Thursday, May 25, 2006
"Voting is for squids," sez Jack Deth
First, the good: This is a pretty darn thorough examination of the various subtle and less-than-subtle tactics used by the Republicans in the lead-up to the 2004 election to disenfranchise and negate as many potentially Democratic votes as possible. It is astonishing and amazing the breadth of these methods, ranging from dirty tricks and disinformation to deliberate destruction of voter registrations to aggressive challenges of voters at the polls. While many of these are small scale and local, more than a few are statewide campaigns originating with State Secretaries of State and election boards/committees.
If you are like me, you probably tracked some of these voting "irregularities" from before election day 2004 through the weeks afterward. I found it difficult to assess at the time whether the reporting of these incidents was accurate or significant. It didn't help that statements were constantly being released after the election which snidely dismissed all reported problems as "sour grapes" or individually inconsequential to the outcome of Bush's victory. Of course, the real issue is whether we, as American voters, can depend on our ability to cast a ballot and have it accurately counted. I would think it obvious this is not a partisan issue; it is a baseline requirement and minimum standard for a democratic system, any democratic system.
Republican spokespeople and operatives are swift to bring up that Democrats are not without taint either. And while it is true some Democrats have used some of these same tactics in various elections in the past, I think it is safe to say Democrats have never mobilized such varied tactics on the massive scale the Republicans did for the 2004 election. It took my breath away as Miller recounted incident after incident in state after state.
As a counterpoint, he mentioned a couple of incidents involving Democratic (sort of) cheating during the election. Rather, these were accusations of fraud or dirty tricks by Republican partisans. Investigation showed most of them to be baseless. A few were substantiated but they apparently were very small in scale, mostly committed by Democratic workers with ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). One involved the girlfriend of an ACORN worker; she registered to vote 25 times and signed three other friends up another 40 times. The motivation? This made an extra $120 for her boyfriend who was paid by the number of registrations and had a minimum quota to meet. I think that was the worst Miller mentioned. Oh, and an already fired ACORN worker signed up a 13-year-old to vote.
There were other incidents but compared to the long litany of Republican sins on this front, the Dems come off as simple hayseeds, silent or bewildered by this blizzard of corrupt machination.
I was frustrated by the vague promise at the end of the subtitle: (Unless We Stop Them). I had hoped Miller would give some specifics on the how of stopping such fraudulent antics. Sadly, he mostly ends with general exhortations to reclaim our right to vote. There's nothing wrong with not going into it in this book but I wanted more and I thought more was implied by the title.
There were a few spots where the statistical details and figures overwhelmed me a bit. There were a few other spots where the figures were just not very impressive even though they indicated the trend of the vote. For much of it, I was caught up in Miller's generally very-readable style.
The appendix was an appropriate coda: Two statements from participants caught up in some rather horrible police action at a Bush campaign event/motorcade in Jacksonville, Oregon. The description of repression and use of force to stifle opposing speech is chilling.
Fooled Again is well worth reading. Some reviews of it have been critical but I'm at a loss to explain them. I think Miller has made a cogent and well-researched book about the election.