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Washington Post Has a Rare Moment of Intellectual Honesty

Democratic National Convention via AP

We all know what they say about broken clocks, right? It appears that the Washington Post has decided to dip its toe into actual journalism. The newspaper recently gave Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) four “Pinocchios” for flip-flopping on voter ID laws.

The article focuses on an interview the lawmaker gave to Fox News on July 13. During the conversation, host Neil Cavuto questioned Clyburn on his apparent change of heart on voter ID laws, which he has opposed in the past.

The author notes that the lawmaker “appeared irritated” by Cavuto’s line of questioning when he gave his answer:

CLYBURN: You know, Neil, I don’t know why people keep misrepresenting stuff. There’s not a single time that I have ever voted in my entire life — and I’m going to be 81 years old next week — there’s not a single time that I have voted that I did not ID myself.

What I spoke about was allowing an ID, a picture ID of a hunter’s license to be good, but of a student activity card to be no good. That’s the kind of voter ID law that I’m talking about that’s unfair. I have said that all of my life. I don’t know why you guys keep misrepresenting what I said.

I have never said that you should not have voter ID. When I got my voter registration cards, I keep them in my wallet. And when I go to vote, I presented that every time. And I said to them, I am Jim Clyburn, this is my ID, and I want to vote. I have always had voter ID. And that’s why the representative earlier who voted — no Democrat has never been against voter ID.

The article explains that the issue centers on the issue of being required to provide an ID with a photo and notes that “in South Carolina, one can obtain a voter registration card with a photo, free of charge, and use that to vote.” There are other forms of identification that one can use as well, due to a law that took effect in 2013. However, many voter registration cards do not contain photos, which seems to be the crux of the matter.

When he served as an appeals court judge, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh acknowledged that South Carolina had a voter ID law, but not one that required a photo. It is this type of identification to which Clyburn seemed to be referring; he never mentioned the fact that a photo is required under the 2013 law. To put it simply, Clyburn has been a vocal critic of laws requiring a form of identification that includes a photo, but not measures that would allow ID without a photo.

The author notes that Clyburn was a “strong opponent” of the 2013 law and compared it and similar laws passed in other states to poll taxes and literacy tests that were designed to prevent black Americans from voting during the Jim Crow era.

The Post also points out that the representative made the Jim Crow argument in 2019 when he posted a tweet of a video that said:

55 years ago, the 24th Amendment was ratified, eliminating poll taxes. Yet we are still seeing evidence of poll taxes today in the form of voter ID laws. In a democracy such as ours, we must not have any impediments to voting.

However, when he appeared on Fox, he attempted to dance around the issue and spin his prior criticisms of voter ID laws. He indicated that he was not in opposition to laws requiring photos, but that he was against the idea that some photo IDs were acceptable while others were not.

In the end, the author concluded that Clyburn “is trying to have his cake and eat it too” and that while he claimed to have never opposed voter ID laws, he “appears to be against many types of voter ID laws – ones that require photos, or a fee for a photo or which favor one voting group over another.”

The author then asserted that “you cannot claim one day that voter ID is a new kind of poll tax and then, on another day, say every Democrat is for voter ID.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. The author is spot on in his assessment. It appears that Clyburn is trying to appeal to both sides of the argument because it has been revealed that a majority of both Republican and Democratic voters favor voter ID laws – with photos. In fact, a Monmouth University poll conducted in June shows that an overwhelming 80 percent of Americans support requiring identification when voting.

This particular piece is a notable departure from the usual modus operandi we have seen from the Washington Post, which rarely shies away from an opportunity to paint conservatives as racists seeking to disenfranchise as many African American voters as possible. Perhaps they, too, are realizing this position isn’t as popular as they may have originally thought. Either way, an occasional moment of intellectual honesty is welcome.

WaPo still sucks, though.