Republicans must fight back.
Originally appeared in The American Conservative (March 15, 2023)
Earlier this month, President Biden marked the fifty-eighth anniversary of a key event in the civil rights movement with a cynical political gambit: government-run voter registration drives.
Civil rights advocates in 1965 courageously endured bloodshed at Selma, Alabama, because they were determined to make America live up to its high standards under the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Today’s leftists have warped that message to serve a selfish power grab—abolishing the Senate filibuster, codifying all-mail elections, and federalizing the state-run redistricting process.
That Biden would use federal agencies to cement Democratic power in contested states isn’t new—his administration is bursting with operatives drawn from the professional left—but it does mark a doubling-down on his unprecedented weaponization of public resources for partisan gain.
Put another way: Biden has transformed the federal government into the Democratic Party’s biggest get-out-the-vote machine. If Republicans fail to fight back, it’ll only get worse.
Uncle Sam Wants You to Vote
In 2021, Biden ordered agencies to begin registering people to vote in the course of normal business. That means receiving a registration form every time welfare recipients apply for Obamacare, the needy apply for rental assistance, college students apply for federal loans, pensioners file their tax returns, and felons serve their sentence.
The White House brags that the Justice Department aims to restore felon voting rights and help the incarcerated vote “while in federal custody.” The State Department wants more people voting by mail when traveling overseas. The Education Department is connecting “borrowers” (that’s student loan recipients) “to voter registration services” on its official loan website, which had 355 million visits in 2022 alone. Bureaucrats are pressuring universities to “make good-faith efforts to register students to vote,” or else risk losing access to student loans.
The agency responsible for naturalizing immigrants wants registering to vote to be the first thing new citizens do after swearing allegiance to the United States. The IRS, flush with 87,000 new agents, is bent on getting all 900,000 pension recipients on the rolls.
The Indian Health Services is prioritizing “access to voting in Indian Country” by siting voter registration services wherever Native Americans seek medical attention. And the Interior Department, arguably the largest landowner in America, is going further by “expand[ing] access to voter registration on public lands across the country.”
The Left treats this as a natural evolution of voting rights, pointing to statutes like the 1993 “Motor Voter” law requiring states to offer registration opportunities at their motor vehicle departments.
The truth is that voter data wins elections, and no one has better access to data on tens of millions of unregistered individuals than Uncle Sam. Democrats have for years sought to tap into this political goldmine, believing that high turnout is the secret to permanent control of Washington, D.C. The trick is getting disinterested, left-leaning individuals on the voter rolls.
The 2021 executive order on registration was no accident, but the product of a steady pressure campaign by Demos, the socialist Left’s favorite think tank.
Demos was created in 2000 by various Democratic operatives, union activists, and Clinton administration officials. At one point a young Sen. Barack Obama sat on the group’s board of directors, as currently does Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s extremist daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, and Obama “green czar” Van Jones.
Demos led campaigns against President Trump’s judicial nominees, trying to block the confirmations of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. In 2022, it flipped to demanding Democrats pack the courts with reliable “progressives” who will support every policy the party proposes, no matter how radical.
Now Demos claims credit for lobbying the Biden administration into federalizing voter registration, part of its larger “reform” plan that includes felon voting rights—ludicrously termed “prison-based gerrymandering”—all-mail elections, D.C. statehood, an end to the Electoral College, and automatic and Election Day registration policies (through a constitutional amendment, no less).
The goal isn’t to help just anyone vote, but “Black and brown” and “low-income Americans,” whom leftists believe will support Democratic candidates from now ‘til doomsday. The goal is to remake America’s electorate from top to bottom:
Integrating voter registration into routine transactions with federal agencies has the potential to add millions of eligible voters to the registration rolls—a vital step towards dismantling white supremacy in our democracy and building a more representative government [emphasis added].
Few conservatives appreciate the scale of the Left’s election machine. “Progressive” foundations have pumped some $461 million into professional registration groups over the past decade, which in turn use microtargeting techniques to find and reach the Democratic Party’s preferred constituencies. Much or most of this work is done through 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which are barred from intervening in elections or running biased registration drives, a prohibition they shamelessly ignore.
The Right has almost nothing to compare with this machine, which is why Democrats have made huge inroads into previously red states such as Arizona and Georgia. They won’t stop until every state follows the Colorado model: Red, to purple, to deep blue, courtesy of Activism, Inc.
So what can be done to stop this advance? The answer, while simple, is far from easy.
In warfare, a wise general will turn his enemy’s strength into a weakness. The very scope of its nonprofit network betrays the Democratic Party’s reliance upon tax-exempt groups as a pipeline to develop new voters. Banning or severely restricting nonprofit voter registration—both in Congress and by state legislatures—would turn that pipeline into useless scrap metal and restore a measure of state control over elections.
But what if conservatives could take advantage of the millions of newly registered voters, paid for by leftist foundations? Not long ago, Democratic strategists hailed Latinos as the linchpin to permanent majorities and set to adding them to the voter rolls in Texas, Arizona, and other states.
They may come to regret it. The 2022 midterms taught us that Latinos are moving to the right at an impressive clip, to the gnashing of leftist teeth. Clever conservatives will woo the votes of these now-politically active voters to seal big majorities, all without spending a dime on registering them.
Lastly, Republican politicians must toughen up and take back the narrative. Voting is inherently political—that’s the privilege of citizens in a free republic—and so are get-out-the-vote outfits. At its core, the Left’s election network is something the goons running Tammany Hall in New York would’ve recognized a century ago: a way to hoover up votes in big cities.
Like Boss Tweed, the agents behind these political machines talked loudly about helping people vote while cynically funneling only their preferred voters to the polls on Election Day. They fought every election integrity bill that threatened their control over recent immigrants and minorities, until courageous lawmakers got serious about cracking down on corruption. Now Tammany Hall is a tourist trap, nothing more.
If Republicans are truly for restoring America to its biblical and moral roots, they should prove it—or get out of the way for warriors who will. God willing, it won’t be long before this newest machine is just another relic of the past.