The Dangerous Fraud About Vote Fraud

October 16, 2016

18 Unites States Code §594: Intimidation of voters

Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

When I was 9 years old, I was playing a board game with some other kids in my neighborhood. I lost, something I could not stand to do. I lost to a girl, which made it even worse. (I had the typical 1950s-9-year-old-Midwestern-boy mentality when it came to girls.) I blew up. I screamed at her that she was a cheater. I even called her a b_____.

I’ve grown a bit in 56 years. I’ve learned to handle failure, accept defeat with grace, take responsibility for my mistakes, and even make something of it. My attitude towards women has matured significantly, as well.

The same, it appears, cannot be said for Donald John Trump, currently running for president on the Republican ticket. His childish temperament and misogyny are there for all to see, and they are helping drive him to do something even more reckless and perhaps dangerous. I refer to his loud, persistent claim that our national election is “rigged” and that his supporters should go watch voters at polling places.

As with many other outrageous, offensive, and often untrue things Mr. Trump has said in the past months, this is just an extreme extension of what has been a Republican electoral strategy for many years: claiming rampant voter fraud and working to suppress the right to vote, particularly for minorities. You may not be aware of it, but the Republican National Committee has been operating under a consent decree for more than 30 years forbidding it from engaging in certain activities relating to voting, due to voter intimidation in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Republican-majority Congress has refused to take up legislation to repair the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. After that decision, several states moved quickly to enact laws ostensibly aimed at combating voter fraud but actually designed to make it harder for non-white voters, who are presumed to vote Democratic, to exercise their franchise.

Alabama passed a voter ID law and then pulled license examiners from DMV offices in several majority-black counties. Alabama claimed it was a budget issue. A federal investigation ensued, and the examiners are back.

Texas enacted one of the harshest voter ID laws in the country even before Shelby County, one that would not accept several common forms of identification. The federal courts struck that down, and the state could be under federal oversight in the upcoming election.

The courts have struck down voter-suppression laws in other states, as well, but that hasn’t stopped the suppression movement. The cover story for all this has been that there is widespread vote fraud going on, a myth that has been debunked many times by researchers and the courts as well as by at least one prominent Republican election lawyer, Chris Ashby.

Trump has now upped the ante by urging his followers, after they vote, to go “watch other communities.” Trump’s people are responding. For example, a fellow named Steve Webb was quoted:

“I’ll look for . . . well, it’s called racial profiling. Mexicans. Syrians. People who can’t speak American,” he said. “I’m going to go right up behind them. I’ll do everything legally. I want to see if they are accountable. I’m not going to do anything illegal. I’m going to make them a little bit nervous.”

Actually, Mr. Webb, you are not doing everything “legally;” that’s voter intimidation.

I should also point out that 33 states have Republicans holding their Secretary of State’s office, and more than a few of those, such as in Ohio and Washington State, made it quite publicly clear that Trump’s comments were as insulting as they were false.

Stirring up conspiracy fantasies is a very old political trick that crosses the aisle. Joe McCarthy rose briefly to power using it, and even the Sanders campaign trotted out charges the primary process was rigged. Okay, that trick is going to be pulled from time to time, but to go from there to exhorting your supporters to hover around polls—that some might show up armed is not outside the realm of possibility—and threaten voters by their presence is beyond disgraceful, is fundamentally un-American, and quite possibly against federal law.


That “Debate” Was a Low Moment, Even by Our Standards

October 10, 2016

I haven’t posted much politically in recent months, but a quick one, then I need to get to work.

I woke up pretty depressed. That spectacle last night was embarrassing and demeaning to our democracy. Now, political “debates” have been riding the low road for decades; the last intelligent, civilized debates were in 1960. They became extensions of the campaigns, with a bit of mud-wrestling thrown in. Last night was only the most recent, and perhaps the worst, example. Attack lines (mainly from Trump) and campaign messaging (Clinton) instead of respectfully answering the questions people posed, which, BTW, I thought were quite good.

This has been going on, as I said, for decades. The first thing I would do is get rid of the in-studio audiences. The second thing I would do is have an on-screen fact-checker, rather than trying to make the poor moderators (and Cooper and Raddatz did a better-than-usual job, I think) do it, when the candidates will talk over them. I would shut off the mic at two minutes, and the other person gets to talk.

The problem is compounded by the fact that television wants this kind of thing. Those who run t.v. networks find sober discussions of policy boring, when they could be educational. Yes, a portion of the audience wants mud wrestling, but I think (or at least I hope) that most people would genuinely like to hear candidates explain their ideas and not just throw clever – and sometimes not-so-clever – rocks at each other.

It’s common knowledge the average American knows next-to-nothing about our government, how laws and policies are made, and the facts on economics, taxation, spending, and a whole array of issues. There are multiple reasons for this, but my former colleagues in the Fourth Estate, particularly the t.v. side, bear a great deal of responsibility for this in failing to do their jobs.

William Evjue, the founder of the Capital Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, had the motto, “Give people the truth and the freedom to discuss it, and all will go well.” That was both an expression of faith in people and obligation for journalists. Would that he were more widely heeded.


Remembering John Lennon

October 9, 2016

Okay, “Imagine” and all that, sure, but I have a particular fondness for this one:


Happy Birthday, Joan Jett

September 22, 2016


A Blessed Autumnal Equinox to All

September 22, 2016



“Never Forget”

September 10, 2016

Around the anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, we start seeing images in social and traditional media of the World Trade Center ablaze, or a New York skyline, or a flag, or an eagle, with the words “Never Forget!” superimposed.

Here’s what I’ll “never forget.”



September 10th, 1974: Lou Brock Swipes No. 105

September 10, 2016


On September 10th, 1974, Cardinal left fielder Lou Brock re-set baseball’s record book. In a game against the Phils in St. Louis, Lou Brock, then 35 – ancient in major league baseball terms – stole two bases to pass Maury Wills for the single-season record, which had been 104. Brock would finish the season with 118 stolen bases in 151 attempts. He also batted .304, collected 194 hits, and scored 105 runs that year.

Two months earlier, Brock’s Hall-of-Fame teammate, Bob Gibson, got his 3,000th strikeout to become only the second pitcher (Walter Johnson was the first) to reach that mark.

1974 wasn’t much of a season for the team, but those were two pretty great individual performances.