Lawless Left Targets Pennsylvania Voter ID Laws

Paul Gottfried, Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, is the author of ten books, including After Liberalism (Princeton, 1999), The Strange Death of European Marxism (University of Missouri, 2005) Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and other Friends and Teachers (ISI, 2009) and Leo Strauss and The Conservative Movement in America (Cambridge, 2012). He is currently finishing an eleventh book, on fascists and antifascists.


Readers of Pennsylvania newspapers have been told (by now repeatedly) that the state attorney general, Kathleen Kane, cannot bring herself to enforce the state voter identification law that the legislature passed last year. This PA law is nothing out of the ordinary. Similar laws have already been approved and enforced in fifteen other states. The usual suspects, black and Hispanic Democratic leaders and the League of Women’s Voters, petitioned the Supreme Court back in 2008 to prevent such laws from taking effect, claiming they were designed to keep minorities from voting. But the Court, with at least one Democratic appointee, nixed that objection by a 6-3 margin five years ago. In Pennsylvania the League of Women’s Voters has been the key player in keeping the issue in court. Their suits have moved from substantive to procedural issues going after a law that would require voters to produce a driving license or some other form of identification before getting to vote. Under our law those without identity proof would be allowed to vote but would have to produce an identification document afterwards.

It seems that the attorney general will not enforce the law because it apparently goes against her conscience. She also claims that it violates the state constitution, which forbids racial discrimination in voting procedures. We’ve been down that road before, and the Supreme Court has already judged laws intended to avoid voter fraud as “race neutral,” even if their effect would help one party more than the other. Still our state newspapers, even the ones that purport to be conservative, keep referring to Kane’s behavior as “admirable.” Our papers also insist that the voter identification law is suspect because it was overwhelmingly supported by Republican legislators and then signed by a Republican governor. By that curious standard, Obamacare, which the Philadelphia Inquirer and other large state newspapers view as nothing short of a divine revelation, would be equally open to question. If memory serves, it was Democrats who overwhelmingly voted for that can of worms.

Kane has obvious reasons for agonizing over the problem of enforcing a law she doesn’t like. She plans to run for governor against the Republican Tom Corbett, and the groups she’s appealing to with her histrionics, plus any fraudulent votes that might get cast in that election, would go her way. Kane’s opponent, who has tried to cut budgets, however slightly, has refused Obama’s Medicaid offer of subsidies to the states, and is opposed to state aid for abortion, has extremely low statewide support. On the basis of recent polls, it would seem that Corbett’s popularity rating is under 30%; and any “impropriety” that the state media can ascribe to him, most recently having taken a free ticket for a Pittsburgh Penguin hockey match, is blown up into a national scandal. Corbett has the additional misfortune of being totally out of sync with his fellow Catholics in this state, who are mostly of the Obama-Kane variety. (Toomey, who is also Irish Catholic, won his Senate seat with heavy Protestant support.)

Kane’s recent shenanigans typify a form of behavior that left-Democrats engage in with resounding media approval. They ignore or break laws that are not politically advantageous to them, and when they do, they can sit back and wait for applause. Right now there are thirty cities in the US, including New York, Baltimore, Houston, and Detroit, which openly flout laws requiring illegals to be reported. The municipal administrations have even announced that they’re “sanctuary cities.” The American president has gone these cities one step better, by opening up jails and releasing illegals who have committed criminal acts. Supposedly Obama did this as a first step in complying with a “sequester” that would require him to cut a tiny fraction of federal expenses. He and his attorney general also stated repeatedly that they would not be bound by the Defense of Marriage Act, sponsored by Democratic president Bill Clinton, which defined marriage as being exclusively between a man and woman. After all, Obama’s electorate is made up of the social left, which considers anything less than a federal law establishing a universal right to gay marriage as a cosmic injustice.  Not enforcing laws that don’t seem fashionable or which don’t enjoy the NYT’s stamp of approval is apparently an act of conscience we should all be applauding.

What would happen, however, if the unlikely occurred and someone with my views became governor or attorney general of this Commonwealth? I, for one, oppose laws that set up minimum wages or would pressure me into hiring someone for a job, lest I discriminate against some group whom I‘m supposed to treat with special consideration. As soon as I took office, I would express my views on these subjects and indicate that my principles prevented me from enforcing minimum wage or anti-discrimination laws. How much applause do you think my act of conscience would get from the national or state press? I would be lucky not to land in jail on some trumped-up charge as a right-wing enemy of the Constitution. Nor do I think that Obama would continue to enjoy his present drooling media popularity if he announced tomorrow that he changed his mind about social issues. Can one imagine how his media approval rating would plummet if he said that he considered homosexuality and abortion to be horrible sins?

