Was Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton's call this week for radically more convenient voting self-serving? Yes, in two ways.
If Clinton's proposals for expanded early voting, automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds and a return to preclearance were adopted, she and other Democrats likely would be the beneficiaries. But so what? If you believe that it should be easier to vote, the fact that Democrats would benefit is irrelevant. The challenge for Republicans is to try harder to court the young and minority voters who are disproportionately discouraged from voting by current election laws.
Clinton's speech was self-serving in another, subtler way. By accusing Republicans of "systematically and deliberately trying to stop millions of American citizens from voting," Clinton arguably guaranteed that Republicans would react in an equally partisan way -- as they promptly did.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie suggested that Clinton "wants an opportunity to commit greater acts of voter fraud around the country." Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested that, in criticizing his state's requirement that voters show photo IDs, Clinton "dissed every person who supports having an identification to either get on an airplane or vote."
Portraying access to the ballot box as a partisan issue arguably undermines the effort to win bipartisan support for the measures Clinton proposed. It also could lead some independent voters to shrug cynically over what seems to be a battle between vested interests, not a matter of principle.
But enactment of the reforms Clinton endorsed is unlikely in the near future, either in the Republican-controlled Congress or in states where the GOP holds sway. By picking a fight with Republicans, Clinton probably galvanized Democratic voters, including the "people of color, poor people and young people" she accused the Republicans of disenfranchising. Changes in the law can come later.