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This is what Democracy looks like

June 17, 2006

Did you know it’s officially “Controversy re-hash” week here at the Monkey? Seriously, Swift Vets, Tom DeLay, Ann Coulter, Dick Durbin,  not one but two references to friggin’ Willie Horton, not to mention Scooter Libby and Lee freakin’ Atwater!!! And that was practically all Flinger! Must be a slow news week… oh yeah, Rove’s not going down. Next.

Except one thing keeps botherin’ me.

In her last comment to me, Deborah White cited as one reason to take her seriously “At other times, I tear into Democratic stupidity. My most recent
example is lambasting Robert Kennedy’s article in Rolling Stone.
” I clicked over expecting a debunking of JFK Jr.’s death-by-data-dump rehash of 2004 election conspiracies. Instead, here’s what she wrote:

In a supposedly controversial article Rolling Stone this week, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. poses the stale question: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?”

Uh….YES! Of course. Obviously.

I guess this is supposed to be a daring public revelation by Mr. Kennedy. But the fact is….this is old news. Very old, stale news.

Then she proceeds to bring out all manner of studies and pronouncements showing that yes indeed, the 2004 election was indeed stolen. She concludes:

Nice words and pretty patriotic sentiments, Mr. Kennedy, written a safe 18 months after the 2004 elections and well after the President’s ratings hit irretrievably awful lows.

You know as well as anyone, Mr. Kennedy, that it takes years of focus and legislation to clean-up elections systems. It takes courageous actions, not just politically-timed words, to change the course of events. Here’s my question for you, Mr. Kennedy: With your money and vast influence, what action are YOU actually taking to guarantee voting rights in the United States?

You know, by not letting elections get stolen. Not that anyone’s fear-mongering or being divisive!

Actually, the JFK article looked pretty impressive to me. Lots of quotes and citations, and a bold accusation:

After carefully examining the evidence, I’ve become convinced that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004.

Now I’m a busy guy, and I don’t have the time to go checking out sources for articles that seem too outlandish to be true – I leave that to Rufus. Besides noting that the article seemed to not have any evidence towards the “coordinated” claim- unless you posit the existence of the Rovian “Q” email that goes out to all Republicans.. bwaa ha haa! – I just decided to leave it as one of those data-dump articles I just resist on gut feeling. Not too sophisticated, I admit, but his is my process, and I bet you would have to admit dear reader that it is often yours on occasion. As the song goes: Too much information/ driving me insane.

Worse than an overwhelming influx of info is taking the time to seek out opposing information of good pedigree. As fate would have it,  Michael Barone, one of my favorite pundits,  would point me to a three part series at Mystery Pollster, a polling blog I’ve heard good things about from across the spectrum.

Says Mystery Pollster:

Kennedy manages to dredge up nearly every long-ago discredited distortion or half-truth on this subject without any acknowledgement of contrary arguments or the weaknesses in his argument.

Then he goes on in mind-numbing detail to debunk especially the exit-poll part of JFK’s argument. He doesn’t deny there were serious issues in the Ohio elections, notably by Republican Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, but I think he makes the case that nothing so big happened as to call in question the legitimacy of the election. (Incidentally, Blackwell is running for Gov in Ohio, and in an interview I heard him in he seemed an extremely articulate an honorable person. For the record though, if Blackwell did do something illegal in terms of the 2004 election, I would consider that beyond the realm of “principled partisanship”. However, one has to wonder if he did something so wrong, why hasn’t he been charged with something.) This is a thorough, line-by-line analysis of the argument.

Then there’s the other debunking by Farhad Manjoo in that right-wing e-rag Salon. Again, he’s not out to deny that there are serious issues that need to be addressed. In that sense, he agrees with Deborah. The difference is he doesn’t resort to conspiracy theories or fudged numbers to make his case:

One has to wonder what, after all of this, Kennedy might have brought to the debate. There could have been an earnest exploration of the issues in order to finally shed some light on the problems we face in elections, and a call to urgently begin repairing our electoral machinery… [Like Deborah said, only not so filled with the urge to shame.–Ed.]<snip> (W)hatever his aim, RFK Jr. does not appear intent on fixing the problem. He’s more content to take us through a hit parade of the most popular, and the most dismissible, theories purporting to show that John Kerry won Ohio, theories that have been swirling about the blogosphere ever since the race was called. I scoured his Rolling Stone article for some novel story or statistic or theory that would prove, finally, that George W. Bush was not the true victor. But nothing here is new.

Nothing new indeed. Just another Democrat cataloging evidence of an imperfect world, blaming it on the Republicans and fanning it into a crisis of Constitutional proportions that attacks the very legal legitimacy of the Administration. Folks, this is what Democracy looks like. Making the Perfect the enemy of the good is a fast track to unhappiness.

Getting back to Deborah, she quotes a number of sources with alarming assertions in them, as does Kennedy. One Kennedy quotes, but Deborah doesn’t (I think), is the Democrats report “Democracy At Risk”, which (accurately) reports that 26 percent of registered Ohio voters did not find their names on voter rolls at polling places. Which is unacceptable, obviously.

What Kennedy doesn’t say, though, is that the same study found no significant difference in the share of Kerry voters and Bush voters who came to the polls and didn’t find their names listed. The Democrats’ report says that 4.2 percent of Kerry voters were forced to cast a “provisional” ballot and that 4.1 percent of Bush voters were made to do the same — a stat that lowers the heat on Kennedy’s claim of “astounding” partisanship.

The conclusion of the Democrats own report?

“Despite the problems on Election Day, there is no evidence from our survey that John Kerry won the state of Ohio.” But Kennedy doesn’t tell you that.

Neither does Deborah, who still insists that the election was stolen. Surely there is middle ground between ignoring or justifying problems, and insisting on a nefarious, co-ordinated plot to steal the Presidency, despite evidence that is much more plausible.

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