During his Friday night speech to the “Concerned Women for America” – which sounds like some not particularly clever liberal’s joke about what a right wing moms’ group would be named, except they actually really called it that – disgraced former President Trump made a number of bizarre and false claims to the audience, like saying the military wanted electric tanks and that Ron DeSantis was copying his method of flinging free hats to campaign crowds. The kind of shit that should give pause to the mainstream media’s increasingly insufferable overemphasis of Joe Biden’s age, but won’t.
It’s hard to single out a moment from this speech – and one right after it to the “Pray Vote Stand Summit” in which Trump said illegal immigrants were wearing his mugshot t-shirt and that if reelected he would appoint a special commission to review clemency claims for Capitol rioters, which should be pretty disappointing to the insurrectionists who previously were made to understand it would be a near-universal blanket pardon. However the one lowlight that sticks out just slightly more than the others is Trump replaying the famous “You need to show ID to buy [something you don’t actually need to show ID to buy]” line, this time specifying a “loaf of bread,” to complain about how most Blue States do not have photo ID requirements for in-person voting.
It’s at least the fifth time he’s made this claim over the years, starting in 2018 when it was just “groceries,” something then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was able to claim to reporters that Trump actually meant “everybody in here who’s been to a grocery store that’s purchased beer or wine has probably had to show their ID.” Luckily for Sarah nobody appears to have asked why three months later Trump told the Daily Caller “you buy a box of cereal – you have a voter ID.” Then again at an October 2019 rally it was “groceries” as it was during his RNC primary debate “counter-programming” interview with Tucker Carlson. “To get in to vote, if you buy groceries, if you buy practically anything now, you have ID on a card, credit cards or otherwise,” the “demonic force” told Tucker, who of course did not ask Trump what the hell he was talking about.
It all raises the important questions that Republicans will never ask of themselves: What the fuck does this nonsense do to help with their “election integrity” crusade? Seriously. You could look for a counter-example in the way conservatives back in 2019 mocked Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez as being overly dramatic and hyperbolic for saying “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” in an interview with writer Ta-Nahesi Coates, thinking not entirely incorrectly that such sensationalistic claims would undermine the fight to reduce carbon emissions.
But we need not go outside “election integrity” or even “voter ID” issues to find a Dem argument other side says is overrated: The claim that requiring a photo ID to vote is racist because poorer (and thus more likely to be a racial/ethnic minority) Americans may not have a driver’s license or other government-issued document. It is, admittedly, hard to imagine that any significant number of Americans living effectively off-grid without any form of government issued ID or even a driver’s license for their whole lives would suddenly decide on a whim they were going to participate in the democratic process on election day, take the bus to the polling precinct, only to get turned away without being offered a provisional ballot. Lame as it is to cede ground to the MAGA assholes on anything, the reality is that the Venn diagram of people who can’t be bothered to go to the DMV and people who can’t be bothered to show up to vote is probably pretty close to a complete circle.
It’s easier to picture far more Americans who simply forgot their wallets when they drove themselves to go vote (in states where no provisional ballots are offered at the polls) were disenfranchised than the off-grid folks above, but that’s less wieldy of an argument than simply calling ID requirements “racist” over some very marginal circumstances. As is trying to explain how the whole regime of Red State voter suppression works in all sorts of different and insidious ways to reduce turnout among Democratic constituencies. Even if the intent and effect is very simple to understand, it takes more words to lay out how Texas allows gun owner permits as a valid form of identification but not student IDs from public universities than it does to simply slap “racism” onto the issue.
(This is not to say “election integrity” policies aren’t very often pretty blatantly racist, like the Georgia Republicans’ attempted 2021 ban on early Sunday voting to prevent the “Souls to the Polls” tradition of Black church congregations of heading out together to cast ballots after services).
Narrow and simplistic as saying “voter ID requirements are racist” is, it still doesn’t hold a candle to saying that people need to show ID to buy fucking bread and cereal. Not even the most dull and obtuse of Trump fans hear that and say “My God, he’s right. I get carded for Lucky Charms all the time. We need national voter ID now!” If they even acknowledge that he said it at all it’s just “Well President Trump is exaggerating to speak to a larger truth about the need for election integrity” and other such self-debasing excuses we’ve come to know and hate from the MAGA worms.
What kind of independent, even some “well both sides are terrible” asshole, is supposed to take “election integrity” crusades seriously when the biggest, fattest, orange-est proponent of them all is himself plainly not taking it seriously? You might be tempted to say these things don’t matter, that it’s just another line of stupid bullshit Trump says that gets ignored by the larger media amid him polling “neck-and-neck” with Biden and you might be right. But every now and then the nonsense he says percolates down to and piles up among the voters who do matter, the voters he tried to disenfranchise in 2020 with his coup attempt. This doesn’t really help win them over.
Especially when you contrast it with Democrats’ actual position on voter ID requirements: They were willing to let it go and institute a nationwide voter ID regime in exchange for other reforms to elections. Republicans said no, which should tell you almost as much about how actually seriously they take it does the fat rapist who says you need to show ID buy fucking cereal and bread.