Fox Business Network correspondent Edward Lawrence suggested to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki that the White House has mischaracterized the recently passed Georgia bill SB 202. He lamented that “community organizers have threatened boycotts on big companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot.” He wrung his hands over the notion that the White House has it all wrong. That not only is voting in Georgia not shrinking it can actually expand, because the bill “adds Saturdays and Sundays voting and also allows extended hours from 7am to 7pm.”
In other words, poor little innocent Georgia Bill SB 202 and Georgia’s long suffering governor Brian Kemp are victims of “cancel culture” and twisted words, that it really is a good guy voting bill. Lawrence demands to know from Psaki, in light of this new clarification, “is the tone going to change out of the White House?”
The short answer is no. The longer answer, as Ms. Psaki explained, is that the voting bill only appears to expand voting, but it standardized voting hours from 9am to 5pm in all counties. While this technically means that a small minority of counties will experience some expansion of voting hours because their voting times are sometimes even shorter than 9 to 5, it will still make it potentially impossible for working people to vote. Just because the bill allows counties to expand voting to Saturdays and Sundays and from 7am to 7pm doesn’t mean they will. And with Republicans in charge, it almost certainly means they won’t. That’s the “sly” part of the bill, and that’s the technicality that Lawrence is exploiting and hoping we won’t notice.
Then there are the other things. As Psaki carefully explains, “No, our tone is not changing. We have concerns about the specific components of the package including the fact that it makes it harder and more difficult for people to vote by limiting absentee options, by making it not possible for people to provide water to people who are in line, by not standardizing longer hours, so if you’re making it harder to vote, no we don’t support that.”
What’s remarkable about this exchange is, unlike certain past press secretaries that we are delighted to forget about, Psaki patiently listens to Lawrence, lets him finish his sly and specious attempt to make a very minor point that spectacularly fails to overthrow the larger point to the bill, and sets him straight. SB 202 is about voter suppression of people of color. Period. It’s a Jim Crow bill. Shame on Lawrence for trying to obscure that inescapable fact, and all praise to Ms. Psaki for her patient and intelligent rebuttal.
There is more to the bill that is equally sinister and frequently gets overlooked. The bill creates a fraud hotline so people can issue anonymous tips if they suspect voter fraud. Imagine it yourself. Being black in Georgia and you’re voting. And anyone can call the cops on you anonymously because they’re suspicious of you. Sounds like a recipe for murder by cop to me. I can’t help but wonder if voting while black isn’t exactly the “crime” that the framers of SB 202 had in mind. At this point I wouldn’t put anything past Republicans.
It turns out Republicans aren’t putting anything past us, either. Democrats in Georgia are aware of what’s going on, and this blatant attempt to deny them their voting rights is just going to make them all the more determined to vote anyway. In their hamfisted attempt to seize power in Georgia, Republicans may have actually lost power for a long time to come. One big advantage we have on our side is when it comes right down to it, Republicans just aren’t very smart. They don’t understand how to do anything without looking evil. And evil is exactly what they are. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.