In a recent column, conservative commentator Cal Thomas warned President Joe Biden and Democrats about getting too uppity in the debate over voting rights. After all, he wrote, those Jim Crow-era Southern governors, election officials and county sheriffs who denied Black Americans their right to vote were Democrats.

That is a fact, but, in this context, it is seriously misleading.

America’s two political parties have gone through a profound metamorphosis in the last half century. The Democratic Party, which was once an uneasy coalition of Northern liberals and Southern conservatives, is now a more cohesive collection of moderates, liberals and democratic socialists. Very few of them find electoral success in the South. The Republican Party, on the other hand – the so-called party of Lincoln that once included a strong contingent of moderates from the Northwest and Northeast – is now militantly conservative and dominated by politicians from the old Confederacy.

It would be more to the point to say that conservatives in the Democratic Party fought against expanding voting rights in the 1960s, and it is Republican conservatives who are currently passing laws in several GOP-dominated states that would make it harder for non-white citizens to exercise their right to vote.

If it were only Republicans in the South who were up to these old tricks, we could simply pin the blame on regional peculiarities, but the same impulse to curtail voting rights is in evidence among Republicans all over the country, including here in Washington. 

The King County Republican Party is making a push to get rid of voting by mail in this state, claiming that it is leading to fraud, corruption and the triumph of leftist politics. There is, of course, not a smidgen of evidence to support this claim, but Washington Republicans, like their compatriots around the country, have seized on Donald Trump’s Big Lie about stolen elections, and they are running with it.

It’s a sad day for the party of Lincoln – and Dan Evans, John Spellman, Joel Pritchard and Slade Gorton.

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