We all know what happens when a tree falls in an empty forest. What happens when a democracy emerges unscathed from a purported vile racist threat to its very existence?
Pretty much the same thing, it turns out.
The surge in the early vote in Georgia shows that all the smears about the state’s new voting law, repeated by everyone from the president of the United States on down, were complete nonsense.
On the Republican side, according to the secretary of state’s office, there have been 453,929 early votes and 29,220 absentee votes this primary season (the absentee votes are still coming in as of this writing). This is compared with just 153,264 early votes and 14,795 absentee voters during the last, pre-pandemic midterm, in 2018.
The Democrats have seen a similar surge. In 2022, there have been 337,245 early votes and 31,704 absentee votes, compared with only 134,542 early votes and 13,051 absentee votes in 2018.
The early vote among minorities in particular is up markedly.
It never made sense that the Georgia law was going to stop anyone from voting.
A rule against third parties providing food and drink to voters standing in lines at the polls was merely meant to stop electioneering at polling places (and the law attempts to address long lines, typically a problem of large, Democratic-run jurisdictions). The law limited drop boxes, but they hadn’t existed prior to 2020. It moved from signature match on mail-in ballots to the more reliable driver’s license or state-ID number — not a sea change. And it expanded hours available for early voting.
Now that a tsunami of early voting has shown that, indeed, there’s no voter suppression in Georgia, the fact checkers aren’t swinging into action; the major newspapers aren’t preparing accounts of how Joe Biden was led down the path of promoting misinformation about our electoral system; the Sunday shows didn’t do long segments devoted to the theme of how democracy in Georgia, once claimed to be hanging by a thread, has remarkably revived.
There wasn’t a cottage industry, as the cliché has it, devoted to warning of the dire effects of the Georgia voting law; there was a veritable pollution-belching smokestack industry.
The widely quoted Brennan Center claimed that, as one headline had it, “Voter Suppression Efforts in Georgia Are Escalating,” and in another piece, titled simply, “Georgia’s Voter Suppression Law,” that “Gov. Brian Kemp signed a wide-ranging bill that targets black voters with uncanny accuracy.”
The progressive commentariat wrote as if the 1950s were upon us once again. Charles Blow of The New York Times wrote columns headlined “Voter Suppression Must Be the Central Issue” and “Voter Suppression Is Grand Larceny.”
Blow’s colleague Jamelle Bouie wrote a column asking of the Georgia law, “If It’s Not Jim Crow, What Is It?”
Newsrooms took up the same themes. A headline on a news story in The New York Times read, “Georgia GOP Passes Major Law to Limit Voting Amid Nationwide Push.” Another was, “Why the Georgia GOP’s Voting Rollbacks Will Hit Black People Hard.”
Of course, civil rights activists didn’t hold back. “Our democracy stands in its final hour,” NAACP president Derrick Johnson warned.
And then, in January, Biden came in with his disgraceful speech condemning the Georgia law.
“Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” he asked. “The side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? The side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
Well, it’s election season in Georgia and Bull Connor and Jeff Davis haven’t shown up.
Jamelle Bouie ended his Jim Crow column by saying, “Put a little differently, the thing about Jim Crow is that it wasn’t ‘Jim Crow’ until, one day, it was.”
In this case, it’s a different dynamic: The Georgia voting law was supposedly Jim Crow until it wasn’t — and then no one cared.
(Rich Lowry is on Twitter @RichLowry)
(c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate