MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Wonders ‘Are North Carolina’s Voter ID Laws The New Jim Crow?’

It seems as though MSNBC is back on its anti-voter ID drumbeat as a legal challenge to North Carolina’s new voting laws goes before a judge this week. 

On Monday, July 7, MSNBC host Alex Wagner expressed her outrage over the new law on her Now w/ Alex Wagner program. The MSNBC host played up how some liberal opponents consider North Carolina’s voter id laws to be “the new Jim Crow.” [See video below.]

Wagner brought on Al Sharpton, liberal activist turned MSNBC host, to join the anti-voter ID narrative. The interview began with Ms. Wagner declaring that “there are voter suppression efforts across the country...but this one really feels like a different kind of momentum.”

Sharpton immediately took his MSNBC colleague’s bait and insisted “North Carolina has been particularly egregious in the laws that it set up that led to in my judgment the suppression of the vote.” As the segment continued, Wagner played up comments made by William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, comparing North Carolina’s new voting laws to Jim Crow:

What is especially powerful in terms of that comparison to Jim Crow is the increasingly broad coalition I think we're seeing. The entrance of students into this debate. Civil rights groups. I mean this is becoming -- there was a lot of talk, I mean, Republicans kept saying this is about voter fraud. This is very clearly a civil rights issue.

While Wagner and Sharpton were worrying that Jim Crow laws were on the march in North Carolina, neither bothered to mention that North Carolina provides free voter ID cards to every North Carolina resident that does not have a drivers license. Instead of mentioning this crucial fact, the two MSNBC hosts continued to hyperventilate with Wagner using the laws to encourage her audience to vote for Democrats in the November elections: 

It also gives a preponderance of evidence as to why one should maybe vote Democrat in the election, right? There is a whole line of thinking that, you know, as these issues come to the fore and Republicans are forced to say where they stand on issues like contraception or voting rights, it is very, very bad for the Republican Party and very clearly shows a difference between the two parties. 

As the segment concluded, Wagner insisted that voter ID laws signal that Republican are “really on the wrong side of history here” without offering any balance as she attacked the Tar Heel state. Reverend Sharpton was conveniently given the final word and used the opportunity to once again overreact to voter ID laws and compared them to Jim Crow laws:

You know, you said Jim Crow. I say it's James Crow Jr., Esquire. It's a modern version of what Jim Crow did. They're trying to, in many ways, sanitize it and make it look better. But I don't care how you try and polish it up, it is the same voter suppression scheme and it must be resisted. 

See relevant transcript below.


MSNBC

Now with Alex Wagner

July 7, 2014 

ALEX WAGNER: Just ahead, are North Carolina’s voter id laws the new Jim Crow? Some North Carolinians think so. Reverend Al Sharpton joins me to talk about the future of voter suppression. That's coming up next.

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WAGNER: Joining me now is the host of MSNBC's "Politics Nation" and president of the National Action Network the Reverend Al Sharpton. Reverend Al, it is always good to see you. Especially on such an important day. I guess I -- just to start with North Carolina, what do you think makes this hearing different? I feel like there are voter suppression efforts across the country, judges have taken up the issue, but this one really feels like it has a different kind of momentum. Would you agree with that? 

AL SHARPTON: I think it has a different kind of momentum because North Carolina has been particularly egregious in the laws that it set up that led to in my judgment the suppression of the vote. I mean, almost from the beginning I've been involved with others in the civil rights community, talking about the impact of these laws being changed and we had to in 2012 get people to come out and vote and stand in huge lines to show we would overcome where the impediments are. North Carolina, by far, had some of the most egregious laws put in place. So I think that those of us that encourage the Justice Department and others to come in, are certainly watching this because if you can get some kind of judicial relief in North Carolina, it would stand to reason that it would be easier in other parts of the country. 

WAGNER: Yeah. Rev, William Barber, the president of the North Carolina NAACP said yesterday “this is the worst voter suppression law we have seen since the days of Jim Crow. It is a full on assault on the voting rights of minorities.” What is especially powerful in terms of that comparison to Jim Crow is the increasingly broad coalition I think we're seeing. The entrance of students into this debate. Civil rights groups. I mean this is becoming -- there was a lot of talk, I mean, Republicans kept saying this is about voter fraud. This is very clearly a civil rights issue and as- go ahead. 

SHARPTON: It is definitely a civil rights issue, and three or four years ago, when we started talking about that, the National Action Network, NAACP, ACLU, people said that it was just something that was normal about being able to identify voters. But let's be real clear, Alex, we always had the ability to identify voters. We always use ID. Why do we need a special government id now? And as you see the students come in, New York Times did a front page story over it, they're raising an element that’s even beyond some of what we raised about race and  about seniors, they're saying as young people, they're being discriminated against.

We're dealing with in North Carolina the ability of 16 and 17-year-olds preparing to vote, dealing with the fact that a lot of young people don't buy cars. They have no reason to have a driver's license. Or many have an out of state driver's license, which in North Carolina is not allowable. Or many go to state universities and even with their state college card can't vote. So to have the element of the young or the age debate, to have the race debate, and to have other debates, only in my judgment gives a -- what they would call preponderance of the evidence to the court on why this ought to be stopped until it's argued next year.

WAGNER: It also gives a preponderance of evidence as to why one should maybe vote Democrat in the election, right? There is a whole line of thinking that, you know, as these issues come to the fore and Republicans are forced to say where they stand on issues like contraception or voting rights, it is very, very bad for the Republican Party and very clearly shows a difference between the two parties. I mean, you talk about young people. This is a whole generation of young people who are effectively being denied the right to preregister to vote by the Republican Party. 

SHARPTON: And let us remember that in North Carolina, the demographic that the president won, President Obama won, was the college aged demographic. It might have something to do with why Republicans are targeting and stopping that age group from voting. 

WAGNER: You know, Rev, just before we let you go, because you are a busy man, I wonder if behind closed doors, in the many conversations you've had around this issue, whether you get a sense from moderate Republicans, perhaps, that they are really on the wrong side of history here. I mean when you look at the facts, one sense is that there must be some moral compass that is spinning in certain corners of the Republican Party because they know what they are doing is underhanded and wrong? 

SHARPTON: I get a sense, I can't say any of them have verbalized it, but I get a sense that they know it's wrong and they know it is not even politically wise because, as we saw in some states, what happened with Bishop Curry and operation eliminate in Florida, they're actually energizing a vote to come out. 

WAGNER: Yeah.

SHARPTON: They are actually, in many ways, giving people that may have -- not had the energy and not have the passion to vote, a reason to say, I'm not going to let them do this to me. You know, you said Jim Crow. I say it's James Crow Jr., Esquire. It's a modern version of what Jim Crow did. They're trying to, in many ways, sanitize it and make it look better. But I don't care how you try and polish it up, it is the same voter suppression scheme and it must be resisted. 

WAGNER: Nothing rocks the vote like trying to block the vote. Reverend Al Sharpton, thank you, as always, for your time and thoughts. It's great to see you. 

SHARPTON: Good to see you.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.