I would note that in addition to media encouragement of this non-enforcement shtik, law-evasion on the part of elected officials succeeds because the other side accepts the glaring double standard. One reason for this indulgence is admittedly well-intentioned. It arises from the fact that those who see themselves as being on the right believe they should be lawful. This has been the attitude of the non-Left in this country and in Western Europe since the 1960s that we should all obey those laws that are enacted by constitutional procedures. The Left, by appealing to a right of conscience whenever it decides to break laws, has behaved in a way that we’re supposed to deplore. But this has put the two sides at a disadvantage: one side feels free to break or not enforce laws until it gets its way; while the other side feels duty-bound to obey what may offend it. But both sides also accept the double standard as defining their customary behavior. If the Left breaks laws in the name of equality or social justice, then that’s just the way things are.

The second reason that the leftist practice of ignoring laws can gain ground is that the conservative opposition does not rage as often or as loudly as it should. This happens because the GOP may actually feel guilty that Democratic voters dislike them. Perhaps they’re not doing enough to reach out. I’ve certainly noticed that black columnist Tom Sowell and Star Parker are less insipid about discussing race issues than almost any white Republican columnist. Nor am I surprised that Mitt Romney’s former staff are running en masse to sign an amicus curiae brief addressed to the Supreme Court to declare gay marriage a nationally protected right. I would be far more surprised if I saw Obama’s staff entering the lists on the other side. Unless I’m mistaken, the organized Left has a deeper commitment to what it presents as its social and moral beliefs. I would except from this judgment at least part of the Religious Right, but I doubt this group has anything more than a slight dragging effect on GOP presidential platforms. This residual right-wing pressure is nothing like the guiding power that its diametric opposition can exert on the Democratic Party, and particularly on the present administration.

This is my parting shot: the Left has prevailed partly because it has acted boldly to dramatize its protest.  Being able to recall the student protests of the 1960s, as a graduate student and assistant professor, what struck me about these demonstrations was the difference between its participants and their critics. One side seemed serious about changing things; while the other (which included me) was annoyed by the Left’s disruptive tactics and offered factual rebuttals to the campus revolutionaries. Most of us had no fire in our bellies; and those who belonged to the conservative side wound up mildly protesting the law-evasions of those determined to carry out a legal revolution. There are historical rules bordering on inevitability about what happens to well-dressed, timid people who react with excessive restraint to their enemies’ plans.

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  • Chezwick

    Even European Leftists monitoring our last election were shocked to learn that some states don't require IDs for voting.

  • Ben Cohen

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

    If you think the system is fundamentally bad then you have no reason to uphold it, except when it benefits your side.

  • Len_Powder

    "It seems that the attorney general will not enforce the law because it apparently goes against her conscience. She also claims that it violates the state constitution, which forbids racial discrimination in voting procedures."

    Comment: How is requesting ID of EVERYONE racial discrimination? It's not and the AG knows that very well, unless she's completely stupid.The reason she opposes the law is that dead people cannot produce voter IDs. However, live voters can, without IDs, cast votes on behalf of the deceased for Democrats since all dead people support (according to Democrats that is) Democrats.

  • Len_Powder

    All states with voter ID laws voted for Romney in 2012. Is there a better reason for Dems to oppose voter ID laws, especially in blue states?

  • rhonda

    Give me ONE good LEGAL reason why ANYONE cannot vote with a photo ID. Come one, bring it ON! First of all anyone needs an ID to buy alcohol, use an emergency room, go to the doctor to use your health insurance, or even more importantly, your MEDICARE or MECIDADE! Trust me, everyone has to have an ID!!! Think about it…so what is your stupid freaking lame excuse as to why anyone on the planet should not have a photo ID?????

  • Kathy

    Well said, Mr. Gottfried…..my thoughts exactly!!! Too many Conservatives don't want to get their hands dirty, or ruffel anyones feathers. No matter what we believe, we must always be "nice"! The left is all about getting "down and dirty"!! Until we get over our adversity to involve ourselves in a real fight, we will always loose to the left, because they are not afraid to use bully tactics.