Vote, hope, but don't bet the house
Democratic Party officials are so excited they're almost wetting themselves, or at least that's how they present themselves to the public less than a week before the 2006 election.
Political reporters, columnists and broadcast flapjaws also are bleating about the big gains the Democrats are going to make in Congress. Barring some unexpected event, the House certainly will go to the Democrats, and there is a very good chance the Dems will control both houses after this month's election, the commentators claim.
Give us your money and your time and we'll win big, the Democrats promise.
Some of them probably know it, others maybe not.
Sorry, but I believe the hype is terribly overblown. Those of us who care about our rapidly fading republic need to prepare ourselves for further disappointment and what could be the final push of liberals, progressives and even so-called moderates into irrelevancy.
This is not a happy prediction. In fact, I'm increasingly depressed over the prospects. If I'm wrong, I'll willingly eat crow, raven and desert buzzard -- raw, no mustard.
You'll note that while some Republican candidates are running scared, to the point that they've gone completely out of control on dirty tricks, outrageous lies and major distortions of their opponents' records and positions, the really big boys in Washington seem cool enough.
They are telling the panting political press that they will keep their grip on the country and know what? I think they know what they're talking about.
They are, after all, the fixers, and the fix is in. Again.
It's possible that the Democrats will get a thin majority in the House. If so, it's not a wonderful prospect. It's highly possible that they'll be set up for a more deadly failure in two years.
The people who call the shots for the Democrats – that is, the neutered crowd who already lick the boots of corporate executives – are too stupid to see that coming. They appear to be really excited about the possibility of that thin margin, which they assume – probably correctly – will be enough to allow them two retain their comfortable sinecures.
What they don't get is that it will be only for two more years. Unless the Democrats come on strong in Congress in the next two years nobody will want or need them after 2008.
Before I go further, let me say that, yes, it's important to vote, and to help get others to the polls wherever possible. That's because the bigger the vote, the easier it will be to demonstrate election fraud and beyond-the-pale dirty tricks. If thousands turn out in powerfully Democrat-leaning precincts and somehow the Republican candidates “win,” the criminality will be obvious, perhaps obvious enough to launch winnable legal action or even to force election reform.
If exit polls and other basic pre-election numbers show Democrats winning large, but the official numbers make them losers, the public may well get angry enough to demand reform.
That, I fear, is about as much as can be hoped for in many places in this country this year, and even that will happen only if the truth is obvious to all but the craziest wing nuts.
Anyway, there probably are local elections that matter, so get out and vote.
In the past week, CNN and HBO's documentary division have aired shows – good, solid reporting – on the fraud in elections beginning with that of 2000. Public television also has done solid reporting recently. They tried for balance, but the facts showed there really is no balance. A handful of renegade Democrats diddled their own elections; the Republicans defrauded the entire nation.
George W. Bush has never won a national election, but he's the bumbler officially addressed as “Mr. President.”
There's much better proof of that than what's been on television. There is, in fact, irrefutable proof. The Conyers Report, almost entirely ignored by the corporate news media – now essentially an arm of big money's propaganda machine – makes the case clearly and unmistakably.
The report is named for Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) who chaired an investigation by the Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans refused to participate and, in fact, did what they could to block it. It's findings, released in January 2005, show beyond doubt that Bush's “win” in Ohio was a fraud and that, in fact, the majority of Ohio voters cast their ballots for John Kerry. And that's in spite of the fact that many Ohio voters were kept away from the polls by various underhanded and illegal means. The fraud gave Bush a second illegal term.
Several other investigations have confirmed the findings of the Judiciary Committee Democrats.
Votes also were criminally altered or stolen, and or Democratic votes suppressed, in Florida (of course) and at least 20 other states, including, in relatively small numbers, my supposedly super-clean state of Minnesota, which has a right wing, openly partisan secretary of state.
If you doubt it see the book “How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election and is Rigging 2008” by Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wassserman and Steve Rosenfeld. See also “Fooled Again,” by Mark Crispin Miller, which still is in hardcover but which will be out in paperback in January. For a very short version, see the Oct. 1 and Oct. 15 issues of the Washington Spectator, in which Miller boils down his findings to pieces that can be read in a total of about 30 minutes.
Despite the refusal of most of the corporate press to print the genuine major stories of this year's campaigns, it's almost impossible to avoid knowing that the Republicans again are neck deep in lies, cheating and outright fraud.
The press likes to pretend that both major parties are slinging mud with equal force. Democrats are slinging plenty, but the quantity and the degree of outright lying from their side doesn't begin to touch the level of filth spewing again from the Rove machine. And when it comes to outright, illegal fraud, the Democrats aren't even in the ballpark.
Remember that much of the fraud in 2004 involved hacking and other manipulation of electronic voting machines, all of which are manufactured – and their votes counted – by companies closely allied to the Republican Party.
Ohio two years ago used mostly voting machines manufactured by Diebold. The chief executive of Diebold was a major player in the Bush campaign in that state – as was the Ohio secretary of state, who came up with numerous ways to suppress Democratic votes. It's actually worse than those bare facts, but that story has been fairly widely told on the net and in smaller publications.
The thing is, those electronic voting machines are much more numerous now than they were in 2004, and have supplanted more easily monitored election systems in many more jurisdictions. It has been proven beyond question that they can be – and have been – hacked with the greatest of ease, in a matter of minutes. Several universities are among the agencies that have made such findings.
