Wile E. Coyote is the Looney Tunes cartoon character whose obsessive quest to catch the Road Runner always backfires. Though he employs an array of outlandish gadgets such as jet-powered roller skates, the coyote’s schemes to capture his prey inevitably ends up injuring him instead.
The effort to replace Newsom failed, in part, because Elder and other GOP leaders discouraged many of their own supporters from voting by alleging voter fraud in the lead-up to the election, Mathis said in a column in The Week. This was the same dynamic that led to Democrats winning Georgia and control of Congress in the last presidential election, Mathis noted.
But there are other, less apparent reasons why voter suppression tactics not only harm White people but can literally cost them their lives.
They cause more people to ‘die of Whiteness’
Keena says members of Congress who get elected to office in part because of restrictive election laws or partisan gerrymandering often focus on cultural wedge issues or conspiracy theories because they’re in safe voting districts where they don’t have to address a diverse constituency.
“It leads to legislators who are good at getting elected and raising money, but they don’t know a lot about government,” says Keena, a political science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.
This inability to govern can have lethal consequences. Keena says.
States that enacted partisan gerrymandering — redrawing congressional districts to favor the Republican party and deprive Black people of voting power — tended to have higher infant mortality rates, Keena says. They also were more likely to challenge the Affordable Care Act in courts and were generally less responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 than Republican-controlled states that didn’t gerrymander, he found.
This same dynamic is partly why most of the counties in the US with the fewest fully vaccinated people are in Southern states led by GOP governors.
“When state governments rig the voting rules to suppress the voting power of their opponents, there are measurable decreases in public health and policy outcomes that affect everyone,” Keena says.
They alienate young White voters
Republican leaders who seek to restrict voting rights also hurt themselves by turning off young White voters who could make the difference for them in future elections.
Many students already offer all sorts of excuses for not voting: They’re too busy with their classes and they believe their vote doesn’t count. Voting is an acquired habit that needs to be taught and practiced to take root, Evins says.
The best way to ensure that students turn into good citizens who vote in every election is through steps such as placing polling places on every college campus — something discouraged by many new, restrictive voting laws, she says.
“Make voting easy and accessible to first-time voters, “says Evins, a history professor at Middle Tennessee State University.
“And that is precisely what the voter suppression laws expressly opt not to do,” she says. “Instead they limit opportunities, narrow locations and choices.”
They suppress the political power of middle-class White people
Voter suppression hurts White people in another, more insidious way. It silences their voice in the political process.
She says that when lawmakers erect additional hoops for Black or brown voters to jump through, they are also making it harder for poor and middle-class White voters to be heard. That’s because those White voters also get less access to the political system and are less likely to contribute to political campaigns.
Voter suppression laws “enshrine inequalities” by transforming politics into a pay-to-play system where politicians tune out ordinary voters, she says.
“Voter suppression laws that make it harder for any poor and middle-class people to vote make it so that members of Congress have less of a reason to listen to the wants of people who are less likely to be able to turn out and vote,” Cormack says.
They unravel the progress that remade America
Finally, there is a bigger reason why voter suppression laws could hurt Whites even more in the future. They could weaken the US economy and damage the country’s standing in the world.
History tells us this. The first wave of voter suppression laws that targeted Blacks in the South during the late 19th and early 20th century also hurt poor White voters and the Southern economy.
The passage of landmark civil rights laws like the Voting Rights Act also strengthened the country abroad. It was hard for American political leaders during the Cold War to preach the virtues of democracy when the world was seeing images of Black people being brutalized for trying to vote in Selma, Alabama.
The movement that got rid of voter suppression laws inspired Democratic movements around the globe. “We Shall Overcome,” the civil rights anthem, was sung by pro-democracy demonstrators in China’s Tiananmen Square and in South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement.
Why would any political leader want the US return to those days when America’s unequal treatment of its Black citizens made it look like hypocrites on the world stage — especially at a time when the country is engaged in a geopolitical struggle with autocratic countries like Russia and China that disdain democracy?
A return to an updated version of a Jim Crow voting system that led to some of the ugliest chapters in US history wouldn’t just be folly. It would be tragic.