President Obama twice won the White House by bringing young people and minorities, his biggest supporters, into the political process and into the voting booth. Republicans are now pushing back to increase their electoral chances in 2016. And they are winning.
Even most black Americans — people who, overwhelmingly, don't vote Republican — currently favor new requirements for voters to have photo identification. Three-quarters of all voters — people of all races and political parties — favor such laws, according to polls. The black support for photo identification of voters can only be described as amazing.
The current state of public opinion is doubly incredible because there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere in the nation.
Jill Lawrence recently wrote in U.S. News & World Report that "a recent study of more than 1 billion ballots cast from 2000 to 2014 found 31 credible instances of voter impersonation — 31 out of over 1 billion."
The Washington Post's Wonkblog last year similarly concluded: "There is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare and in fact nonexistent at the levels imagined by voter-ID proponents."
Nevertheless, public opinion on this issue is with Republican governors and state legislatures and has given them a license to rope off the playing field for the upcoming elections. Their goal is to enhance the value of the declining pool of older, suburban, white, and more affluent Republican voters — people with a long history of regular voting — while depressing the odds that young people, recent immigrants, minorities, and the poor will get into a voting booth.
Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are struggling to remind voters of the ugly ghosts of political disenfranchisement. "What is happening is a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise people of color, poor people, and young people from one end of our country to the other," Clinton said recently.
Studies show that blacks, Hispanics, the young, and the elderly are the people least likely to have photo identification and most likely to be turned away at the polls. So how can it be that 71 percent of African Americans in a new Rasmussen poll say they favor the use of photo identification for voters?
Three years ago, a Washington Post poll produced a very similar result: 65 percent of black voters said they agreed that all voters should be "required to show official, government-issued photo identification."
In the Post poll, 63 percent of black voters said "voter suppression" during a presidential race is a "major problem." In fact, 41 percent of all adults said they are concerned with qualified voters being denied their right.
From a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice: "Since the 2010 election, 21 states have new laws making it harder to vote — ranging from photo-ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to registration restrictions — and 14 states will have them in place for the first time in a presidential election in 2016."
Clinton cited efforts to limit voter turnout in five major states: Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Texas, and New Jersey and called out several top Republicans for engaging in "fearmongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud."
Clinton named Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for limiting early voting; New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for vetoing a law to extend early voting; and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush for allowing a preelection purge of voting rolls.
Clinton asked: "What part of democracy are they afraid of?"
Fact-checking website PolitiFact reviewed Clinton's allegations against the Republican governors and concluded her charges were "largely accurate."
But even with the facts against them, the Republicans shot back at Clinton.
"My sense is that she just wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country," Christie said. Walker said, "Once again, Hillary Clinton's extreme views are far outside the mainstream."
Fifty years ago this summer, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The Republican majority on the Supreme Court struck down the heart of the law in 2013. The GOP majority in Congress has done nothing to restore it.
"It is wrong, deadly wrong, to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country," the president said in 1965. In this bitterly political era, where facts don't matter, Johnson might lose that argument.
Juan Williams is a Fox News political analyst and a former senior national correspondent for National Public Radio.