Among people who have investigated the voting machines and their misuse, the results they produce for Republican candidates is called Diebold Magic.
But in many places the Republicans don't even have to bother to hack the machines. As Black Box Voting, a small but potent organization, and other investigators have shown, Republican election officials in key spots around the country diddled the machine votes in 2004 and can be expected to do it again.
Last year, when one crooked California Republican congressman, Randy Conningham, who “represented” the San Diego area, was tried and imprisoned for accepting bribes and suchlike peccadilloes, a special election was required.
Although the area is heavily Republican, polls showed the Democrat, Francine Busby, ahead right up to election day. But, gee, Republican election officials took the voting machines home with them and kept them there for several days before the election. The Republican candidate “won,” according to the machine vote.
A whole lot of people immediately demanded an investigation but, before the vote was legally certified, the Republicans put their supposed winner, Brian Bilbray, on a plane and rushed him to Washington, where House Speaker Dennis Hastert swore him in.
A Republican judge of the state's Superior Court then declared that California no longer had jurisdiction to conduct an investigation because Bilbray already was a member of Congress.
Got that? Remember that the Bush crowd and Republican governors in California and elsewhere have had two more years to load the courts with highly partisan – let's call them activist – judges.
Beyond direct criminal messing with votes, the Republicans again are using an amazing number of methods to keep Democrats from voting. Some of their activities undoubtedly are illegal, but they're close enough to the edge that it's virtually impossible to get anyone to prosecute and, anyway, the people who would have to take legal action are part of the Republican juggernaut in many key areas.
Isn't it cute that the Bush bunch arranged about a month ago to have the verdict of the Saddam Hussein show trial announced two days before our election? What a coinkydink huh? You'd have to be a real boob to think that little act matters, but there are lot of boobs around.
One of my favorites this year, for sheer audacity, is the one in California, where a Republican campaign functionary sent out an official-looking notice telling residents of a heavily Hispanic area that Republicans will vote on Tuesday and Democrats vote Wednesday. Nothing, no subsequent denial, will entirely undo the damage.
Another one of similar character, also aimed at naturalized citizens, involved phony notices declaring that it is illegal for foreign-born people to vote in this country, and that violations will result in imprisonment.
Dirty tricks like that are being played in many places this year – and, no, they damned well aren't cute, or funny. The Republican Party structure is silent on them. No condemnations, no warnings. And that amply demonstrates that the party under Bush and his boy Rove, is bereft of honor.
Of course, those tricks are relatively minor when compared with the official, open gaming of the Republican Party.
A new Republican favorite this year – embraced throughout the country – is the drive for new voter registration laws and regulations to stem “fraud” that is all but nonexistent. The regulations and laws have been adopted in some states – Minnesota's extremist secretary of state has had some success, though because of a lack of coverage very few citizens are aware of what she's done.
The phony "antifraud" rules sell pretty well to the kind of people who still think we're doing well in Iraq because Bush and Dick Cheney say so. Mostly they involve requiring all sorts of documentation to prove one is a legitimate voter. The costs and the travel required to get documentation and the complexity of regulations tend to weed out naturalized citizens, the young, the elderly and others who can be expected to vote for Democrats.
And, of course, other voter suppression techniques used in Florida, Ohio, Tennesse and other states since 2000 are in play again. In Ohio in 2004, for example, voting machines were distributed to polling places under the Bush-backing secretary of state in such a way that there was no waiting in heavily Republican neighborhoods, while lines to vote in poor, black and other Democrat-leaning areas were backed up as long as seven and a half hours. Four and a half to five hours was the norm, many of the polling places lacked waiting space inside and it was a cold, rainy day – perfect for Republicans.
That technique was used elsewhere, as well, and it worked so well we can expect an expansion of its use Nov. 7.
No need even to talk about the use of cops for deliberate intimidation of would-be voters in Florida. It will happen again, and maybe spread to more areas of the South and Southwest.
Incidentally, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rush Holt ( D -N.J.) this year introduced bills to impose criminal penalties for deliberately and knowingly using devices such as those California “notices” mentioned above, to deceive or intimidate voters. The Congressional leadership (entirely Republican, of course) wouldn't allow consideration of the bills.
I believe that a very large voter turnout will help greatly to put the dirty tricks and outright criminal activity of the right wingers before the public, and that could move us toward saving the electoral system. None of the decent Republicans I know approve of fraud and crookedness any more than I do. But they have to be convinced of the fact that it is taking place on a massive scale.
Two progressive organizations are trying this year to do the job the Democrats should be doing to seek out and fight fraud as it happens.
People for the American Way and True Majority Action will have volunteers at polling places in at-risk areas around the country Tuesday to help people understand and deal with new voting procedures and identification requirements, and will operate a hot line staffed by lawyers and other knowledgeable volunteers to record and try to deal with voting problems. The number for that line is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).
One more quick thought: If the Democrats do get a majority in even one house of Congress, they will have it only for two years unless they use the time to do real work for the American people, to drive hard toward improving health care and the economy, to get us out of Iraq and improve our relationships with the rest of the world, and to lay bare of the evils of the Bush administration. They can't get it all done, of course, but they can protect us from the right wing's most extreme moves, and they can lay the groundwork for a recovery in 2008.
Blow it by playing the corporate game and appeasing the lobbyists and the right wing will be in control for decades.