A judicial election in Dallas County may heat up after video emerged of the Republican candidate in the race using a colorful analogy to explain the importance of limiting election day turnout by voters in Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D) congressional district.
“You might question, ‘why would you talk a Republican out of running against Eddie-Bernice Johnson?’,” Ron Natinsky (R) said in the video clip reported by the Dallas Morning News’ Trailblazer blog, explaining why he discouraged a fellow GOP politician in the area from mounting a challenge to Johnson in the 2014 midterms. “Well because we don’t want to motivate her voters. We don’t need another 5 or 10,000 of her people going to the polls. What we want them to think is, ‘There’s no reason. She doesn’t have an opponent. I don’t need to go to the polls.
“I’ll go spend my food stamp money at the grocery store or whatever, you know, on Election Day,” Natinsky concluded. The remarks are from a 2013 appearance at the Coppell Republican Club but had not been reported before this week. The club took the video of Natinsky’s appearance down shortly after the comments made the news, but the Trailblazer blog posted the relevant segment from it on their own site:
Inform Player SuiteEdit descriptionlaunch.newsinc.comNatinsky told a local CBS affiliate that he doesn’t regret saying what he did but that he’s “sorry that people are misinterpreting it because it is being taken somewhat out of context.”
The implication that Democrats in Johnson’s largely African-American district are likely to be food stamps recipients did not sit well with some Democrats in the area, the paper reports. But Natinsky’s comments reflect a view of Democratic voters and public assistance recipients that has been commonplace among GOP politicians in recent years.
Long before the 2012 election changed thanks to video of Mitt Romney telling a private donor gathering that 47 percent of the country would never be convinced to vote for Republicans because they are too dependent on government handouts, other prominent members of the party were openly dividing the electorate into righteous, conservative “makers” and ignoble, liberal “takers.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R), who was the most prominent Republican to use that rhetorical frame over the past several election cycles, has softened his manner of talking about the differences between rich and poor in his public rhetoric since he and Romney were defeated in 2012. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed explaining his shift in rhetoric, Ryan wrote that he stands by the underlying concept about how government aid alters people’s behavior but that calling such people “takers” is ineffective at changing minds.
Over 70 percent of Dallas County residents were eligible for the food stamps program in 2012, according to Feeding America, with 20 percent of the county’s households unable to consistently provide sufficient nutritious food throughout the year. The county is 22 percent black, 32 percent white, and 39 percent Hispanic, with a median household income significantly below both the state and national levels. At 19.6 percent, Dallas County’s poverty rate is a quarter higher than the national average, according to Census data.
More than four in ten food stamps users nationwide are white, compared to one in three who are black and one in five who are Hispanic.
Aside from the crack about food stamps, Natinsky’s point about voter turnout is consistent with what other state-level GOP officials have said in the past about various efforts to manipulate exactly who shows up to cast a ballot on election day. But where Natinsky was explaining the tactical rationale for a piece of political advice, local Republican operatives elsewhere have gone much farther.
In 2012, a Florida GOP official admitted that a slate of new election day laws was intended to suppress Democratic turnout. When Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State banned early voting systems over Democrats’ protests, the chair of the Franklin County GOP applauded the move because “we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accomodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.” Also in 2012, a Pennsylvania state lawmaker listed “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania” among the party’s accomplishments. Last year a county-level GOP official in North Carolina resigned after telling The Daily Show that if the state’s voter ID law “hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that wants the government to give them everything, so be it.”