It seems that “Governor” Rick Scott of Florida is planning to force the Justice Department to sue Florida to stop its illegal voter purges, judging by the defiant, taunting letter he sent to Washington. The move is disturbing on several levels.
First, the shabby pandering to racist teabaggers while pushing forth a naked power grab cooked up by ALEC and the Kochs for their own political gain. Worse, the implication that Obama’s Justice Department is inherently illegitimate and political is pretty gutsy, coming from a guy whose fortune came from systematically defrauding Medicare, who then used his ill-gotten gains to purchase his own office. But as reprehensible as his crummy showmanship appears on the surface, its long-term purpose is all too easy to see, and much scarier.
Beset by alarming demographic changes that threaten their future as a party, Republicans have decided not to change the party, but to change the demographics, one way or another, and this is the clearest indication yet that they plan to get rid of the Voting Rights Act, specifically the part that pertains to counties with a history of minority voter suppression. And every indication is that Chief Justice Roberts is eager to help them do so.
All that cheap melodrama about imaginary “voter fraud” is designed to work on two levels: in the short term, it casts a cloud of illegitimacy on all Democratic victories, no matter how sweeping, denying them a mandate or even a honeymoon. But the long-term damage is more insidious because it’s been so successful; millions of Americans firmly believe the opposite of the truth, that Republicans are the party of clean elections, while Democrats can only win by cheating. Sitting there like a cherry on top of this shit sundae, of course, is the quite explicit message that the poor, the black, and the brown shouldn’t really be voting anyway, (h/t HuffPo):
“The Democrats want illegal aliens to be able to vote because they want the election to be decided in favor of the president,” said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a conservative research and advocacy organization threatening legal action if 12 states, including Florida, fail to clean up voter rolls. “It’s just extraordinary to have the sitting president attacking states trying to further federal law in the interest of ensuring the integrity of the elections.”
Of course, what’s really extraordinary is that such racist hogwash is coming from a wingnut welfare queen in 2012, and not Strom Thurmond in 1948. But then again, the Republican Party of today has become the party of Strom Thurmond, in a cynical attempt to divide and conquer by whatever means present themselves, and stoking racism is just another tool in the kit. When Tom DeLay infamously bemoaned the “problems” that could have been avoided had Thurmond been elected, he wasn’t being racist, necessarily, he was simply acknowledging that minorities running around voting wasn’t great for his party.
Thus, the Southern Strategy comes full circle; the white resentment whipped up by the civil rights victories of the sixties has been lovingly nurtured to the point that they might actually be reversed, forty-odd years later, primarily to achieve what Karl Rove called a Permanent Republican Majority. It’s taken a few stolen elections, some crooked Supreme Court Justices, 25 years of hate radio, and lots and lots of cash, but Jim Crow is poised to make a comeback, and not just in the South, but the Midwest as well. Rick Scott’s little tantrum is just one indication that Republicans are delighted at the prospect.