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December 22, 2004
Village Voice Scolds Democratic Conspiracy-Mongers ... For Missing The Bigger Conspiracy

Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice writes a very convoluted essay that both chides the Democrats for spewing insane conspiracy theories about the 2004 election, and at the same time spins an even more ludicrous paranoid fantasy about why Democrats keep losing elections. He wants Democrats to shut up about what he sees as trivialities and easily-explainable happenstances and instead focus on the eeeeeevil genius of Karl Rove:

It's possible that their vindication will come, that what's already being referred to as the "vote fraud community"the allusion is to the "JFK assassination research community"won't disappear up its very own grassy knoll. But the charges producing the greatest heat online often turn out to have the most innocent explanations. The recount isn't amounting to much, either. Last week the Franklin County Board of Elections did discover one extra vote for Kerryoffset by the extra vote they found for Bush. The irregularities volunteers have pointed to in the recount process itself are often picayune.

In many Americans' minds, it's not too hard to imagine, this will all be received as further evidence of the activist left's irrelevance. Which would, in fact, be a tragedy. For elections in America are indeed broken, badly, and vulnerable to fraud. That fact is not politically neutral: The problems in America's election system have advantaged the Republicans, in significant and consistent ways.

If the Democrats had a Karl Rovea cunning master strategist who thinks so far in advance that he wins new wars before the other side even wakes up to discover there's been a fightsetting up an election reform movement might be the first thing he would do. It just wouldn't look anything like the reform movement we haveso uncoordinated, strategically unsound, and prone to going off half-cocked that it may end up hurting the crucial cause it seeks to help.

This article, in itself, amply demonstrates the Left's irrelevance. Perlstein writes this essay as if our election system transformed itself in 1992 from perfection to fatally flawed, with all the flaws running in favor of the GOP. That's hogwash. The electoral system we have now is the exact same system that kept Democrats in power for over four decades -- until their stridently socialist message started coming through loud and clear. Perlstein does not produce a single example of an electoral-system change to support his reasoning that the system favors the Republicans. All he can do is allege that Karl Rove and the Republican party somehow -- he doesn't explain how here, either -- game the system to GOP advantage.

Here's an example of Perlstein's support for such a notion (emphasis mine):

The national elections maywe can't prove it yet, but there's every indication be completely crooked," says Wayne Tack, an activist in Chicago. "And the consequence of that is, in the next election cycle, the Republicans have a filibuster-proof majority. The election cycle after that, a two-thirds majority in both houses, and the possibility of a two-thirds majority in two-thirds of the states. Then you can amend the Constitution every week."

If there's "every indication", then why can't Tack offer any proof, even circumstantial? The only thing he offers is a paranoid fantasy about a lockdown issue which even Perlstein destroys. While Perlstein excoriates Democrats like John Conyers for going off "half-cocked," he lauds other Democrats for filing lawsuits before Election Day:

Democrats in Westchester County have pointed toward a better way. They knew that the state senate race between Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Nick Spano was going to be close. Explains Rosen, "So we went to court for an impoundment order in this recount the day before the election, mainly in an effort to create a public psychological perception that, whatever unofficial results were reported on election night, we wanted to reserve the presumption that there was still a recount to be had." Thus their post-election strategy proved disciplined and tough. They've got a good chance to win.

It creates a presumption with the electorate, all right: the presumption that even Democrats know they can't win an election straight up. The courtroom strategy for Democrats has been obvious the past several election cycles, and now Perlstein wants the elections to get thrown to the judicial branch before a single vote is cast. What next? Should Democrats be encouraged to venue-shop as well to ensure they get their cases heard by Democrat-appointed justices?

Perlstein later argues for federalizing all elections as a solution to the messy electoral process:

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. has pointed out that Congress doesn't even have the power to establish a nationally uniform system of votingeverything in the Constitution concerning presidential elections is mediated through the states, which is why every state (and within every state, every county) runs elections its own way. He's proposed a constitutional amendment to right the wrong. Passing it is a daunting prospect, no doubt. But as strategy, it also has the makings of brilliance. Let the Republicans try to fight it. Put them on record as against the right to vote. Let them defend the process as it existswhere a figure like Blackwell can simultaneously be the captain of one of the teams and the game's chief referee.

Then Americans will know where the Republicans stand.

Yes, they will -- for common sense. How exactly does federalizing elections change the process of counting ballots? We still would have "old blue-haired ladies who work once a year for a hundred bucks . . . yelling out the number to their husband with a hearing aid who's going to change the eight to a zero." They would just get paid by the feds rather than the county. And what happens when the counties and states no longer control what kinds of machines are used in the precincts, or how many machines are allocated for each election? When Congress controls the election process, will Perlstein be convinced of electoral perfection when the Democrats keep losing?

In fact, what Perlstein proposes is really a Trojan horse for the elimination of the electoral college, as well as the potential for an exponential expansion of courtroom mischief after elections. Federalizing elections would remove one of the main reasons for sticking with electors rather than a direct election, which would also then give tremendous power to the four or five most populous states and shortchange residents elsewhere. America's diversity of interests would be subjugated to the needs of the cities, and taxpayers in exurban and rural areas could then expect to see their pockets picked (even more than usual) to support a panoply of social programs for the major urban areas.

It is a grand scheme envisioned by Perlstein, and somehow I doubt that electoral perfection is anything more than an excuse to implement it. Otherwise, Perlstein becomes what he scorns.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 22, 2004 3:17 PM

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