You have to be careful these days about where you get news. We still trust most newspapers, the Associated Press and our other wire services. But we have a friend who says he waits four days before deciding on what's true in media reports, because apparently he doesn't trust the first accounts. That's a problem for the nation's media. And the nation, period.
So you'll forgive us if we didn't get most of the information in this column from Fox News or talk radio. We wanted to know what was going on in Texas, what with these lawmakers leaving the state to protest voting changes, so we read reports from Texas newspapers, Texas TV stations, NPR and CNN.
Not because we trust CNN more than Fox News. But because an old editor once taught us to take on the opposition's best arguments, not its weakest, and we can always trust CNN to be CNN--and feature those arguments that frame Republicans in the worst light.
So what is in these bills that made all those lawmakers flee the state to keep a whole legislative special session from having a quorum? How exactly are conservative lawmakers in that other, lesser state to our southwest preventing people from casting votes? As we figure, these bills would:
• ban 24-hour voting
• prohibit drive-through voting centers, which were used a lot during the pandemic
• ban officials from sending applications for vote-by-mail ballots to people who never requested one
• bar counties from helping folks distribute "unsolicited" ballot requests
• require absentee voters to provide driver's license numbers or the last four of a Social Security number on their requests and return envelopes
• impose fines on those who don't follow the rules and impose criminal penalties on those who interfere with poll-watchers
Democrats have said all this makes it more difficult to vote. And they're right. But some of these rules were implemented for the pandemic (24-hour voting, drive-through centers), which made voting a lot easier. Some of these provisions just take Texas back to 2019. We don't remember panic in 2019 about Texas' voting standards.
NPR went out of its way to say that these bills down in Austin "do not include some of the more controversial measures that were added to [the] previous bill in the final hours of the legislative session in May. Those included a provision that would have restricted voting on Sundays as well as a measure that would have allowed election officials to overturn election results if there are voter fraud allegations." (Full disclosure: A CNN report written two weeks before that NPR report says otherwise on that last matter, but we'll go with the latest story for now.)
When Georgia tightened up its rules for voting, many pols on the left hyperventilated and repeated "Jim Crow" so often that it became a mantra. Looking at the details in Georgia, however--which we did--found nothing like Jim Crow. The same criticism, and mantra, is being aimed at Texas lawmakers. So you'd be forgiven if you thought a lot of these folks were crying wolf, too.
It might have been Herm Edwards, a famous football star and coach, who said nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m. You'd think that just for confidence in the system, polls should be closed in the wee hours of the morning.
The Texas governor made a point about drive-through voting centers: Who's in the car with you? Your employer? Your union rep? Somebody else who could intimidate you as you fill out a ballot?
Requiring an ID has been an annual irritant for the left. But states that recently required it haven't seen a decrease in voting percentages. In fact, the last few presidential elections have seen an increase in voters overall.
Yet the president gave a speech Tuesday in which he said this about changes in voting rules at the state level: "We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That's not hyperbole--since the Civil War."
He noted that the Confederates never got as far as the Capitol building, as protesters did on Jan. 6. And then: "We have to prepare now. As I said time and again, no matter what, you can never stop the American people from voting. They will decide and the power must always be with the people."
After the speech, reporters asked him why he didn't mention the word "filibuster" or back any attempts to end it in the U.S. Senate. To which the president replied, in his way: "I'm not filibustering now."
But if Joe Biden, or the Biden administration, or his people in the White House, or the left in general, really believe that the United States faces its "most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War," and that's not hyperbole, then why not use every single method to combat the crisis? If the president truly believes what he says, why is the filibuster off limits? Isn't that a disservice to the country?
It's more likely that the president and his people don't believe these voting changes in state capitols are anything akin to the crisis that faced this nation during the run-up to the Civil War. But they've decided they must out-outrage their friends on the left, or be criticized for not being outraged enough.
That's a terrible situation for leaders to be in. And even worse for the country when they bow to these pressures.