Gotta hand it to Sen. Mike Lee. There aren’t a lot of people who can be so smug while making a fundamentally flawed argument on a topic which they claim to be an expert.
In a Senate hearing Wednesday on the ramifications of voter ID laws, Lee unrolled a self-satisfied soliloquy he seemed to think dismantled the contention that voter ID laws disproportionately impede minority and low-income Americans from voting.
The suggestion, Lee said, that requiring a photo identification is racially discriminatory “raises all sorts of questions in my mind.”
“Is our entire healthcare system racist? Are pharmacies racist? The airline industry, is that racist? The TSA?” the senator pondered. “What about bars? You go into a bar, some people consider it a form of flattery, I guess, if they get carded.”
“What about universities? One thing I’ve learned about colleges and universities these days, they all issue a student ID and they have photos on them,” he continued, identifying a very strange “one thing” to have learned about higher education.
“What about Major League Baseball, the NFL or all other event organizers who require you show an ID when you go to pick up your tickets? Are they all racist? That would be news to me,” Lee prattled. “So why all of the sudden are we calling it that when people just wanted to vote?”
Well, senator, for a “CoNStiTuShuNuL SKolUr” you miss a really basic point, which I can probably make best by referencing the handy pocket U.S. Constitution I got at one of your campaign events and carry with me at all times.
Is health care a constitutional right? Or getting medicine? Hmm. No, doesn’t seem to be in the founding document, although many would like it to be.
How about flying in a plane? Looks like James Madison left that out, too.
Going to a bar? This one I thought for sure was in there, but I guess the guys who hatched the idea for the country in a tavern decided not to include it.
Colleges and universities? If I’ve learned one thing about them, they’re not in the Constitution. (Except for the Electoral College.)
Attending a baseball or football game or getting tickets at a concert? That, in fact, IS in the Constitution.
Just kidding. It’s not.
What about voting? There it is. Towards the front, in Article I, Section 2, providing that members of the House are chosen every two years by the people of the states.
Fun fact, that’s still racist (also sexist) since only white male landowners got the privilege of choosing. You have to skip ahead to the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to fix that.
The point being that voting is a fundamental Constitutional right, one that generations of Americans fought and died to achieve, and shouldn’t be treated the same as a visit to Dick n’ Dixies.
You don’t need an identification to exercise your right to free speech or to assemble or to worship. For that matter, you don’t need an identification to “keep and bear arms,” and if you buy it from another person (as opposed to a licensed dealer), you don’t need an ID to buy a gun.
This is not to say elections should be a free-for-all. There is a middle ground with reasonable measures to prevent fraud. Utah asks for an ID, but allows a pretty long list of other ways for voters to prove their identities.
But when we’ve seen Republicans in states like Texas pass voter ID laws, which are then struck down by the courts for being discriminatory, and we have witnessed a history of laws in this country intended to keep minority citizens from voting, we need to guard against people willing to put their political interests ahead of rights guaranteed in the Constitution.
And maybe this whole thing wouldn’t have bugged me so much if we didn’t learn last week that Lee and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., huddled with President Donald Trump’s lawyers ahead of the Jan. 6 election certification and subsequent riot to listen to the president’s proposed path to steal the election.
It makes it hard to take him seriously when he talks about the sanctity of elections and democracy.