An “Oregon Trail”-style “Op-Doc” video game released by The New York Times just days before the 2016 election asks readers to “find out if your vote can survive the great, flawed adventure of American democracy.”
The premise: The race of the character you choose determines whether your vote survives “the GOP’s tactics.”
This biased game presents race and geography as the determining factors in one’s ability to vote, while disregarding the alarmism and stereotypes it perpetuates.
The game offers three characters: a white programmer from California, a Latina nurse from Texas, and a black salesman from Wisconsin.
The first choice leads through a sunny street in California, where you “stroll” to your polling place in pleasant weather. The game tells you that your frustration is nonexistent, and there is no line.
You enter the voting booth, cast your vote, and immediately see an image of the White House and an American flag. The screen reads, thick with sarcasm, “Congratulations! You have cast your vote. It has been a tough journey.”
In contrast, the Texan Latina nurse must take a bus across town to her polling place, which has a long line. The screen reads, “GOP tactics that cut back on polling places and workers are causing huge lines!”
While waiting, you’re told that your son has dysentery—yes, dysentery—and you’re given the option to leave the line or continue. If you leave, your vote is declared dead. If you stay, the voting machines malfunction.
Then, your daughter needs to be picked up from day care, and another child calls you crying for help (all within an hour).
If you ignore all of these pleas, you see old, white men in red hats “inspecting the line,” and you must run away from expletives they fling at you. If you’re hit, a gravestone appears and reads, “Voter intimidation tactics worked.”
If you are lucky enough to outrun the evil line inspectors, you find that the polling place requires photo identification, and you don’t have it.
You have three options: give up, cast a provisional ballot that you are told will not be counted (a factually incorrect statement), or get your ID and return to vote, at which point the screen reads, “I hate voting but I love my country!”
It’s an equally grim scene for the black salesman from Wisconsin.
You once again take a bus across town, and learn that “the GOP’s voter fraud initiatives are causing major lines at the polls!”
You’re left to wait as your boss docks your pay and takes away your shifts, you get stuck in the freezing rain, and your co-worker gets (you guessed it) dysentery, and hates you for not being able to cover his shift.
Once you enter the polling place, you must also defeat the red-hatted men throwing “insults and angry rhetoric” at you, and if you make it past them, you, too, have forgotten your ID and face the same options as the Latina nurse.
After playing the game, one is left with a clear picture of what The New York Times thinks of America: a largely segregated land where everything, from Republicans to the weather itself, works to keep minorities from voting.
Think about the stereotypes that this game relies on, and worse, that it perpetuates.
African-Americans and Hispanics must ride the bus, the inference evidently being that “they are poor.” They are apparently also, in the eyes of The New York Times, incapable of dealing with simple tasks like obtaining an ID or remembering it on Election Day.
Apparently, the idea did not cross the game designers’ minds that nearly everyone has an ID, that they carry it with them as a matter of routine, and use it almost daily for things like buying alcohol or driving a car.
The Times’ staff and the game’s designers are hardly the only enlightened progressives to hold these ignorant views. One has to wonder where they get these distorted ideas.
In a 2014 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s voter ID requirement, the elimination of same-day registration, and the shortening of early voting, a Justice Department expert witness—professor Charles Stewart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—testified that North Carolina’s law was discriminatory.
Stewart said that early voting and same-day registration are “well situated for less sophisticated voters, and therefore, it’s less likely to imagine that these voters … can figure out or would avail themselves of other forms of registering and voting.”
Who are those less sophisticated voters? According to Stewart, they “tend to be African-Americans.”
Infantilizing minorities in the name of protecting them is the epitome of paternalistic prejudice, and it is exemplified in “The Voter Suppression Trail.”
This game is completely asinine. It is shallow identity politics, and little else.
The game’s designers utterly ignore contrary facts. Consider, for example, that minority voter turnout increased after North Carolina, Georgia, and Indiana adopted voter identification laws.
In fact, despite claiming in lawsuits last year that voting laws in North Carolina and Texas were crafted deliberately to suppress minority turnout, the Justice Department could not identify any disenfranchised voters.
As for those fictional, slur-spewing, voter-intimidation squads, let’s not forget the real-life incident in 2008, when two members of the New Black Panther Party were charged with voter intimidation for standing outside a Philadelphia polling location with wooden bats and wearing military-style uniforms, while shouting racial slurs at white voters.
The Justice Department dropped these charges shortly after Obama took office. Any form of voter intimidation, regardless of the race of the perpetrator or the victim, is illegal and should be punished.
This type of cheap rhetoric trivializes the real issues our country is facing with election fraud. Indeed, The Heritage Foundation has documented nearly 1,100 proven instances of fraud in 47 states.
When someone rigs an election, votes without being eligible, or casts multiple ballots, legitimate voters are essentially disenfranchised, to say nothing of the damage done to the integrity of the process and of the results.
Efforts to reform and enhance our electoral security have been met with the common allegation that they hide racist motives. Consider this Slate article,“The Dark Prince of Voter Fraud Alarmism is Joining the Trump Administration,“ which personally attacked Hans von Spakovsky, one of Heritage’s own legal scholars.
Von Spakovsky and fellow commissioner J. Christian Adams recently responded to these critics.
Anti-election integrity activists are free to resort to name-calling if they wish, but the fact is, this should be a nonpartisan issue.
Efforts to secure the ballot box against fraud are spurred by concern for the security and legitimacy of the voting process—perfectly valid goals given that issues like voter impersonation and intimidation are real problems that should be addressed.
Surely the majority of rational people would play this game and realize its ridiculousness. However, we need to look at the implications of such cheap rhetoric perpetuated by the left and the effect it has on civil discourse in the public sphere.
By shying away from honest debate and relying solely on attention-grabbing sophisms, we risk burying our heads in the sand, to our collective detriment.
Commentary by Jason Snead, Claudia Rychlik and Emily Hall. Originally published at The Daily Signal.