The Fraud That Dares Not Speak It's Name

Saturday, June 03, 2006

When I saw Robert F Kennedy Jr.'s story on election fraud in Rolling Stone, on Thursday night, my first thought was, Oh what will the Very Important Bloggers do with this? It has been entertaining, if predictably disheartening to watch it play out. In their endless mimicry of the mainstream press they claim to transcend, many of the blogosphere heavyweights are still wishing this issue into the cornfield.

Over at Daily Kos -- you know, the biggest progressive web community site in the blogosphere -- the most activity on the issue has been, of course, in the member pages. Steven D has had a diary on the recommended list for nearly 24 hours and counting. It's a good diary and, in it, he dared to utter the following:

"You cannot say: By the way, there's something wrong with our electoral system."

Indeed, that is the message we have had consistently drummed into our stunned, outraged, unbelieving hearts and minds, not only by the traditional media who failed miserably in their duty, but also by our Democratic leadership, our Democratic political consultants, and even by leaders of the progressive "netroots," among them Armando and Markos Moulitsas, [emphasis added] who have impugned the motives, and often the sanity, of anyone who suggested that the 2004 presidential election was fraudulent, and that John Kerry should have won.

His sentiment was echoed throughout the 450+ posts (and counting) by a number of frustrated kossacks. From environmentalist:

To me - (12+ / 0-)

the most important and bothersome thing about Steven D's excellent post is how Kos and Armando essentially sought to silence any voice at Dkos that made the same points the Rolling Stone article did. Armando attacked me numerous times when I talked about it. Self-censorship occurs even in the most progressive of blogs.

But Armando, the enforcer, thinks silencing the "fraudsters" is a good idea:

Steven (2+ / 0-)

The Rolling Stone article is complete horseshit.

This is a rehash of all of the worst theories.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. should be ashamed of himself.

He has destroyed the issue of voting reform forever with this.

I will not engage you in reliving November and December 2004.

S uffice it to say that this thread is the worst indictment of the fraudsters and reconfirms that Markos was right to ban the fraudsters.

I imagine he will have to do it again.
[emphasis added]

Hooray for Booman Tribune, a big influx is coming your way.

Yes, bannings and threats of bannings. What a shock. And Armando's public disparagement of RFK continues throughout the thread. This is my favorite:

What I wouldn't do for a good 9/11 Diary (1+ / 0-)

RFH, Jr has embarrassed himself.

One of the worst rrsearched and error filled articles ever. [emphases added]

So does Armando speak for Daily Kos, or even for Kos himself, when it comes to the election fraud issue? If the front page is any indication, yes. The only election fraud story I observed there yesterday was one Kos himself elevated from the diary section; a deeply weird piece by Chris Bowers entitled, "Demand Election Reform, But Only If You Mean It." In it, Bowers takes a different approach to intimidating those of us who dare to publicly question the 2004 election. He excoriates us for "laziness."

Bowers actually wrote two diaries on this issue yesterday and both appeared on that other shining light of the liberal blogosphere, the brainchild of the "blogfather" Jerome Armstrong, MyDD. So let's take them one at a time, starting with his lambasting of the lazy and tin-foil hat wearing "stolen election" crowd. Bowers starts with a litany against the "nut jobbery" of people like Beverly Harris and a disparagement of any evidence that Kerry could have won the popular vote. Exit polling data is just hocus pocus to Bowers. Let's compare that to RFK's assessment:

Over the past decades, exit polling has evolved into an exact science. Indeed, among pollsters and statisticians, such surveys are thought to be the most reliable. Unlike pre-election polls, in which voters are asked to predict their own behavior at some point in the future, exit polls ask voters leaving the voting booth to report an action they just executed. The results are exquisitely accurate: Exit polls in Germany, for example, have never missed the mark by more than three-tenths of one percent.(17) ''Exit polls are almost never wrong,'' Dick Morris, a political consultant who has worked for both Republicans and Democrats, noted after the 2004 vote. Such surveys are ''so reliable,'' he added, ''that they are used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World countries.''(18) In 2003, vote tampering revealed by exit polling in the Republic of Georgia forced Eduard Shevardnadze to step down.(19) And in November 2004, exit polling in the Ukraine -- paid for by the Bush administration -- exposed election fraud that denied Viktor Yushchenko the presidency.(20)

So exit polling is good enough to expose fraud in other countries when America's favored candidates lose, but not in our own backyard. The reason? Republicans were unlikely to respond to pollsters. Kennedy quotes respected pollster John Zogby and other evidence that this deus ex machina explanation to the utter failure of exit polling to predict the outcome is nonsensical.

