Obama’s Version Of Vote Suppression, Ctd

Ed Kilgore objects to Thomas Edsall lumping "negative ads together with voter disenfrancisement under the rubric of 'vote suppression'":

Even if you buy Edsall's assumption that the Obama campaign's anti-Romney ads are designed to convince non-college educated white voters who won't support the incumbent to give Romney a pass as well, it is fundamentally wrong to treat such efforts as equivalent to utilizing the power of government to bar voters from the polls altogether.

A few readers elaborate:

I’m a huge fan – fellow middle-aged southern Englishman and former Thatcherite who now supports Obama, lawyer living in DC.  But gimme a break. "Vote suppression"?? Words matter. Making it harder for people to vote is vote suppression.  Persuading people not to vote for your opponent (whether they then vote for you, or for someone else, or not at all) is not vote suppression. 

Persuasion, including negative and positive ads, is how democracy should work. Onerous obstacles to voting are its antithesis.  "None of the above" is a democratic option; "they won’t let me in" to the polling booth is not. (A common sense comparison: in antitrust law, raising rivals' costs by disrupting their supply or distribution lines is anticompetitive; arguing in advertising that their product's no better than yours is always lawful competition.)

This silly NYT column deserves Sully treatment, but not the credence your post gave it.  One of the great things you do is highlight obnoxious media tendencies with awards.  How about giving this a new "False Equivalence" award?


Voter suppression means to restrict the ability of legal voters from exercising their franchise. This can by be taxing them, requiring ridiculous literacy tests, implementing barriers to registration, requiring ID at the polls, not providing enough polling places, or even supplying the electorate with disinformation about the vote (ie "Don't forget to vote on Wednesday," or "if you were ever arrested, trying to vote is a crime" flyers).

"Mitt Romney is a bad guy who will hurt America" is not voter suppression, it is politics. Even "Mitt Romney wants to deport your grandmother," isn't voter suppression any more than "Barack Obama has raised your taxes and will do it again while taking your guns," is. Discouraging individuals from voting for your opponent is half of politics. Calling politics "voter suppression" makes it difficult to focus on the very real issues of voter suppression.