Close Enough To Steal?

I feel like I’m in uncharted electoral waters. I remember Bill Clinton’s decisive victory over Bob Dole in 1996 and indications point to a larger margin of victory this time.

I remember Nixon’s 1972 landslide over George McGovern, but I was 11, I don’t remember the details and I certainly don’t remember what the last few weeks felt like. I was only three when Lyndon Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater in 1964. It took 44 years to coax another Arizonan to run for president after Sen. Goldwater’s drubbing. What Arizonan will want to step up after this?

Two weeks ago, supporters of Barack Obama were walking a gloat/jinx tightrope. The jinx fears seem to have dissipated since. Sen. Orrin Hatch was on MSNBC yesterday bringing up Harry Truman’s 1948 come-from-behind win over Thomas Dewey. When your surrogates start comparing you to Harry Truman of 1948: worry. Later on the same network, Brian Williams and Chuck Todd more or less told Chris Matthews that the election is over and John McCain lost.

On 12 October 2000, I wrote that Al Gore would defeat George Bush. Here are a few choice quotes:

“The way the race looks from here, the election is over and Al Gore wins. The signs are all there. Polls have said that based on platform alone, more Americans prefer the Democratic plan to the Republican. Odious though he may be, people think Al Gore is more capable and better qualified to move into the Oval Office than George Junior. Finally, Bush is struggling to stay alive in Florida, a state that was supposed to be in his pocket all along.”

“All the pundits and analysts are saying this is shaping up as the closest race in 40 years, since Kennedy beat Nixon. Thing is, I remember October 1992, when Bill Clinton was bearing down on George Senior. All the pundits then said it would be the closest race since 1960, but it wasn’t close at all.”

“I’ll put my neck on the line and predict that Al Gore wins in 2000, not a landslide or a mandate, but a win.”

Turns out I was right (although that middle quote was not so good). Al Gore did win the 2000 election. And then it was stolen. There was a good deal of thievery in the 2004 election and we’re already seeing signs of it in 2008. The attempts to purge voter rolls in several states. The hue and cry over supposed “vote fraud” by ACORN.

Here’s the deal with ACORN: they hire people to register voters and they pay them – perhaps foolishly – for every voter they register. Some people give in to the temptation to submit phony names. ACORN’s professional staff catches most of these phony forms; some get through and are caught by the Board of Elections. While phony voter registration forms should not be submitted, it is not the same as voter fraud. If a voter registration form is submitted in the name of Mr. Peanut of 123 Main Street, it doesn’t mean someone is going to show up at the polls on Election Day and claim to be Mr. Peanut of 123 Main Street and try to vote. Although many studies have tried to show that fraudulent voting occurs in America, none of produced evidence of it happening in the modern era.

It’s far easier, as the Republican Party has shown, to suppress the other side’s vote, through intimidation and confusion of poor people. In Indiana, the GOP tried to get a judge to throw out early votes and close early voting polling places in largely Democratic Lake County, because someone “might” have cheated, although they could produce no evidence that anyone had. The judge dismissed the case.

In Ohio, where Sen. Obama’s taking a double-digit lead, the secretary of state, a Democrat, is receiving death threats and envelopes filled with white powder at her office.

David Iglesias, the Republican US attorney who was fired in 2006 by then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales because he refused to prosecute bogus GOP voter fraud claims, says “voter fraud” is “like the boogeymen parents use to scare their children. It’s very frightening, and it doesn’t exist.

We don’t know how this election will turn out. Maybe there will be a “Bradley effect,” in which people tell pollsters they will vote for Mr. Obama, but then don’t, due to in-dwelling racism. (The effect is named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley – an African American – who was predicted to handily win the California governor’s race against the white George Deukmejian. Mr. Bradley lost.)

What’s important is not to get comfortable, not to give up hope, not to stop working. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

© Mark Floegel, 2008

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