There's a lot of pixels being devoted to the unwarranted, brutal assault on Lauren Valle yesterday at the Rand Paul/Jack Conway debate, and rightly so. But this behavior isn't new and is really part of a larger voter suppression effort.
This is video of a Rick Waugh supporter being arrested in Virginia after he and two others came to an Eric Cantor campaign event to ask Eric Cantor why he would not debate Waugh. Via Washington Post:
Cantor also has a tendency to surround himself with layers of defense, as was the case Monday when he appeared at a coffee shop in the small town of Louisa, supposedly to meet voters.
One man attending was John Taylor, a member of the Louisa County Democratic Committee and a backer of Rick Waugh, Cantor's Democratic opponent. Taylor and two others were asked to leave the coffee shop. County police then subdued Taylor, as can be seen in a video shot by his son with his cell phone.
Events like these raise questions about the decorum of the man who would be in such a powerful position on Capitol Hill. Violence at campaign stops, regardless of who may be at fault, is not something commonplace in Virginia politics.
Overreaction, much? Well, yes and no. There's a message carried in these episodes: If you're a Democrat, the cops aren't on your side, particularly in little towns where cronyism and bullying seems to be the order of the day.
In the same way throwing a MoveOn.org supporter to the ground and stomping on her head appears, it sends an intentional and clear message to less motivated and attentive voters: Politics can be hazardous to your health, especially if you happen to oppose the power players.
All the world's a stage
Yesterday's head-stomping debacle wasn't any kind of accident. The supporters rallying outside were all part of the campaign. It's a press event, after all, and theater is required, so they bring along their largest, most vocal groups. Yesterday's stomper has been identified as Rand Paul's [former] Bourbon County campaign coordinator, Tim Profitt, and he affirms it:
Tim Profitt, a volunteer with the Republican's U.S. Senate campaign, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the camera angle made the scuffle Monday night appear worse that it was. He criticized police for not stepping in and says other supporters warned authorities about the activist.
Lauren Valle, a 23-year-old with the group MoveOn.org, was wrestled to the ground by Paul supporters when she tried to confront the tea party favorite with a fake award. Valle said Tuesday she was sore and swollen.
See how that works? Yes, MoveOn sent someone to present Rand Paul with his Republicorp award, the campaign was tipped off, and Profitt, clearly frustrated by the authorities' refusal to take matters into hand, took them into his own hands, and feet. He would certainly have preferred to see her arrested in the same fashion as John Taylor, but evidently the police were not as cooperative as they were in Louisa, VA.
Last time I checked, handing someone a piece of paper and getting a bit of media attention along with it isn't a crime. Unless, of course, you're a Rand Paul supporter who only believes in liberty when it's YOUR liberty and is accompanied by the threat or use of force.
If you can't beat 'em, suppress 'em
All of this whips up the much larger narrative which seeps into the mindset of casual observers. Here are some other examples:
In St. Paul, organizers from the Tea Party and related groups announced this week that they were offering a $500 reward for anyone who turns in someone who is successfully prosecuted for voter fraud.
The group is also organizing volunteer “surveillance squads” to photograph and videotape suspected irregularities, and in some cases to follow buses that take voters to the polls.
In Milwaukee last week, several community groups protested the posting of large billboards throughout the city that show pictures of people behind jail bars under the words “We Voted Illegally.” The protesters said that the posters — it was not clear who paid for them — were intended to intimidate people into staying away from voting booths.
In Houston, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots recently accused a voter registration group, Houston Votes, of turning in fraudulent voter registration applications and of being tied to the New Black Panther Party. (The registration group denies the accusations.)
The Harris County Republican Party has helpfully published a "Poll Watcher's Guide" for those volunteers willing to police polling places. It should be noted here that the areas they're targeting are primarily ones with a highly concentrated minority voting base. They don't really expect to find anything out of order, but by maintaining a high profile presence and questioning voters' rights to be at those polling places, they're sending a clear message intended to suppress those voters who haven't gone to the polls yet. It's a tactic Republicans have used for years as a way to thug their way to victory.
The truth about voter fraud
It's rare, and unusual. In 2008, there was only one conviction for voter fraud, and yes, it was a Republican who has been paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars in this midterm election to go out and get signatures on petitions, register voters, and otherwise conduct business for Republicans across the country.
It is the Republican way to accuse others of what they are doing themselves.