Progressives and liberals and Democrats didn’t much care for it back at the turn of the Millennium, when George Bush was anointed president despite handily losing the popular vote. Those were the heady days of hanging chads, frenetic recounts under the glare of harsh TV lights and hasty state supreme court sessions.
But, as I noted in my commentary at the time (Taylor Daily Press and others), Bush beat Al Gore fair and square, 5-4. And then Al Gore conceded the election, preserving our democracy.
(My tongue was placed firmly in my cheek back then while I wrote that comment, of course, but no one was immune to an early Internet meme that had us begging for UN assistance and Jimmy Carter’s intercession because there was this guy, whose dad was a former leader of the country but who had been deposed by a popular election a few years earlier, but who had run our secret police for years, and who appeared to be stealing our national election and it all hinged on this one province, where the other son was the leader. Had the same set of familial circumstances been presented by a country like, say, Russia or Columbia or Senegal, the international community would have reacted … but this was the good old US of A where democracy was invented so there was nothing amiss, right?)
Here’s my point. Despite the, uhm, irregular way that election concluded, I don’t think any of the people I hung around with ever considered the Bush presidency to be illegitimate. A bad idea, perhaps. Ineffective and stupid and brutish, maybe. Not the best thing to have every happened to us, possibly. Perchance even unfortunate.
But not illegitimate.
The same can’t be said of the political right in this country. From day one, the political right-wing tried to delegitimize Bill Clinton’s presidency and from day one, that constituency has tried to delegitimize Barak Obama’s presidency. More, even though there is no question that Bill Clinton and Barak Obama won both the popular and electoral votes — where there most certainly remains some question about George Bush’s first election — the right has done everything it can to see that these presidencies were hollow.
Frankly, I don’t remember that happening with Poppy Bush or Pres. Reagan. Or even Pres. Nixon. One might dislike a President’s ideas, and regret the way the election turned out, but the fact that he was the duly elected leader of the country was not doubted.
I could be wrong, of course. Those of you with longer memories are welcome to correct me.
But, the political right is going even further than simply de-legitimizing our president. They are doing everything they can to de-legitimize the people who voted for him. That’s where this move toward voter ID is directed.
I gleaned this from the television thingy last night and from various inter web pages today:
“I think we believe that, insofar a there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat. If people cheat, we believe the people who cheat are more likely to vote against us.”
~ Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman
It’s from the second-ranking Republican in Wisconsin and it’s all over the Internet. Google it yourself.
For 20 years, there’s been no serious effort to question the legitimacy of our voting processes but, since the “wrong” person won the last election, there have been no less than 400 legislative attempts in this country to suppress the votes of the people who had the audacity to vote for Pres. Obama.
That’s what voter ID is all about. It’s designed to suppress the vote of people most likely to vote for a Democrat and the political right sees nothing wrong with it because folks who vote for Democrats don’t really matter. Their vote doesn’t matter. They don’t matter.
Please tell me I’m wrong.
It’s a cop-out to say that “both sides do it” because both sides don’t. It’s a cop-out to attest that vote fraud it a big problem because there is no evidence that it is. In fact, in the big case going on right now in Pennsylvania, the state can’t even point to anecdotal evidence that in-person vote fraud — the kind of vote fraud that voter ID is supposed to deter (as opposed to the more massive vote fraud that involves hanging chad and daddy’s friends on the high court) — is a problem.
From the Pennsylvania AG’s court submission:
“There have been no investigations or prosecutions on in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”
Texas has been working hard to develop evidence regarding massive in-person vote fraud, of the sort that would wreak havoc on our democracy, but can’t. In fact, our state’s attorney general is reduced to stuttering prevarication on national TV in order to make his case. On the TV thingy, he said that Texas has found more than 200 cases and proved it in court (well, not true) and that he had also successfully prosecuted 50 cases, which is also not true.
He’s found and successfully prosecuted exactly two cases of in-person vote fraud. In 10 years.
In today’s Washington Post, the colonist Harold Meyerson makes the case that this kind of voter suppression could very well work to undermine any national Republican victory.The very voters targeted for suppression are also rapidly growing demographic groups, groups which happen to be traditional Democratic voters.
If Mitt Romney wins the election, it will be by a razor-thin margin. If that margin can be easily seen to be the result of the right’s efforts to manipulate voting rights, his presidency could easily be delegitimize. In fact, the left will have no difficulty making that case, far less difficulty than the right does today trying to delegitimize Pres. Obama and the people who voted for him.
Ultimately, if the right is successful, only those who vote “appropriately” will be allowed to vote — and the apartheid society that is most likely to result from that success is positively terrifying. It should be terrifying to you, too.
Our ideas should win elections, and if they can’t, they deserve to lose. Further, if you have to suppress the vote in order to win elections, it should be a sign that your ideas might need more work, not that the voters are wrong.