NBC's Mitchell: Is GOP Doing Democrats 'A Favor' by Pushing 'Voter Suppression'?

On her 1 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show on Monday, host Andrea Mitchell touted Attorney General Eric Holder "speaking about the national battle for voting rights" in the wake of new state voter I.D. laws and lead off a panel discussion on the topic by wondering: "How will the President take on those voter suppression laws?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Mitchell eagerly seized on former Secretary of State Colin Powell "speaking on the political effects of these voter suppression attempts by the Republican Party." Following the Face the Nation sound bite in which Powell slammed the GOP for passing measures to curb voter fraud, Mitchell posed this question: "Does the White House think that the Republicans are actually doing the Democratic Party a favor by taking on, you know, these issues and passing the laws that they've now passed in Texas and in North Carolina?"

New York Times White House reporter Jackie Calmes agreed: "Well, I would think that they're doing a favor for Democrats in general in that it does nothing for this re-branding of the Republican Party that the party itself said it was undertaking after the results of the 2012 election."

However, Calmes also fretted over the short-term impact on electoral outcomes: "...the actions that are being taken in the states are going to have the real impact, by most measures, of reducing turnout or voting among the people more likely to vote for Democrats....So, you know, the practical effect is worrisome, regardless of whether you think Republicans are, you know, shooting themselves in the foot."

A study by the National Center for Public Policy Research detailed a series of voter fraud cases in which the poor, minorities, and senior citizens were most vulnerable to having their votes cancelled out due to fraud.


Here is a full transcript of the August 26 exchange:

1:19PM ET

ERIC HOLDER: That the struggle must and will go on in the cause of our nation's quest for justice. Until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote unencumbered by discriminatory or unneeded procedures, rules, or practices.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Attorney General Eric Holder, one of many speakers at Saturday's commemorative march, speaking about the national battle for voting rights. Holder spoke at the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington just days after the Justice Department filed a suit against the state of Texas over a new voter I.D. law. As President Obama prepares to address the nation Wednesday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the actual anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's historic speech. So how will the President take on those voter suppression laws?

Joining me for our Daily Fix, Chris Cizilla, MSNBC contributor, co-host of PostTV's In Play, Washington Post editorial columnist Ruth Marcus and New York Times White House reporter Jackie Calmes. Welcome all.

First to you, Chris Cizilla. This is a very big week, obviously, for all of us, those of us who remember the march, those of us, those people who were not even born, and those people who were the real heros of the march. But what will President Obama do? He has had differing approaches towards this issue, but with the Trayvon Martin comments we've seen how he's willing to, you know, grasp it and break new ground.

CHRIS CILLIZZA: Yeah. You know, Andrea, I thought the Trayvon Martin speech, somewhat impromptu remarks that the President gave, if I had to pick out sort of the most memorable moments of this first eight months or so, almost nine months now, of politics in America, that would be at or near the top of the list. Spoke very openly about his own struggles as an African American man in society, and did so in a way that he had never really, in truth, done, even up to and including the speech he gave during the 2008 campaign when he was trying to distance himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

What I wonder is, will we see sort of another step in that progression as Barack Obama looks to make a piece of his legacy race relations in this country. Does he give that sort of personal speech? Is it more sort of lofty. Look, this is someone that we know, whether you agree with him or you disagree with him, as someone who has a knack for giving big speeches. So I do think it's interesting to look at this moment and where he goes as it relates to what he wants his legacy on this issue to look like.

MITCHELL: And remember, he chose the Lincoln Memorial as the setting for a major speech at his first inaugural – before his first inaugural.

This was Colin Powell speaking on the political effects of these voter suppression attempts by the Republican Party on Face the Nation.

COLIN POWELL: Here's what I say to my Republican friends. The country is becoming more diverse. Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and African Americans are going to constitute a majority of the population in another generation. You say you want to reach out, you say you want to have a new message, you say you want to see if you can bring some of these voters to the Republican side. This is not the way to do it. The way to do it is to make it easier for them to vote and then give them something to vote for that they can believe in.

MITCHELL: Jackie, does the White House think that the Republicans are actually doing the Democratic Party a favor by taking on, you know, these issues and passing the laws that they've now passed in Texas and in North Carolina?

JACKIE CALMES: Well, I would think that they're doing a favor for Democrats in general in that it does nothing for this re-branding of the Republican Party that the party itself said it was undertaking after the results of the 2012 election.

At the same time, you know, the actions that are being taken in the states are going to have the real impact, by most measures, of reducing turnout or voting among the people more likely to vote for Democrats, which is, you know, a big reason why Republicans in the legislatures and the governor's mansions pursued those. So, you know, the practical effect is worrisome, regardless of whether you think Republicans are, you know, shooting themselves in the foot.

MITCHELL: Long-term in terms of national elections, but certainly in terms of, you're right, the state and local elections, they are gaining more and more leverage through these efforts.

CALMES: Right.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC