Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Changing the rules

Of late a video depicting alleged voter fraud in Washington, D.C. has swept across the Internet, buttressing conservative concerns about a possible stolen election.

But wait a minute -- that video was made by conservative activist James O'Keefe, whose previous undercover operation supposedly "exposed" ACORN staffers engaging in a prostitution ring. The ensuing controversy ended up with the disbanding of the organization, even though it was eventually exonerated of all wrongdoing.

What was ACORN's sin? In essence, registering poor African-Americans to vote -- for Barack Obama for president.

The larger picture is that the conservative movement that now runs the Republican Party is now doing a number of things to attempt to depress Democratic turnout in order to keep Obama from a second term. GOP lawmakers in at least six states, including here in Pennsylvania, have passed laws now requiring photo ID to cast a ballot, knowing full well that the cost of obtaining one might be prohibitive. (In three Southern states the Justice Department found them in violation of the Voting Rights Act, and a law in Wisconsin turned out to be unconstitutional.)

But that to me suggests that the conservatives don't have confidence in either its candidates or its agenda to do things above board -- and for good reason. The Republican front-runner for president, Mitt Romney, simply isn't sufficiently conservative for its base, while Rick Santorum, now a solid second, has a large number of critics outside that base who won't vote for him because of his extreme positions, especially on social issues.

What else are the conservatives doing? You remember that brouhaha in Wisconsin last year about public sector unions? Well, the majority leader of the senate up there admitted that part of the reason it wanted to destroy them was to deny at least some funding for the Obama re-election campaign. Here in Pennsylvania, where a majority of voters are today registered Democrats, the legislature was talking about allotting electoral votes based on the partisan composition of Congressional districts rather than by popular vote -- which, not coincidentally, would favor Republicans. (I don't recall the status of the bill.)

There's a history of such, by the way. In 1992, conservative activists filed suit in Federal court in Little Rock, Ark. to have Bill Clinton removed from the presidential ballot, for no other reason that they were likely to lose. (The judge immediately threw it out.) That failing, others had Clinton impeached on what turned out to be silly, politically-motivated charges related to the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I wonder why they're complaining about "cheating" now -- projection, perhaps?

Eight years later, House Majority Whip Dick Armey insulted Kweisi Mfume -- I wish I could remember the details -- who at the time headed the NAACP, which for the first time in its history had conducted a voter-registration drive and which has always been on the right-wing hit list. That same year, enough votes from African-Americans may have been invalidated in Florida to give George W. Bush the presidency, so when Obama ended up on the ballot in 2008 the black community was motivated to vote, in larger numbers than ever before.

That's the backdrop of the latest video -- as things stand now things look bleak for the Republican Party. And that's why all these concerns about "voter fraud" represent dealing from the bottom of the deck.