In just the past week, we’ve seen multiple Democrats including Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock coming out in support of voter ID laws. The list continues to grow, with many of these liberals seemingly developing a case of sudden-onset amnesia regarding their previous claims that voter ID was a subversive plot invented by conservatives to stop Black people from voting. But some members of the media still seem to be struggling with how this happened so quickly. The Washington Post explored some of the possibilities yesterday, focusing on the efforts of Joe Manchin to orchestrate a compromise on the For the People Act which eventually failed. But the very real and lasting effect of those efforts may turn out to be that King Joseph probably set a trap for the liberals in his own party and they walked right into it.
The Democratic shifts are in part a strategic effort to win broader support for their voting rights push while seeking to put Republicans on the defensive. Voter ID laws have proved popular despite Democratic arguments that they amount to voter suppression, and some activists have concluded that they do less to suppress the vote than they initially feared.
The Democrats’ support for Manchin’s compromise comes amid a defeat for H.R. 1, a far more sweeping Democratic voting rights bill, on a procedural vote in the Senate on Tuesday. That bill would have required states to offer same-day voter registration for federal elections, let voters make changes to their registration at the polls and empowered nonpartisan commissions to draw lines for states’ congressional maps.
That For the People Act failed amid unified opposition from Senate Republicans, who argued it was a Democratic power grab and an effort to wrest away states’ control of their voting practices. In a Senate split 50-50 between the parties, it fell fall short of the 60 votes required for most legislation to advance.
The main reason some of these Democrats are now saying they’re okay with voter ID isn’t that they’ve suddenly decided they like it. They just wanted to get Manchin’s compromise pushed through so they could chalk it up as a win. But now that the effort has failed, they’re stuck in the trap I mentioned above.
There are two steps in the dance that Manchin now has his party performing. The first is most likely the death of the For the People Act as it’s currently written. The Democrats will need to go back to the drawing board on that one if they hope to pass a voting “reform” bill any time soon. And it won’t be able to include a blanket ban on voter ID laws among the states. How could they vote in favor of a bill that does that after saying there’s nothing wrong with those laws?
Looking further down the playing field, however, what Manchin has really done is taken the debate over voter ID off the table well into the future, and for the same reasons. If they try to ram anything like that through in the coming months and years, how will they explain the double flip-flop? That’s not to say that some of them wouldn’t do it unabashedly anyway, but their hypocrisy would be on full display.
While many in Chuck Schumer’s caucus may not be happy about it now, this may be a bitter dose of medicine that will benefit them in the end. As we previously discussed, the latest rounds of polling demonstrate that voter ID laws are popular. And not by a slim margin. Fewer than one in five voters believe that voter ID laws amount to some sort of suppression and should be done away with. The vast majority see such laws as making elections more secure. So in the end, Joe Manchin may have led his reluctant tribe in the direction of doing not only what’s right, but something that helps them in future races.