Gaffe (n): an unintentional act or remark causing embarrassment to its originator; a blunder.
It’s been said that in Washington, DC, a gaffe is when a politician inadvertently tells the truth. Of course, this isn’t only a DC problem. We’ve all been there. Like that time your friend walked in with a new haircut and you accidentally let slip, “Thank god hair grows back!”. Whoops.
The Truth Hurts
All over the US, absurdly unfair voter-suppression legislation has been passed that makes it difficult and sometimes nearly impossible for specific people—minorities, students, the elderly, the poor—to get out and vote. Most politicians stay “on message” and say that these laws are meant to stop voter fraud, which sounds virtuous. Because voter fraud would be the worst, right? But strangely enough, voter fraud never happens. So, what’s the real reason that we’re seeing such awful laws popping up everywhere?
Well, let’s let some gaffe-prone politicians explain it to us!
1. Rep. Glenn Grothman, Wisconsin
When he was asked back in April how a Republican presidential candidate might win Wisconsin for the first time in 32 years, he said this:
“[W]e have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
Thank you for your candor, Rep. Grothman. A true profile in courage.
2. Jim DeMint, Former South Carolina Senator
Jim DeMint loves talking about voter ID laws too. He told a St. Louis radio host in late April:
“[I]t’s something we’re working on all over the country because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.”
During the same interview, he complained about how the governor of Virginia restored the voting rights of former felons. Pro tip: next time, Jim, remember that you’re supposed to pretend to think democracy is a great idea!
3. Fran Millar, Georgia State Senator
Fran Millar took an unusually direct and straightforward route to truth telling back in 2014: he wrote an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The topic? Early voting—specifically that an early voting location (at a mall) was too convenient for African Americans. He wrote:
“This location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist.”
Imagine trying to make voting convenient and easy. Crazy, right?
4. Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader
In a speech in 2012, he revealed what everybody already knows to be true, which is obviously always a mistake in politics. In talking about his state’s voter ID law, he said that it was going to “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” implying Voter ID laws weren’t a question of preventing fraud, but helping parties win elections. That doesn’t sound like of, by, and for the people to us, Mike.
5. Richard Posner, Judge, US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Chicago
While his past legal influence was decidedly pro-photo ID laws, at least Richard Posner came around to the idea that these laws are unfair and a threat to our democracy…eventually. In his recent book, he writes that the law in question is in fact:
“a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.”
Better late than never?
Let’s keep the pressure on so that more people can learn about the true reason these voter-suppression tactics have been put into place all over the country. We deserve a democracy that works for everyone.