Here's a handicap Hillary Clinton's progressive challengers face going into the Democratic presidential primaries next year: while they attack Clinton, she attacks Republicans. It was clear this past weekend that the former Secretary of State knows how to push the buttons of both the Democratic base and the Republican candidates. Her comments describing Republican-initiated voter ID laws as an attack on minority voting rights infuriated the GOP contenders, and no doubt that's exactly what they were meant to do. She wants them to attack her, which is why she went after them by name. When they attack, Democrats see that her enemies are their enemies, while it can easily look like the progressives' only enemies are Clinton and her supporters. They need to dispel that perception by attacking Republicans with every breath they use to criticize Clinton. After all, they most likely agree with her about the partisan intent of voter ID laws. If so, they ought to say so, and at the same time make the argument, which I've seen elsewhere, that the "wealth primary" that threatens to preempt the primaries by pricing Clinton's rivals out of the market is a kind of indirect attack on voting rights by effectively taking the selection of candidates out of the hands of the rank and file. No matter what apologists for unlimited campaign donations say about voters having the final word, does anyone really believe that most voters go into the booth with equal understanding of where all candidates stand on the issues that matter, or even with an idea of what issues matter formed independently of TV advertising? At a time when Clinton is reportedly pressuring her wealthiest friends to step up and match the monster donations to the Republican party, progressives should be able to argue that disenfranchisement can take more than one form, and can be perpetrated by more than one party.
As for the scarecrow of voter fraud, let anyone ask any of the Republican contenders this question: if a person who has voted unchallenged in past elections now must acquire a photo ID in order to vote in the next election, do you presume that person to have voted fraudulently before? If the answer is no, then why impose any new test for this person? If the answer is yes, we want the nation to hear it. As I've said before, photo ID is not an inherently bad idea, but the qualifications for it should be minimized to remove any suspicion that the system is designed to discourage the old and well-traveled from voting. Meanwhile, keep the questions coming to Republicans. Do they believe that Democrats commit fraud at the polls? Make them say so, and then make them prove it. Do they believe blacks or Hispanics commit fraud at the polls? Make them say so and watch them lose the election. If they insist that there's no ethnic or partisan bias behind the new laws, ask them if they believe Republicans commit fraud at the polls? Since the argument against the laws is all about motive, drag motive out into the open at every opportunity. By no means should any progressive have to depend on Clinton to do this for them. If progressives are perceived to be silent on this subject, people may wonder whose side they're on. It may be important if not essential to convince the Democratic base that Clinton is not on their side when it counts, but the base has its own opinion, presumably, about what counts, and if the voter ID controversy counts for them, then progressives have to let the base know where they stand. This shouldn't be hard. Campaigns are usually about more than one issue at a time. Progressives should be able to take care of this and call Clinton a corporate lapdog at the same time. If they can't, they have no business challenging her.