Monday, April 12, 2021

The National Review's Conservative Case for White Disenfranchisement

"I need to find a New Yorker so I can justify this whole pro-slavery stance I've backed myself into."

I pity The National Review sometimes. Most right-wingers these days don't feel the need to justify their positions; owning the libs is reason enough. But it is the National Review's job is to put a respectable face on contemporary conservative priorities which are in no way respectable. They try their best, but in their brave efforts they end up painting themselves into some pretty cramped ideological corners.

Take, for example, Georgia's new experiments in blatant voter suppression. This initially yielded Kevin Williamson coming flat out and asking "why not fewer voters" -- might it not be good for there to be fewer but "better" voters? Of course, few, if any, of Georgia's proposals to suppress the vote have anything to do with making the rump remaining electorate "better" -- unless, I suppose, the best voters are the ones who can stand in line for three hours without food or water without collapsing or, better still, had the wisdom not to reside in a neighborhood with such long lines to begin with. But Williamson's definition of "better" has nothing to do with being informed and everything to do with "demographically more likely to vote Republican" -- raise the voting age to thirty, not, say, tests of accurate political knowledge.* Remember when William Buckley said "I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 people in the telephone directory than by the Harvard University faculty"? Ah, the memories.

Anyway, despite widespread mockery, the conservative intelligentsia wasn't ready to let this one go without a fight. Their next gambit was to attack the entire idea of majoritarian democracy because, and I kid you not, they claim that under "pure" democracy we had Jim Crow and slavery -- two institutions  that were, shall we say, rather famously not committed to pure democratic enfranchisement. But again, even if we take the argument on its own terms, none of the proposals states like Georgia are putting forward would have done anything to check against the abuses of Jim Crow -- if anything, they'd have helped more firmly entrench it. That's obvious once one remembers that the laws Georgia is pushing today are the spiritual successor to Jim Crow, which also used tightly crafted nets of facially "neutral" laws whose mixture of known and desired disparate impacts and biased "discretionary" enforcement in order to maintain a dominant White majority electorate. If one's argument is that it's justified to limit the franchise in order to prevent a democratic (or "democratic") majority from entrenching White Supremacy, you're not making an argument for voter ID laws or for raising the voting age to 30 or for indirect elections of Senators or anything on the GOP's wishlist. The voters you'd have to stop from voting, in this hypothetical justification, are run-of-the-mill White people.

So, I wonder, is that the National Review's new position (quite a ways distant from the position they took at the time)? That the proper response to White Supremacy in the America in the 1960s (and onwards) is to systematically deprive White people of the franchise?

I'm dubious. But alas, such is the position they've backed themselves into.

* Which, to be clear, would also be a terrible and undemocratic idea. However, the reason that Williamson doesn't back it isn't because it's terrible and undemocratic, but because it's terrible and undemocratic in a way that might hurt the electoral prospects of contemporary Republicans, which is the only actual motivator here.

1 comment:

Ed said...

“A ballot is just a substitute for a bullet. If your vote isn’t backed by a bullet, it is meaningless. Without the bullet, people could ignore the election outcome. Voting would be pointless. Democracy has violence at its very core!” ~Muir Matteson, “The Nonviolent Zone”