8.11.2005

you must read this

Once again I am asking you to spend your hard-earned currency.

The last time I plugged an article from Harper's, it was something I found fascinating and entertaining. This time, it's essential. I've been waiting for someone to write this article, someone who could pull all the evidence together and put it in context. The brilliant Mark Crispin Miller has done it.

Here's the beginning of "None Dare Call It Stolen: Ohio, the election, and America's servile press".
Whichever candidate you voted for (or think you voted for), or even if you did not vote (or could not vote), you must admit that last year's presidential race was - if nothing else - pretty interesting. True, the press has dropped the subject, and the Democrats, with very few exceptions, have "moved on." Yet this contest may have been the most unusual in U.S. history; it was certainly among those with the strangest outcomes. You may remember being surprised yourself. The infamously factious Democrats were fiercely unified - Ralph Nader garnered only about 0.38 percent of the national vote while the Republicans were split, with a vocal anti-Bush front that included anti-Clinton warrior Bob Barr of Georgia; Ike's son John Eisenhower; Ronald Reagan's chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, William J. Crowe Jr.; former Air Force Chief of Staff and onetime "Veteran for Bush" General Merrill "Tony" McPeak; founding neocon Francis Fukuyama; Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute, and various large alliances of military officers, diplomats, and business professors. The American Conservative, co-founded by Pat Buchanan, endorsed five candidates for president, including both Bush and Kerry, while the Financial Times and The Economist came out for Kerry alone. At least fifty-nine daily newspapers that backed Bush in the previous election endorsed Kerry (or no one) in this election. The national turnout in 2004 was the highest since 1968, when another unpopular war had swept the ruling party from the White House. And on Election Day, twenty-six state exit polls incorrectly predicted wins for Kerry, a statistical failure so colossal and unprecedented that the odds against its happening, according to a report last May by the National Election Data Archive Project, were 16.5 million to 1. Yet this ever-less beloved president, this president who had united liberals and conservatives and nearly all the world against himself - this president somehow bested his opponent by 3,000,176 votes.

How did he do it? To that most important question the commentariat, briskly prompted by Republicans, supplied an answer. Americans of faith - a silent majority heretofore unmoved by any other politician - had poured forth by the millions to vote "Yes!" for Jesus' buddy in the White House. Bush's 51 percent, according to this thesis, were roused primarily by "family values." Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, called gay marriage "the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term." The pundits eagerly pronounced their amens - "Moral values," Tucker Carlson said on CNN, "drove President Bush and other Republican candidates to victory this week" - although it is not clear why. The primary evidence of our Great Awakening was a post-election poll by the Pew Research Center in which 27 percent of the respondents, when asked which issue "mattered most" to them in the election, selected something called "moral values." This slight plurality of impulse becomes still less impressive when we note that, as the pollsters went to great pains to make clear, "the relative importance of moral values depends greatly on how the question is framed." In fact, when voters were asked to "name in their own words the most important factor in their vote," only 14 percent managed to come up with "moral values." Strangely, this detail went little mentioned in the postelectoral commentary. [1]

The press has had little to say about most of the strange details of the election - except, that is, to ridicule all efforts to discuss them. This animus appeared soon after November 2, in a spate of caustic articles dismissing any critical discussion of the outcome as crazed speculation: "Election paranoia surfaces: Conspiracy theorists call results rigged," chuckled the Baltimore Sun on November 5. "Internet Buzz on Vote Fraud Is Dismissed," proclaimed the Boston Globe on November 10. "Latest Conspiracy Theory - Kerry Won - Hits the Ether," the Washington Post chortled on November 11. The New York Times weighed in with "Vote Fraud Theories, Spread by Blogs, Are Quickly Buried" - making mock not only of the "post-election theorizing" but of cyberspace itself, the fons et origo of all such loony tunes, according to the Times.

Such was the news that most Americans received. Although the tone was scientific, "realistic," skeptical, and "middle-of-the-road," the explanations offered by the press were weak and immaterial. It was as if they were reporting from inside a forest fire without acknowledging the fire, except to keep insisting that there was no fire.[2] Since Kerry has conceded, they argued, and since "no smoking gun" had come to light, there was no story to report. This is an oddly passive argument. Even so, the evidence that something went extremely wrong last fall is copious, and not hard to find. Much of it was noted at the time, albeit by local papers and haphazardly. Concerning the decisive contest in Ohio, the evidence is lucidly compiled in a single congressional report, released by Representative John Conyers of Michigan, which, for the last half-year, has been available to anyone inclined to read it. It is a veritable arsenal of "smoking guns" - and yet its findings may be less extraordinary than the fact that no one in this country seems to care about them.

[1] Another poll, by Zogby International, showed that 33 percent of voters deemed - greed and materialism - the most pressing moral problems in America. Only 12 percent of those polled cited gay marriage.

[2] Keith Olbermann, on MSNBC, stood out as an heroic exception, devoting many segments of his nightly program Countdown to the myriad signs of electoral mischief, particularly in Ohio.
This excerpt is found at Harpers.org, but to read the whole story, you must run out and buy Harper's. So do that right now. Share it with your friends and neighbors.

Miller ends with this:
In this nation's epic struggle on behalf of freedom, reason, and democracy, the press has unilaterally disarmed - and therefore many good Americans, both liberal and conservative, have lost faith in the promise of self-government. That vast surrender is demoralizing, certainly, but if we face it, and endeavor to reverse it, it will not prove fatal. This democracy can survive a plot to hijack an election. What it cannot survive is our indifference to, or unawareness of, the evidence that such a plot has succeeded.
Be informed. Be angry. Be vocal.

For more practical ideas on how you can help secure your vote, see (as always) Black Box Voting.

5 comments:

G said...

Brilliant. Hadn't picked up Harper's yet - I will go and do that.

Keeping with the theme of my last post, I present to you three quick pics on topic.

Vote

Or Else

Fear

Too much fun ...

- G

Lone Primate said...

The American electoral system continues to confound me. Seems like it's down to the county level to set rules about who can vote, and how. Independence is one thing; what happened to national standards? In Canada, federal elections are overseen by an arm's-length federal agency, Elections Canada, which decides on the boundaries for the ridings (electoral districts), sets the rules, mandates the means for voting, oversees the vote and tabulates the result. There is only one, single office in the entire United States elected by all the people: the Presidency. I can't see why a similar body doesn't exist there to oversee that decision.

When I was a kid and I watched School House Rock, "The Preamble" used to depict Americans lining up to step into a booth and flick a number of switches to elect various offices. It looked so cool, so modern. When I was finally old enough to vote, I found that I was instead given a paper ballot and sent behind a screen, where a pencil awaited me and with which I was to mark a clear and unambiguous "X" in the circle associated with the candidate of my choice. It seemed so humble, almost embarrassing. But now, with all these interesting stories of black-box voting, it suddenly seems like maybe it's not such a bad idea to have physical, countable objects which are dropped into locked boxes in front of scrutineers. Results in any election can be faked or tampered with. But it's got to be a lot harder in a place where the paper trail literally exists than in a place where election results are nothing more or less than what the guys in charge of computers declare them to be, with no possible way to dispute them.

redsock said...

Great Diebold advertisements!

RobfromAlberta said...

I felt the same way when I got my first encyclopedia set. It was American and therefore, had a significant amount of information on the US political process. The photo of an American voting machine seemed like something from a sci-fi movie (this, of course, predated the advent of CGI).

L-girl said...

Those Diebold posters are amazing. You should run over to Library Bitch to show G.