The Astroturf media blitz against Georgia’s election reform law has predictably called for boycotts, including the 2021 MLB All-Star game. The claims of “Jim Crow 2.0,” echoed by President Biden (who will read anything on a briefing card or the TelePrompTer) are really an insult to Black Americans, who are being characterized as so easily suppressed that they slide by life without basic needs met, because they can’t get a government ID.
Let’s get to the heart of the politics: A professional and slick messaging effort led by Stacey Abrams is behind the “Jim Crow” tag being used to characterize the law. In reality, the biggest problem with this legislation, as I wrote last week, is that it’s politically dangerous for the Republicans who passed it. As partisan election reform laws go, this one is pretty tame, fair, and well-thought out.
Yes, yes, Republicans injected lots of politics into the law, but the final product is pretty good legislation. It standardizes and expands weekend early voting among Georgia’s 159 counties, and it limits outside political influence into county election officials (many county elections have been run by Democrats for decades, and these Democrats consider it their personal turf and fiefdom). This includes the “food ban,” because Abrams used food pantries as polling place a buy-a-vote program in 2018. Drop-boxes were once able to be run by activists, and now must be supervised by sworn election officials or law enforcement.
None of this is Jim Crow. But the voter ID requirement for absentee voting is being hailed as some impassable barrier preventing Black Americans from obtaining absentee ballots, because (I guess?) they don’t have identification or access to computers, or any other ability to request a ballot. I was having a conversation with a neighbor, who is Jewish, who told me what an insult this would be if someone said Jews are being targeted with voter suppression because we can’t muster a state-approved ID.
I started thinking about that, and he’s right. The presumption that Black Americans in Georgia can’t obtain a state ID (which, if you don’t drive, is free, by the way), is a terrible insult against the very people who are supposedly being oppressed. In fact, if Georgia’s Black citizens are really suppressed by the new voter ID requirement for absentee ballots (versus the old requirement for a signature), here’s a list of some other things they can’t do.
- Open a bank account. Banks require (by federal law) some form of identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or state ID. If you don’t have a bank account, forget about buying a house, or any other real estate, getting a loan other than a payday loan (which you won’t need because you can’t work, see #4). The unbanked are at a cruel disadvantage in life, to the point where voting rights is not generally top of the list, except for Stacey Abrams and her Astroturf crew.
- Cash a check. If you don’t have a bank account, you can’t cash a check unless you go to a really sketchy check cashing place or have someone else cash the check for you.
- Buy a car. Technically, you can buy the car without an ID (if someone will sell it to you), but you can’t get insurance, a loan, or title application without it. Try to buy a car from a dealer without ID. You could buy your neighbor’s car, but you couldn’t drive it, so why bother?
- Get a job. There’s a form, called an “I-9” that is part of the federal government’s e-Verify program. To work at most places (that don’t hire illegal aliens, that is), you have to provide a few different forms of ID, a passport, driver’s license, Social Security Card, etc. Without the ID, you’re basically limited to cutting grass for cash.
- Enroll in school. Atlanta Public Schools requires an original or state certified birth certificate, or the student’s driver’s license. Getting a birth certificate generally requires some other form of ID. You can’t just walk into your county’s Vital Records and request it.
- Visit a doctor. You could get all your care at county public health departments, or walk in to an emergency room and claim indigent status. Legally, you have that right. But you can’t see a private doctor without some form of ID or health insurance (and you can’t get health insurance, even Obamacare, without ID). Sorry.
- Buy liquor. Nope. Sorry. (The one exception is if you look over 21 to the clerk selling you liquor, and most clerks are now trained to check all ID.)
By claiming that producing an ID, which is provided free by the State of Georgia, to prove that a voter really lives in a particular county, is somehow suppressing the vote of Black Americans in Georgia, is claiming that these Black citizens lack the basic necessities of navigating modern life here. It’s saying that these Black citizens are still barefoot share croppers on white-owned plantations, unable to cope with their most basic needs. They are wards of the government, which, if it was run by Democrats, would be a protective and nurturing force for good.
Government run by Republicans, however, is evil, because these helpless individuals are being left to their own devices, unable to do anything except get to the polls to cast out the despotic rulers who have oppressed them so.
This is the essence of the message being promoted by Abrams and Democrats from the White House to the conflicted Commissioners of Cobb County. It’s plantation talk and it’s demeaning, insulting, and should be rejected by all Black Americans. They have much for which to be proud, including electing Georgia’s Black sitting Senator, Raphael Warnock, who holds a Ph.D.
This whole moral panic about voter ID is nothing more than a cynical political play. The faster it’s rejected by those who are being characterized and used as helpless pawns, the better.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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