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The problem with WH's Conway equating voting rights and cupcakes

Officials could make it easier for Americans to cast a ballot, but Team Trump believes it's better to make it harder.
Image: Kellyanne Conway
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP

Donald Trump and his team are not easing up on their relentless campaign against mail-in voting -- even as they personally cast ballots through the mail -- despite public support for postal balloting. But if the White House is going to persuade Americans that voting during a pandemic should be more difficult, not less, it's going to need to come up with better arguments.

Yesterday, for example, Kellyanne Conway thought it'd be a good idea to compare voting rights to people who stand in line for cupcakes at a popular D.C. establishment.

"People are very proud to show up and go to the polls," Conway told reporters Wednesday, "they wait in line at Georgetown Cupcake for an hour to get a cupcake. So I think they can probably wait in line to do something as constitutionally significant as cast their ballot."

The line was more revealing than the Republican advisor probably intended.

At face value, the comparison is itself silly. Cupcake access is not legally protected. There's a reason you haven't heard of the landmark Cupcake Rights Act of 1965.

What's more, while some D.C.-area residents have the time and resources to go to Georgetown and wait an hour for premium tasty treats, many do not. In the United States, meanwhile, the franchise is not supposed to be limited to the elite.

But there are related details that suggest Conway got this backwards. For example, Georgetown Cupcake, like many places nationwide that serve food, is currently a delivery-only establishment. During a pandemic, it's not safe for locals to wait in line on a sidewalk for a cupcake, but customers can still place an order and Georgetown Cupcake will dispatch the treats to their door.

Similarly, there are reasonable concerns about the public-health effects of forcing Americans to go to crowded venues to cast a ballot during a crisis, but plenty of states are prepared to send ballots directly to people's homes.

The cupcake comparison, however, was really only part of the problem with Conway's pitch. Just as important was her suggestion that it's admirable to force Americans to go to the polls during a public-health crisis, putting themselves and others at risk, simply to exercise their right to vote. "People are very proud to show up and go to the polls," Conway said, presumptively describing the feelings of people she does not know.

"I think they can probably wait in line" to vote, she added.

And this is the White House's position in a nutshell: officials could make it easier for Americans to cast a ballot, but it's better to make it harder. Sure, there are safe and convenient alternatives, but they should be rejected, deliberately, because Trump and his team pretend there's nobility in forcing voters to wait in lines -- even if Trump and White House officials choose not to wait in those lines themselves.