Trump is using the Comey firestorm as a smoke screen for a potentially more dangerous move: appointing Kris Kobach vice chair of a new “election integrity” commission, with Vice President Mike Pence as chair. Kobach will make it a voter-suppression/vote rigging commission, fomenting anti-immigrant and racist fears. That’s his expertise and his life’s work. One of my biggest fears has been Sessions, Bannon, and Kobach working together to rig the 2018 and 2020 elections. Frankly, this is a bigger problem than the Russian investigation. Democrats must boycott this commission and mobilize against Kobach’s role immediately.
I first witnessed Kris Kobach’s anti-immigrant project in the 1990s, when I was a Yale undergrad and Kobach was a Yale Law student. Yale groups organized a debate over California’s Prop 187, also called “Save Our State,” a referendum to block undocumented immigrants from access to state services. The debate paired “for” and “against” from the undergrads, the law school, and the faculty. My friend Cristina Rodriguez represented Yale undergrads on the “against” side. Kris Kobach represented Yale Law’s “for” side. How is it possible that I remember this event 23 years ago so clearly? Because I remember vividly how extreme Kris Kobach was. While the other pro-187 debaters were careful to distinguish between the “legal” and “illegal” process, Kobach struck me even then as far more xenophobic than other Yale conservatives. At the event, I heard that he was brilliant, a star conservative law student. As a debater, I knew that he was making terrible strategic moves by using xenophobic rhetoric before that Yale audience, and that bad strategy struck me as a sign that he was deeply committed to xenophobia as a 25 year old. His image at that moment is seared into my memory, because I remember thinking, “This dude is really smart and really scary. Remember his name, because he’ll be back with a vengeance.”
He is indeed back with a vengeance. I recognized his name immediately when he popped up in the Bush White House after 9/11 working on national security/immigrant restriction projects under Attorney General John Ashcroft. He then became an alt-right hero in his anti-immigration work for “self-deportation” and anti-“voter fraud” projects (i.e., voter suppression). Just minutes after I tweeted out this story, an anti-Semite/white nationalist Twitter troll replied right on schedule “Kobach for FBI director!” The alt-right has been pushing for Kobach for years, because they know he is a true believer in white nationalism.
If you want to read more about Kobach’s dangerous history, the Southern Poverty Law Center has a profile here, titled “Lawyer for America’s Nativist Movement.” Kobach proposed the “self-deportation” measure in the 2012 GOP platform, and said, “If you really want to create a job tomorrow, you can remove an illegal alien today.”
Building on an anti-immigrant agenda, Kobach has shifted to voter fraud propaganda and voter suppression. He is the architect and promoter of Crosscheck, ostensibly a program to check voter rolls, but in practice, a coordinated campaign to purge voter rolls and engage in “vote caging” and voter suppression. Shockingly, it had a disproportionate impact in purging minority voters from the rolls. You can read the Washington Post’s profile here. Mother Jones’s profile is here. He has made a career out of false claims about voter fraud (here, here, here, here and here). In January, he met with Trump, and photographers were able to blow up a photo to read the blueprint for deportation and voter suppression in the new administration. His agenda called for expanding the NSEER program, which some reports suggested at that time could be the basis for a Muslim ban or a Muslim registry.
He didn’t get the job he was interviewing for (Department of Homeland Security), but if he gets this new Vice Chair job, he’ll be able to focus even more intently on vote rigging. And you can bet that Pence and Kobach will try to get jurisdiction over the Russian hacking scandal to put their own spin, disinformation, and fake news out in the media.
Look, the Comey firing is a big deal. But no matter what happens in the Russia investigation, the only hope for stopping Trump and Pence is winning the House, winning the Senate, and then winning the 2020 presidential election. Kobach’s job is to rig the system to make that more difficult. Democrats have to stop this commission before it gets off the ground. Democrats must boycott anything Kobach is a part of.