Growing up in the 80s, I remember the word “liberal” being used to label Democrats as outside the mainstream. George H.W. Bush painted Michael Dukakis as such in the presidential election of 1988. Who’d have ever thought Democrats would come to embrace the term and make “moderate” the new four-letter word to describe members of their own party? Of course, Democrats have also had success turning “conservative” into a synonym for “backwards” or “one who is against any change” over the years as well. So it used to be in the good old days of spirited, partisan battles.
But something different is happening now, and it is bordering on the sinister. Democrats have taken to weaponizing selected GOP ideas and policies. They’re throwing around “Jim Crow” as a tag for any plan or idea they dislike, with the sole goal to demonize and make it so toxic that one would not dare proclaim support for it.
What is “Jim Crow?” In short, its origins seem to date back to the 1820s; though the term generally refers to state and local laws passed in the South, by Democrats it is important to point out, starting in the late 1800s to enforce segregation of the races. The term also applies to very ingenious methods of disenfranchising black voters, such as through literacy tests and poll taxes. One particularly menacing question used by southern white poll workers was, “How many jellybeans are there in that jar?” But is that the same thing as “please show me your photo ID” in 2021?
Consider the current debate over election integrity, especially related to the mass mailing of ballots, in many cases unsolicited. You might think, who would be against ensuring honesty and preventing fraud in elections? Polls have indicated for decades strong majority support for showing identification when voting (voter ID laws). Georgia’s new law passed last week requires voter ID for absentee ballots going forward. Republican Governor Brian Kemp said, “Georgia’s Election Integrity Act…expands early voting and secures our vote-by-mail system to protect the integrity of our elections. The Peach State is leading the nation in making it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
President Joe Biden called the law “Jim Crow in the 21st century” in a statement issued by the White House on March 26. Many Democrats and their allies in the media mob are seizing a provision that supposedly bans people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line. The Hill noted that is not correct— “the law states that poll workers under the law could still bring water from a fountain, or bottles of water, to people in line.”
In fact, this is the wording in section 33 of the law “This Code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer from…making available self-service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote.” It appears the law is seeking to eliminate the sort of quid pro quos where candidates’ campaign machines set up “buffets” near polling places, mixing food and drink with campaign material and other propaganda designed to “buy” votes as people walk by.
No matter. It’s already been deemed “Jim Crow,” and several lawsuits have been filed to block the law, including by the NAACP, The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Rise Inc. Boycotts are being threatened. Some leftists are calling for businesses to abandon Georgia altogether.
But it’s not just election integrity laws. The Left wants the Senate filibuster gone. That’s the parliamentary procedure that prevents a measure from coming to a vote through extended debate. Sixty votes break the filibuster, thus allowing a straight up or down vote where the majority rules. There are good academic arguments on both sides of this fairly arcane Senate rule (which is not in the Constitution). But both parties have agreed over the decades on the importance of the filibuster as a tool for the minority party.
Biden, a strong supporter of the filibuster for his entire Senate career, now says he agrees with former President Obama that the filibuster is “a relic of the Jim Crow era.” Of course, this is fascinating, as students of history may well remember Southern Democrats using the tactic to prevent a floor vote on civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s. That’s right—it was Republicans, with support from Northern Democrats, who were able to eventually crush the delaying tactic and get through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other important federal laws related to rights for blacks. When Biden was a senator, he joined Democrat efforts to sustain filibusters numerous times to oppose GOP ideas and nominees over his long career.
Labeling the filibuster as “Jim Crow” puts Democrats in a bind, and they may not have fully realized it before they launched their latest assault. In a country divided fairly 50-50, Democrats might very well find themselves in the minority again after next year’s midterm elections. But if their only mechanism to confront a GOP majority has already been deemed “Jim Crow,” what will they then think or do? And what’s next to get labeled “Jim Crow?” Tax cuts? Deregulation? Deficit reduction? Less federal social welfare spending?
Jeff Szymanski works in political communications for AMAC, a senior benefits organization with 2.4 million members