Keli Goff: Rove says W had doubts about VRA

July 1, 2013 

During a Q&A at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Karl Rove, the most prominent Republican strategist in the country, admitted that the Grand Old Party will be unlikely to reclaim the White House if it does not find a way to expand support among minority voters. But he also applauded the Supreme Court's recent decision on voting rights in Shelby County v. Holder, which is expected to have a disproportionate impact on minority voter turnout in future elections.

Although President George W. Bush, whom Rove served as a senior adviser, signed the renewal of the Voting Rights Act into law in 2006 and is often commended by civil rights supporters for doing so, Rove admitted that the Bush White House was always skeptical of the need for such a renewal.

"Bush did sign the renewal of this specific provision because Congress passed it," Rove said, but "we were dubious about it." Rove's remarks were in response to a question about the possibility that the GOP could experience a backlash because of the Supreme Court's Shelby ruling, similar to the one the party experienced after its push for voter-ID laws before the last election. Rove said, "I don't think there will be a big backlash. The idea that there are 13 states of the old Confederacy that are somehow still bastions of racism is ridiculous in our age."

Rove's lack of concern regarding the potential fallout from Shelby stands in stark contrast to his earlier remarks regarding the Republican Party's need to diversify. When asked by the moderator whether or not, as some have suggested, the GOP should simply invest more in wooing older white voters -- increasingly the party's most loyal supporters -- to the polls, Rove said, "It's not sufficient to win." He went on to note that the share of the nonwhite votes in 1984 was 12 percent, while that number today stands at roughly 28 percent. Despite winning a majority of white males and married white women, GOP candidate Mitt Romney still lost.

The man once dubbed "Bush's Brain" for his role in helping George W. Bush win the presidency said that if this latest push for immigration reform fails, it will affect the future of the GOP. "It does matter," he said. "I don't know how much, but it does matter." Aside from the obvious political benefits of making the Republican Party more diverse, the party has "a moral responsibility to do better among nonwhite voters: African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans. And we can."

Yet the Shelby ruling will result in the enforcement of many policies that a number African American and Hispanic voters view as discriminatory, such as voter-ID laws that disproportionately affect the poor and voters of color. While I was taping an interview with the Daily Beast as election returns came in, one of my fellow guests said, "It appears the voter-ID laws didn't have the impact people anticipated." To which another replied, "No, they had an impact. It just wasn't one Republicans hoped for. More minorities turned out at the polls."

It remains to be seen if the Shelby decision will have the same impact in spurring minority voters to the polls in 2013 and beyond.

Keli Goff, special correspondent for The Root; www.theroot.com.

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