-By Sergio Munoz
July 23, 2012- Last week, two new reports — released by the Brennan Center of Justice at the NYU School of Law and the University of Delaware's Center for Political Communication, respectively — further undermined the conservative media's discredited claims that voter ID laws do not have a discriminatory impact on persons of color and are not intended to be discriminatory on the basis of race. These reports are timely because as restrictive voting rules in conservative-leaning states increasingly materialize, civil rights advocates are noting that these state laws look very much like poll taxes– voter suppression tactics long prohibited. In response, the right-wing media has recycled multiple messages to disavow the impermissible racial discrimination of these laws.
Right-wing media try many different smokescreens in addition to just denying the racial effect of voter ID laws and redistricting altogether. For example, they have disputed the veracity of data to the contrary, argued that these tactics are not in fact barriers, and raised the specter of voter fraud, which experts have demonstrated is practically non-existent. However, it is still the first defense — that these efforts have no racial effect — which feeds most effectively into the right wing's preferred "colorblind" narrative.
This right-wing media denial of the racial effect usually has two components in an attempt to whitewash voter suppression, claiming that whatever effect these laws have on communities of color is wholly incidental. That is, there may be a discriminatory impact, but there is no discriminatory intent. Although the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal may have been the most recent mainstream purveyor of this message — condemning any criticism of the recent wave of conservative-backed voter ID laws as "racial politics" — they are far from alone in the right-wing media.
Brennan Center Report Undermines Denials of Discriminatory Impact
Fox News' The Five has taken the lead in dismissing the claim that voter suppression in the form of voter ID and redistricting will have an impermissible racial impact, going so far as to call Attorney General Holder's recent comments to the contrary "racist" and "race-baiting" before denying the effect through mockery, as co-hosts Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld did on July 11:
BOLLING: Let's talk about Eric Holder yesterday calling voter ID laws poll taxes. It's a lot like the dog whistle is out.
GUTFELD: Yes. I have a joke. How many Eric Holders does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. Basic light bulb maintenance is designed to keep minorities down.
This is the fact, the message is minorities can't make their way to the DMV. This is the soft racism of lowered expectations. He really doesn't think minorities can get ID. That's sad. [Fox News, The Five, 7/11/12, via Nexis]
Fox Business' Lou Dobbs has also assisted in this messaging. On his July 10 show, he hosted serial states rights' litigant Texas Attorney General Abbott, responding to his guest's comments by "context[ualizing]" the right-wing suggestion that the problem isn't the racial effect but the unsubstantiated national problem of voter fraud:
ABBOTT: [I]f you look at the claims made by Eric Holder's lawyers themselves, they are claiming that a certain number of people are disenfranchised by this law in the state of Texas. Well, that number includes more than 50,000 people who are already dead. So it seems as though they're trying to protect the voting rights of corpses here in the state of Texas.
DOBBS: And to put this in some further context, the Pew Research Center pointing out there's two million persons dead, or deceased, if you would like to be more delicate, whose names still appear on voting rolls across the country. I mean — and then this Justice Department sues the state of Florida because they want to purge their list of names that they believe to not be valid voters! [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 7/10/12, via Nexis]