Last week, much of official Washington rejoiced after President Trump made a deal with senior congressional Democrats to forestall a government shutdown, provide aid to hurricane victims, and raise the debt ceiling until December. The deal, some observers claimed, marked Trump’s long-awaited pivot to conventional Presidential leadership and a bipartisan style of governing. Some praised this maneuver as statesmanlike, while others denounced it as a betrayal of the President’s fellow-Republicans, but there was something close to consensus that Trump had jettisoned the hard-right politics expressed at the beginning of his term in office and begun a new and different chapter. This is, to put it charitably, nonsense. Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer, the top Democrats in Congress, understandably accepted a modest political gift from the President; Trump, by agreeing to just a three-month extension of the deadlines, gave the opposition party somewhat more leverage when the next negotiation takes place, before the end of the year. But, notwithstanding the developments of last week, which mostly amount to inside baseball, the course of the Trump Presidency is set, and conservatives are still very much in charge.
A vivid example of the right-wing hegemony in the Trump Administration will be on display today, when the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity convenes for the second time. It is difficult to imagine a more cynical enterprise than this commission, which Trump appointed after he claimed (falsely) that the casting of illegal votes last November accounted for his loss of the popular vote, which Hillary Clinton won by a margin of nearly three million. Trump named Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who has been the nation’s leading advocate for restrictions on voting rights, as the vice-chair of the commission. (Vice-President Mike Pence is the chair.) Kobach will preside at today’s meeting, which will convene in Manchester, New Hampshire. (To further confuse matters, the meeting will be hosted by New Hampshire’s longtime secretary of state, Bill Gardner, a Democrat who also sits on the commission but who has, in the past, been skeptical of voter-fraud charges.) The choice of this location is characteristic of the incompetence and malevolence that is at the heart of the vote-suppression agenda.
Hillary Clinton and Senator Maggie Hassan—who defeated the Republican incumbent, Kelly Ayotte—both won narrow victories in New Hampshire, in 2016. Kobach has claimed that those results are suspect because out-of-state voters may have cast ballots for the Democrats. Last Wednesday, the speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, Shawn Jasper, a Republican, released data showing that six thousand five hundred and forty people had registered to vote using out-of-state driver’s licenses. Using such licenses for voter registration is legal in the state, but it was pointed out that only a thousand and fourteen of these people later obtained a New Hampshire license. This, Kobach suggested in a column that he wrote last week for Breitbart, means that most of those voters never lived in New Hampshire at all.