In 2021 President Biden claimed Georgia was seeking to suppress Black voter turnout. Now Biden is remaining silent as his supporters in Florida seek to suppress turnout by anyone opposed to Biden’s renomination. Obviously, Biden is most selective in his opposition to voter suppression measures: He OPPOSES the suppression of voters MOST likely to vote FOR him but SUPPORTS the oppression of voters MOST likely to vote AGAINST him.
President Biden has long had an interest in maximizing Black voter turnout, and for good reason. Blacks overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. And it was Black voters in South Carolina who helped Biden win his first-ever primary victory in three runs for the presidency and who thereby put him on the road to victory in both the 2020 primaries and the general election too.
So perhaps it was inevitable that in 2021 President Biden would denounce Georgia’s new Election Integrity Act as “Jim Crow 2.0,” “Jim Crow on steroids,” and “Jim Crow in the 21st century.” By alluding to “Jim Crow,” Biden was charging that the purpose of the Act was to suppress Black voter turnout.
If that were true, the Act proved to be a miserable failure. According to polling of voters conducted by the University of Georgia following the 2022 general election which had been supervised by a Republican Secretary of State:
- 99% reported no problems in voting;
- 75% reported having to wait less than 10 minutes in line to vote while only 5% reported having to wait over 30 minutes;
- Over 90% of voters felt it was “easy” to vote;
- 95% had “excellent” or “good” voting experiences.
But what of the experiences of BLACK voters, the alleged targets of the Election Integrity Act? The same poll reported that:
- 95% of BLACK voters had “excellent” or “good” voting experiences;
- 84% of BLACK voters said it was “easy to cast a ballot” in Georgia;
- 0% — that’s Z. E. R. O. — said they had had a “poor” voting experience.
Some suppression. No wonder Biden has said nothing about the voting in Georgia lately.
Nor has Biden spoken out to protest the efforts of his allies in the Florida Democratic party to suppress the turnout of any anti-Biden voters in their primary.
In essence, the strategy of Florida’s Biden supporters to suppress turnout is straightforward: The Florida Democratic Party is simply refusing to put the names of Biden’s two primary opponents, Minnesota congressman Dean Philips and self-help author Marianne Williamson, on the primary ballot. Assuming the primary is still held, voters will still be able to vote–as long as they vote for Biden. They will be unable to vote for anyone else.
However dishonest and cynical Biden’s selective opposition to voter suppression may be, the suppression of voter turnout in Florida makes strategic sense. As long as Biden remains a candidate for renomination, nobody has a chance of defeating him in the upcoming Democratic primaries and caucuses. But a strong challenger able to wage a credible campaign could so weaken Biden enough in the primaries as to cause him to lose the general election anyway. Such was the fate of William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush: Each president defeated a strong primary challenger to win renomination, only to lose the general election. Biden is right to fear a similar fate. The best way to avoid a debilitating primary challenge is to prevent primary challenges altogether.
And in all fairness to Biden, it must be admitted that he is by no means the first President seeking renomination to suppress opposition voters. In 2020, Donald Trump’s allies in the Kansas Republican Party canceled its primary to avoid any challenge to Trump. So Biden and his allies in Florida are simply following in Trump’s footsteps.
But historical precedents and political gamesmanship aside, Biden’s false and reckless charges of racism against Georgia and his own support—or at least tolerance—of voter suppression in Florida interject more elements of dishonesty into American politics and erode faith in America’s electoral system. He runs the risk of doing the same sort of damage as Trump has been accused of doing. More honesty, not less, is needed to bolster faith in American politics.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton from 1987 until 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.