James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vote fraud hasn't disappeared

Yes, I was wrong. Barack Obama was elected, and rather handily at that. And I'm happy for that, very pleased to have been wrong, very relieved that the neocons will be out of power come Jan. 20.

There was a considerable period of time during which I was one of the constant watchers who feared, at least a little, that the right wing extremists who have controlled the White House for so long might not vacate the premises regardless of the election outcome. Given the powerfully favorable reaction in this country and abroad to Obama's election, I doubt many still harbor that fear.

Even people who lean heavily to the right have expressed (assume temporary) support for the president-elect and happiness at what the election shows, or what they think it shows, about racial attitudes in the United States. They would not tolerate an illegal power grab, even one preceded by a false flag attack.

Just a couple of things:

First, those of us who predicted large-scale vote suppression efforts and fraud by the Republicans were not entirely wrong. The attempts were widespread, but considerably less successful than they were in 2000 and 2004 for several reasons.

One major reason was that the Republicans could not muster the big funding for such efforts that they received in the previous two presidential election years.

In the last couple of weeks before Nov. 4, I saw several reports about right wing billionaires cutting way back on their contributions to dirty tricks crews because of how hard they were hit by the economic collapse they helped to create. Greed and gut-level, immediate self interest outweighed their desire to keep Democrats out of power.

In fact, the emails now being sent by Republican Party organizations and fund raisers to their supporters are downright funny on the question of campaign money. They are filled with whines about how Republicans were outspent by Obama and other Democrats who somehow “unfairly” raised more money than they did.

The outraged wording of the messages strongly suggests that it is a Republican right to get and spend far more than their opponents. And the authors of the notes are angry -– deeply outraged, in fact -- that so many not-rich citizens kicked in enough to build bigger dollar totals for Obama and other Democrats than the rich folks provided John McCain and Republican congressional candidates.

(I got myself on some Republican email lists more than a year ago. It's been both revealing and entertaining.)

Another big reason the attempts to keep likely Democratic voters away from the polls were considerably less successful than some feared, and less successful than they might have been, was the simple stupidity of Republican planners and the somewhat unexpected firmness of numerous judges around the country. I'll spare the detail, but the fact is that attempts by Republicans to keep large blocs of people from voting were thrown out firmly and quickly by judges in several states.

Some of us had feared that the White House's campaign of loading the bench with right wingers had got far enough to permit even fairly weak vote-suppression efforts to fly, but that turned out not to be true. And in several instances, the cases brought by the Republicans were so feeble that even someone the likes of John Roberts or Samuel Alito would have been hard-pressed to come up with excuses to accept the arguments.

Also, and this was very important, extremely partisan and ethics-impaired state officials such as the Ohio secretary of state, have been replaced in several states since 2004.

Then there was the fact that, as reported by the New York Times and others, Democratic voters turned out in bigger numbers than in the past, while the turnout of Republican voters actually slipped by a bit more than 1 percent from 2004. Sarah Palin's presence on the Republican ticket may have inspired the right wing “base,” as the talking heads kept telling us, but apparently it didn't do much for saner middle class Republicans.

Now for the “buts:”

It is a very safe assumption that the actual vote for Obama, let alone the votes that would have been cast for him if some people had not been blocked from voting, was greater than the number reported. It is unrealistic to think that the illegal tricks used in 2000 and 2004 -– hiding of votes, hacking of voting machines to switch votes from Democrat to Republican candidates and such -– didn't take place this year.

There was far too much evidence such shenanigans going into the election. It's not an issue in the corporate news media because those tricks and vote suppression attempts were not enough keep Obama from winning. And Democrats are too happy to bother with sniffing out vote fraud.

That, while understandable, is a serious mistake.

It is so because there will be much closer elections in the future, as there have been in the past. If the Democrats don't make an effort beginning in January, when they will pretty much control U.S. government, to block future right wing vote suppression and vote fraud, it will cost them future elections, just as it cost them the presidency and probably a number of congressional seats in 2000 and 2004.

There are ways to set up voter registration requirements that will permanently shut down the worst of the vote suppression scams. The “Help America Vote” law, which was in fact designed to help trick out elections, can be revised so that it requires a paper trail on all votes and provides voters with a way of seeing that their votes are recorded properly. The law also can be rewritten to require machines that are not readily rigged for fraud, as are so many of the machines now in use.

Suppose Obama does what economist and New Yorks Times columnist Paul Krugman and a few others have recommended and comes out of the chute fighting. The hatred and opposition he'll get from the Wall Street crowd and the billionaires you never heard of will surpass anything we've seen since Franklin Roosevelt had the extreme right plotting an overthrow of our government.

In such a scenario, the Republicans won't have so much trouble raising the money to defeat him in 2012, and a fully-funded right wing, supported by an army of gun nuts, end-times evangelicals and other self-destructive haters could make re-election highly doubtful.

It wouldn't be good idea to leave the paths to vote suppression and fraud wide open.

Sorry if this is a bit late in being posted. I wasn't avoiding admitting my error. Right after the election I took a break, went out of town to a conference on an area of interest that has nothing to do with electoral politics.