The vote may not be sufficient, but it is necessary.

Catch of the Day: Voter Registration Time in Ferguson

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The catch goes to the Washington Examiner's Justin Green, who calls out the Missouri Republican Party's insipid denunciation of efforts to register voters in Ferguson:

Missouri Republicans are totally missing the point. What this condemnation resembles instead is the Missouri Republican Party condemning an effort to register black voters in the aftermath of a white police officer shooting a black teenager. That might not be fair, but it's what it looks like.

So Missouri Republicans should reconsider this approach. They should even send a few staffers to engage with potential voters in Ferguson. ...

A party that condemns efforts to attract new members, particularly considering the way this example looks, is one that can't expect to be competitive.

Don't give up on Ferguson, Republicans.

I doubt that Ferguson is currently fertile ground for Republicans -- even for libertarian-leaning Republicans who might share local concerns about police tactics.

But Green is right anyway (from the liberal side see Paul Waldman). After all, the first step to getting votes is to ask for them. And if asking also involves looking for an opening in public policy...well, it's not impossible to go from losing a constituency 90/10 to losing it 80/20 or 70/30, and those are just as real votes as any other.

Moreover, the idea that events should not be "exploited" for politics is just wrong. I do argue that partisans and policy advocates should hesitate -- it's unseemly for people to rush to Twitter to advocate for policy action on guns, for example, when a shooting spree is still in progress. But after a (short) pause? Absolutely.

Indeed: The U.S. was designed to be a particularly political nation, one in which the whole point of the polity was that people could act within its institutions to change their collective arrangements. And here, with police procedures, we have an area that everyone surely agrees is well within the sphere of proper political action. This isn't something such as guns or climate where the question of whether government should act at all is contested.

Anyway, while voting is only the initial step toward political action, it's just astonishing to me that anyone would find it objectionable in principle. Granted: It's a national disgrace that so many hoops exist between citizens and the vote -- and as Seth Masket reminds us, not all of those hoops are imposed by Republicans. The vote may not be sufficient, but it is necessary, and there's no good reason for a democracy to arrange things so that it's hard to vote. Or for a political party to condemn efforts to empower people by getting them to the polls.

And: nice catch!

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