Representative democracy always engenders a tug-of-war between pragmatist/realpolitik worldviews and idealist/ethicist worldviews. That breaks down as follow:
- Pragmatist/realpolitik worldviews hold that:
- gaining power is the goal
- power is achieved by politicians who win elections
- elections are a competition between (prospective) leaders to gain more votes than their opponents
- therefore, limiting voting to those who will vote for you and yours is an effective, efficient strategy
- idealist/ethicist worldviews hold that:
- gaining power is the goal
- power is granted by citizens through elections
- elections are a competition among citizens to elect leaders who will represent their interests
- therefore, limiting voting in any way is amoral, Machiavellian, and reprehensible
Now, one can make a reasonable case for both of these positions within a healthy, functioning democracy; or rather, within a healthy, functioning democracy representatives' self-interest keeps them more or less in line with the interests of both their constituents and their nation. However, the two positions are not equal. Some element of the idealist/ethicist worldview must be present or else the system ceases to be a representative democracy. Without a firm belief that power is vested in the citizenry, politics de-evolves into a mere no-holds-barred power struggle between (prospective) leaders, and that quickly collapses into autocratic or authoritarian systems.
In our current political environment in the US, conservatives have gone all-in on realpolitik. Even before the 'Reality TV' politics of Trumpism, conservatives had been playing the pragmatist game, seeking out every political loophole and twist that would grant them some slight edge against the clear moderate-liberal-Democrat majority in the US population. Trumpism merely went further, trying to break the very rules of the game when the tricks and tactics of gamesmanship weren't sufficient to keep Trump in power.
Democrats, by contrast, have stuck more closely to the idealistic view that power is vested in the people, and that it's vital to persevere the people's ability to execute their power. In that sense, it doesn't matter whether efforts to restrict, inhibit, or suppress voting are inconsequential, or might produce a backlash that nullifies them. The act of installing voting restrictions, inhibitions, and suppressions goes against the ideals of representative democracy, against the founding ideals of the nation, and thus are inherently immoral.
One can make the cynical claim that Democrats are only being idealistic because it's in their self-interest to do so, but that misses the point on two counts;
- Democrats are not guaranteed to be the majority party in the general population forever. expanding voting rights takes power away from both parties, and forces 8both* parties to compete for voter attention.
- Clinging to idealism for jaded reasons doesn't hurt the ideals in the least; a good product isn't diminished by a bad salesman.
In the best case democrats actually believe in the ideals of representative democracy; in the worst case they are promoting the ideals for their own advantage, which they will trip over in the future when their fortunes change. Either way, it's to our advantage as citizens to cling to and promote these ideals.