As Ari Berman has informed us for the past several years, voter suppression has been one of the key tools of Republicans. And since a majority of the Supreme Court signed on to such suppression with the 2013 Shelby decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act, it’s been given freer rein, though not without court decisions ruling against some of the worst efforts to keep certain voters away from the polls.
What we don’t know, and what we may never be able to fully suss out, is how many people might have voted if the various elements of that suppression had not been in place. How do you quantify what percentage of voters didn’t show up, say in Texas, out of confusion in part created by officials who falsely informed voters right up to the end that they needed a photo ID of a certain type if they wanted to vote. We may be able to guess how many people were lost in states where fewer early voting sites were placed amid populations that typically vote Democratic.
What we certainly cannot do at this stage, tempting though it may be, is state that—everything else being equal—suppression cost us this election.
Making that assumption would let us off the hook for any failures on our part to connect with voters who did vote, to stir those who didn’t vote to turn out as least as well as they did for Democrats in 2012, to inspire people to a vision of a better future.
We need, of course, to fight all the kinds of voter suppression chronicled by Berman and others, and that my colleague Joan McCarter and I have aggregated and commented on in the War on Voting feature and other posts over the past year and previously. But we should not fool ourselves into believing that voter suppression is the biggest reason we lost Tuesday. There were many factors, and coming to grips with them is going to require major adjustments in our thinking going forward, both ideologically and strategically.
Making those adjustments will first of all require admitting our own mistakes instead of focusing on the mistakes of others. It will require assessing what’s been wrong with our thinking, ourapproach, our efforts to persuade and organize. It will require choosing what we must change if we are going to limit the grave damage done to the nation by Tuesday’s outcome and give hope to people who will be the victims of President Trump—including many who voted for him.
And if the Democrats are going to survive, it is going to require fully breaking the grip of the Clintons on the party, a grip that was greatly loosened by Tuesday’s crushing defeat.
This will be a painful process. There will be recriminations. And told you so’s. Throughout the process, however, we should all, whatever our differences, past and present, agree that we will never, ever surrender.
(Originally appeared at DailyKos.)