"Now many of our Christians have what I call the 'goo-goo syndrome.' Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." —Paul Weyrich, 1980
Short version of that video: Stop them from voting and we win. Not exactly an original thought.
In 1974, Paul Weyrich, who had the previous year co-founded the Heritage Foundation, founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress. Its key purpose was to undermine the impact of liberal and labor groups that Weyrich and his compatriots were keeping conservatives from dominating the national legislature.
One of his first targets was Pat Schroeder, the Coloradan whose campaign staff I had worked on in her first run for Congress in 1972. One of the tools he helped develop was the direct-mail campaign. And among his chief impacts has been making Republican senators more aggressive in fighting against liberal and so-called liberal nominees to the federal judiciary.
As Josh Glasstetter at Rightwatch writes, the influential Weyrich, who died in 2008, had had his fingers in a lot of pies. A “founding father of the conservative movement,” he was involved in the creation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Moral Majority, the Council for National Policy, the Krieble Institute, and others.
In 1984, he said: "We are different from previous generations of conservatives... We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country." Thus did the word "radical" get tainted by an extremist.
Key to the success of the extremist conservative movement is suppression of the vote alluded to by Weyrich that Republicans have worked so diligently to implement in myriad forms, finding new pathways when any particular measure is blocked.
Unlike the days of Jim Crow when a whole category of citizens was kept from voting by laws directly disenfranchising them, the more recent efforts have been adopted with a patina of fairness attached to them even though they are designed to keep people more likely to vote Democratic away from the polls. It's all about shaving a couple or three percentage points off the totals. That can be enough in a battleground state like Ohio, Florida or Wisconsin to change the outcome. That is what the fights over voter-roll purges, overly restrictive voter-IDs, provisional balloting and early voting have been about.
Paul Weyrich knew what he was saying three decades ago. Today, right this minute, Republican operatives who were just teenagers when he said it are carrying out his vision.