Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dialogues of the Candorville

And no, this has nothing to do with the comic strip. Refer to previous posts here and here for context. The dialogue part takes place mainly in the comments section.

In my last post to you, Richard, you will recall that I noted four basic points I saw in your comments. I'll take them one at a time, over two or three posts for brevity's sake.

Your first point was that vote fraud is commonplace in American elections whether or not we choose to see it. I have to assume that my original post puts me securely in the camp of those who "don't choose to see it," in your estimation. Not so fast. I have no doubt vote fraud goes on and has gone on, in certain places at least, almost from the beginning. I also have no doubt that tactics to block certain classes of legitimate voters, either via intimidation or duplicity, have gone on in the past and are attempted even today. I have lived almost my entire life in the South, and we have a history as far as that goes. Nobody here with any sense would argue that fraud and intimidation have never happened.

Believing that vote fraud can and does happen, however, is a little different than believing every single allegation of fraud that comes down the pike (or at least every single one that comes from a given party.) If we accept uncritically every utterance made by some disgruntled soul just because it fits some conclusions we have already drawn, we are easy prey for anyone unscrupulous enough to use our scruples against us. That goes for me if I accept uncritically a questionable allegation from a right-wing source (you shoulda been here in the Land o' Peaches, Peanuts, & Pecans for the State Flag Follies) as well as for you if you accept one from a left-wing source.

We have an electoral system, and no, it's not flawless. But it's better than most and is equipped with certain safeguards that make achieving a measure of fairness possible. If nothing else, you can always mount a "throw the bums out" campaign in time for the next one. Believe me, if you have clear-cut evidence of shady doings that you can produce and a sympathetic media, that shouldn't be difficult. Remember Watergate? But you'll note that I said "clear-cut." Allegations won't do; evidence will. It's not what you think or wish is true that will convince others; it's the facts you can produce.

Now, since you like cautionary tales, try this one on for size:

Sometime in the American future, a radical (or call 'em reactionary, if you prefer. I don't much care if they've been reading Mao or Mein Kampf; in my book they're equally evil) group bent on overthrowing the republic concludes that the simplest way to do this is through undermining the electoral system. So every time an election goes against them, they raise an uproar. They challenge the results, claim the machines are rigged, produce "victims" who claim to have been duped or intimidated. After a few go-rounds, a lot of people who weren't necessarily in their camp to begin with have so come to doubt the electoral system that they've given up on it. Others who continue to participate are perpetually on edge: every poll worker who lingers a little too long over their information is a potential harasser, any minor error on their own part is due to machine rigging. (I believe you may have stopped into my post "Election Thoughts." If you read the combox, you will have noted my own "vote flipping" experience--owing entirely to my technical incompetence. I wonder how many "flipped vote" reports occurred merely because somebody failed to take into account that touchscreens are sensitive and if you brush one check box en route to another, you might just mark that one instead?) Pretty soon our cadre doesn't need to produce victims; self-identified victims are coming out of the woodwork.

Once they have a substantial portion of the public convinced that the electoral system is fatally flawed and unsalvagable, they're in the catbird seat. Maybe they can just take a page from the current situation in Mexico, and, on losing a close election cry fraud, refuse to concede, and inaugurate themselves, potentially triggering a split in the country or a civil war. Or maybe they can offer an alternative to the "fatally flawed" system--say, oh, direct federal-level democracy instead of fifty state elections and an electoral system. After that, all they have to do is whip up mob followings in a handful of densely populated states, maybe rig a few carefully-chosen elections, and they're in charge, perhaps for a very long time. Think Huey Long. Think the Byrd machine in Virginia, or the Daley machine in Chicago. Suddenly, "throwing the bums out" after four years isn't so easy. They can follow up ridding us of our "fatally flawed" electoral system with ridding us of (or at least gutting) a few other "fatally flawed" systems, ensuring that they consolidate and stay in power.

Maybe you don't accept this possibility. Well, it's happened before, in various permutations (some noted above.) Maybe it doesn't matter as long as the oligarchy is doing things you agree with. What if it isn't?

Your second and third points were that fraud was a deciding factor in recent (not including the last) elections, and that the Republican party was largely if not entirely responsible because it was in power at the time. I think we can deal with these two points at once. As I think I've gone on quite long enough for one post, I'll get to these in a day or two. As for your fourth point, that disaster was averted in this most recent election through vigilance, I'll post on that subsequently. It seems a news story or two has come out recently on that matter.

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