means “support for upward wealth distribution.” Racism and supply-side economics have always gone together like gin and tonic, and you can see this in all of the vote suppression efforts Republicans are currently trying to enact.