8/19/2005

What They Did Last Fall - New York Times

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

And what about 2004?

Mr. Gumbel throws cold water on those who take the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final result as evidence of a stolen election. (I told you it's a judicious book.) He also seems, on first reading, to play down what happened in Ohio. But the theme of his book is that America has a long, bipartisan history of dirty elections.

He told me that he wasn't brushing off the serious problems in Ohio, but that "this is what American democracy typically looks like, especially in a presidential election in a battleground state that is controlled substantially by one party."..

We aren't going to rerun the last three elections. But what about the future?

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.

What They Did Last Fall - New York Times

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