Senator Cruz Took a Voyage Around the Bend at the Senate Hearing on Voting Rights

Charles P. Pierce
·6-min read
Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images

From Esquire

As the Republican Party becomes more dedicated and ruthless toward the franchise, it should come as no surprise that the institutions of the luxuriously-financed conservative infrastructure have been engaged as well. The New York Times reports that the attack on voting rights in the several states runs along familiar rails to those people who’ve been following the operation of, say, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its ability to get boilerplate right-wing legislation passed in a number of states at once. For example, Georgia and Arizona.

Of the 68 bills pertaining to voting, at least 23 had similar language or were firmly rooted in the principles laid out in the Heritage group’s letter and in an extensive report it published two days later, according to a review of the bills by The New York Times. The alignment was not coincidental. As Republican legislatures across the country seek to usher in a raft of new restrictions on voting, they are being prodded by an array of party leaders and outside groups working to establish a set of guiding principles to the efforts to claw back access to voting.

Heritage, for instance, has claimed credit for a new Arizona law, signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey, that requires the secretary of state to compare death records with voter registrations. The state representative who sponsored the bill thanked one of the Heritage volunteers in a Facebook post after it passed.

Later, the Times piece attributes the current cloudburst of restrictions to “the extent to which the dogma of voter fraud is embedded in the Republican Party, following Mr. Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the 2020 election.” While the rhetoric around and after the 2020 election was undeniably an accelerant, conservatives in America have been opponents of expanding the franchise to the disenfranchised since the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist got his start in Republican politics as a voter-suppression activist in Arizona.

More recently, when the former president* organized his dead-dog-and-lame-pony Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, an expensive farce largely undone by the noble work of Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap. Dunlap repeatedly called out the commission as little more than a Potemkin exercise meant to validate the former president*’s lies concerning the 2016 election. By June of 2017, there already was a move in Congress to defund the commission. I would point out that the entire Republican Party, both in and out of elective office, was behind this extended exercise in partisan futility. So, no, it didn’t remotely start with what the former president* said about 2020. But, by the established Republican principle of Ni shagu nazad, nothing much has changed. In fact, it’s all gotten worse.

Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images
Photo credit: Tom Williams - Getty Images

Meanwhile, in Washington, a Senate Rules Committee hearing chaired by Senator Amy Klobuchar took up the bills that had been sent along by the House meant to ameliorate Republican efforts out in the states to demolish the franchise of voters the Republicans find inconvenient. Much as was the case in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s fandango with the gun laws on Tuesday, the spirits of neither bipartisan cooperation nor good government were in evidence. The Republicans on the committee, led into the trackless weeds as usual by Senator Ted Cruz, proved themselves again to be a bunch of talking points pretending to be a political party, although the early moments of the hearing were enlivened by an exchange between the respective leaders of the two Senate caucuses.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer linked the current Republican voter-suppression campaign to the successful efforts after Reconstruction to eliminate the rights of the new freedmen of the South, the efforts that ended with the Jim Crow regimes throughout the old Confederacy:

We'll hear that it's a federal takeover of our elections. Never mind that the Founders, who my Republican colleagues invoke when it's time to confirm a right-wing judge, wrote in the Constitution that the Congress has the power to pass laws to determine the time, place, and manner of federal elections. We've been down this road before. Opponents of voting rights throughout history have always said, "Leave it to the states." Just leave it to the states to discriminate against African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, younger Americans in college. It is shameful, our Republican colleagues are proposing these ideas in 2020. The same kinds of states' rights that have been used from time immemorial to prevent certain people from voting. Shame, shame, shame.

To which McConnell replied, proving one of Schumer’s essential points:

What the Majority Leaders just said, the state bills that he refers to, I believe Senator Blunt mentioned two of them had passed, and they had absolutely nothing to do with suppressing the vote. It's also noteworthy that this is a solution in search of a problem. Turnout in 2020 was up 7 percent. The turnout in the 2020 election was the highest since 1900. States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters whatsoever. This is, clearly, an effort by one party to rewrite the rules of our political system.

But it was left to Cruz to take a solo voyage around the bend:

This bill is the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered. This bill is designed to corrupt the election process permanently, and it is a brazen and shameless power grab by Democrats. That the number-one priority is not COVID or getting people back to work or getting kids back in school. It's keeping Democrats in power for 100 years. And how do they do this? They do this by instituting a bill that will promote widespread fraud and illegal voting. Under this bill, there's automatic registration of anybody if you get a driver's license, if you get a welfare payment, if you get an unemployment payment. If you attend a public university. Now, everyone knows there are millions of illegal aliens who have driver's licenses, getting welfare benefits to attend public universities. This bill is designed to register every one of those illegal aliens. What would the impact be in state elections of automatically registered millions of illegal aliens to vote?

None of that is true. Undocumented immigrants cannot vote now, nor will any of the Democratic bills under discussion allow that to happen. And it takes a pretty dinged-up set of brass ones to accuse the Democrats of short-shrifting COVID relief after you hysterically opposed the American Rescue Plan. And I would suggest to Senator Cruz that, if he thinks making it easier for people to vote would guarantee a century of Democratic dominance, he might be better off examining why his own party is so attached to policies that are so damned unpopular. The man needs a rest, and a Thorazine the size of a manhole cover.

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