An "Assault On Democracy"

Keith Olbermann comments on GOP attempts to suppress votes by attacking ACORN

In 2008, faced with a groundswell of public opinion that should deliver a landslide of disapproval for the Republican party and send it into the political wilderness for years, the poor losers of the GOP are more than ready to prevent that end by any means. Few, if any, of the tactics it is using are illegal - often the result of careful legislation designed to preserve the Republican majority forever - but added together they comprise an assault on democracy which would stun even the cynical and sly politicians of Old Europe.

In state after state, Republican operatives — the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics — are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."

The GOP and the McCain campaign have been trying to drum up a Bradley Effect, with campaign and party apparatchiks trotting out racist whistles against Obama (and by extension against the party he now leads) at every opportunity while party leaders pretend to be oblivious and unknowing. McCain, Palin and the GOP's Congressional leaders would condemn any overt racism, of course, and attribute it to some bad apples - but they seem remarkably dense in not spotting anything other than utter hate speech racism from their followers (or the candidate himself) when it occurs. The merest veil of deniability conceals their deliberately looking the other way while their supporters run riot.

Nor have their smears stopped at racism. Calling Obama and Dems in general traitors, terrorist abettors, "feminazis" and (oh, horrors) socialists has become a substitute for debating issues. (Actually, Obama's just echoing Lincoln.) From an early stage, the GOP knew it was going to run on personality smears as a substitute for facts. Again, much of the groundswell of hate on the Right is implausibly deniable by the leadership, but since any media attention only fuels their base's paranoia and engenders new smear attacks, "implausible" is all they need to keep the ball rolling independently.

But even all that isn't sufficient to either cage the vote or at least to provide plenty of excuses to keep Republican leaders in charge of their party after the elections. So we now have the ACORN faux-scandal, which John McCain has hyperbolically called 'an assault on democracy" and which seeks to provide a ready-made narrative for de-legitimizing the election.

It also serves, through the time-honored tactic of calling your opponents out for what you yourself are doing, to conceal very real Republcan voter registration fraud - not just individuals cooking up daft names to register as a way of getting paid for no work but a concerted effort to cook the books by making Republican support seem stronger than it really is.

Voters contacted by The Times said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law. Others had no idea their registration was being changed.

I am not a Republican," insisted Karen Ashcraft, 47, a pet-clinic manager and former Democrat from Ventura who said she was duped by a signature gatherer into joining the GOP. "I certainly . . . won't sign anything in front of a grocery store ever again."

It is a bait-and-switch scheme familiar to election experts. The firm hired by the California Republican Party -- a small company called Young Political Majors, or YPM, which operates in several states -- has been accused of using the tactic across the country.

... The 70,000 voters YPM has registered for the Republican Party this year will help combat the public perception that it is struggling amid Democratic gains nationally, give a boost to fundraising efforts and bolster member support for party leaders, political strategists from both parties say.

Those who were formerly Democrats may stop receiving phone calls and literature from that party, perhaps affecting its get-out-the-vote efforts. They also will be given only a Republican ballot in the next primary election if they do not switch their registration back before then.

Some also report having their registration status changed to absentee without their permission; if they show up at the polls without a ballot they may be unable to vote.

The guy behind that particular bit of skullduggery, Mark Anthony Jacoby, who owns the firm known as Young Political Majors, was arrested Saturday for vote fraud in 2006 and 2007.

And, of course, we still have that mysterious glitch in electronic voting machines - the one that only ever seems to work in favor of Republican candidates - in places like West Virginia.

Virginia Matheney and Calvin Thomas said touch-screen machines in the county clerk's office in Ripley kept switching their votes from Democratic to Republican candidates.

"When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain," said Matheney, who lives in Kenna.

When she reported the problem, she said, the poll worker in charge "responded that everything was all right. It was just that the screen was sensitive and I was touching the screen too hard. She instructed me to use only my fingernail."

Even after she began using her fingernail, Matheney said, the problem persisted.

When she tried to vote for candidates running for two open seats on the Supreme Court, the electronic machine canceled her second vote twice.

On her third try, Matheney managed to cast votes for both Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman, Democratic candidates for the two open seats.

Calvin Thomas, 81, who retired from Kaiser Aluminum in Ravenswood in 1983 and now lives in Ripley, experienced the same problem.

"When I pushed Obama, it jumped to McCain. When I went down to governor's office and punched [Gov. Joe] Manchin, it went to the other dude. When I went to Karen Facemyer [the incumbent Republican state senator], I pushed the Democrat, but it jumped again.

"The rest of them were OK, but the machine sent my votes for those top three offices from the Democrat to the Republican," Thomas said.

Thomas, who brought his daughter with him to the polls, said she had the same problem.

"After I finished, my daughter voted. When she pushed Obama, it went to McCain.

It has often been said that, to prevent such "glitches" having an effect, Obama has to not just win but win handily. That's inconvenient to network bosses who are already wondering how they'll fill election evening coverage if it's all decided by teatime. John McCain has assured Chris Wallace today that there will be a full election night to cover and some polls seem to help his case for that (and, obviously, influence voter's perceptions) - even while others don't.

But at the end of the day the GOP is prepared even for a Democratic landslide. They'll just package up all the hate, all the smears, all the Alien Nation rhetoric and throw caution to the wind. Back to Bilmon (h/t Ron):

We don't need to hark back to the unfortunate history of a certain Central European country in the 1930s to understand how poisonous this kind of political myth making can become. Powerful elements of the Republican Party and the conservative "movement" aren't just preparing themselves to go into opposition, they're preparing themselves to dispute the legitimacy of an Obama presidency -- in ways that could, if taken to extreme, lead to another Oklahoma City.

It's hard to tell to what degree the GOP high command fully understands or is trying to feed these dynamics (indeed, it's becoming increasingly difficult to even tell who the GOP high command is these days). The last thing I want to do is get into an arms race with the wingnut right when it comes to paranoid conspiracy theories. (That's one race the left will always lose). Still, the recent statements of John McCain and his Bircher-influenced running mate aren't exactly reassuring:

My opponent's answer showed that economic recovery isn't even his top priority. His goal, as Senator Obama put it, is to "spread the wealth around."

You see, he believes in redistributing wealth, not in policies that help us all make more of it. Joe, in his plainspoken way, said this sounded a lot like socialism.

I've been following politics for going on 35 years now, and I don't think I've ever heard a Republican candidate publicly refer to his Democratic opponent as a "socialist" -- not even while hiding behind a cardboard cutout like "Joe the Plumber". This from a man who told the entire nation on Wednesday night that believes an obscure nonprofit group is "perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

Likewise, I don't think there's ever been an American vice presidential candidate who explicitly referred to entire regions of the United States as "pro-American" -- with the clear implication that other regions are something less than "pro-American." Not since the Civil War, anyway.

We've crossed some more lines, in other words -- in a long series of lines that have made it increasingly difficult to distinguish between the ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party and an explicitly fascist political movement. And John McCain and his political handlers appear to have no moral compunctions whatsoever about whipping this movement into a frenzy and providing it with scapegoats for all that hatred, simply to try to shave a few points off Barack Obama's lead in the polls.

To call this "country first" only works if you assume your opponents (and scapegoats) are not really part of that same country. And we all know where that leads.

Yes, we do. And the extreme Right has been happily contemplating violent resistance or even a coup to defend themselves from what they see as a hostile and un-American Democratic takeover for years now. They even write books about it.

Originally posted in a different form at Newshoggers

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.