Industry peers didn't buy it. John Zogby, one of the nation's leading pollsters, told me that Mitofsky's ''reluctant responder'' hypothesis is ''preposterous.''(36) Even Mitofsky, in his official report, underscored the hollowness of his theory: ''It is difficult to pinpoint precisely the reasons that, in general, Kerry voters were more likely to participate in the exit polls than Bush voters.''(37)

Now, thanks to careful examination of Mitofsky's own data by Freeman and a team of eight researchers, we can say conclusively that the theory is dead wrong. In fact it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were more disinclined to answer pollsters' questions on Election Day. In Bush strongholds, Freeman and the other researchers found that fifty-six percent of voters completed the exit survey -- compared to only fifty-three percent in Kerry strongholds.(38) ''The data presented to support the claim not only fails to substantiate it,'' observes Freeman, ''but actually contradicts it.''

What's more, Freeman found, the greatest disparities between exit polls and the official vote count came in Republican strongholds. In precincts where Bush received at least eighty percent of the vote, the exit polls were off by an average of ten percent. By contrast, in precincts where Kerry dominated by eighty percent or more, the exit polls were accurate to within three tenths of one percent -- a pattern that suggests Republican election officials stuffed the ballot box in Bush country.(39)

So where a number of respected statisticians conclude that the exit polling data points to a pattern of election fraud, Bowers dismisses it as CT wackiness.

Bowers assures us that the answer to our flawed election system is not major news organs undertaking exposes. It's boots on the ground. We're just not working hard enough, says Bowers. He then tortures his readers with a lengthy anecdote about his own election day effort to address the confusion caused by the use of his middle initial on write-in ballots. I have no doubt that it took a good deal of effort for Bowers to ensure his votes were counted and the story ends happily with his election day victories. For Bowers to compare his few day's of dealing with a bureaucratic snafu with the kind of outright subversion of voter intent that is catalogued so painfully in Kennedy's article -- with the explicit chicanery of Ohio's Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell that took months of court wrangling to only minimally unfuck -- is a hubris I can't even begin quantify.

A quick scroll through any of the DKos threads on this issue attest to just how hard a number of those lazy fraudsters worked to try to ensure a fair election in 2004, but it's apparently not enough to prevent Bowers self-righteous whining. I strongly recommend taking a gander at them, starting with Steven D's recounting of some of his own exertion in battleground Ohio. But my sentiments regarding Bowers sanctimony are best summed up by someone called spiderleaf on Booman Tribune.

Grassroots is all well and good except when you're facing a Ken Blackwell, Diebold and the GOP and all you've got standing behind you is a Green party candidate.

Kinda like bringing a knife to an Uzi fight.

Bowers second writing to appear on MyDD verges on the surreal. Where he only a couple hours before dismissed the nuts and bolts of Kennedy's case as so much hugger mugger, he now mysteriously deduces that the Rolling Stone piece is "RFK Jr's Message of Hope." He reads it as a call to arms over the following:

  • Voter participation is down, and not equal to the levels of what should be a healthy democracy. In 2004, 60% of the American population aged 18 or older turned out to vote. While that was praised as a high number, and better than almost any other election since 1972, even that total is not good enough. Midterm elections in America now regularly see voter participation under 40%. Off-year and primary elections now regularly see voter participation under 20%. The lowest turnout rates tend to happen among low-income groups, young groups, and minority groups. That is not good for America, and it is not good for democracy.


  • Our electoral infrastructure does not guarantee that every vote in counted. In fact, pretty much every election in America will have at least 1% of the people who tried to vote not see their votes counted, and in some cases the numbers will be much higher. Through bad machines, bad ballots, cancelled registrations, "spoiled ballots," too few voting machines, challenged ballots, and many other means, in every election millions of votes are not counted in our electoral system.


  • Fundraising. Despite some improvements, large donors still hold far more sway over our electoral process than average Americans. We still need comprehensive voting reform that frees candidates from having to spend to much time raising money, prevents special access from large donors, and still allows average activists to have agency withint he electoral system.

Somehow, in Bowers mind, an article cataloguing elements of criminal misconduct and outright fraud -- an article brazenly entitled "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" -- becomes a motivational text on repairing long-standing flaws in the system.

The Daily Kos and MyDD are not the only sites to tiptoe around the elephant in the living room -- we've still heard nada from Atrios, for instance -- but they are two of the highest profile and most outrageous. And sadly Daily Kos exerts an influence well beyond it's own e-pages.

I'm not saying Kennedy's article is unassailable or that it should be embraced uncritically by the blogosphere or anywhere else. Salon's Farhad Manjoo, for instance, takes many of Kennedy's assertions to task in a detailed rebuttal. But there is a world of difference between disputing Kennedy's conclusions and shutting down debate. The answer to conflicting perspectives is usually found to lie somewhere in between. By helping the GOP and the mainstream press that does its dirty work to ridicule, marginalize, and silence, those who raise legitimate questions about the anomalies of the 2004 election, the blogging elite do a massive disservice to the discovery of truth that can only come through rigorous examination.

3 comments:

Kate Anne said...

Kos loses credibility when he fails to address the election fraud issue. That's why I didn't buy his book.

The Salon article is an out an out slam. There is a point in the issue of removing people who haven't voted in two consecutive national elections. In NY State this is on the books, but they don't do it. I'd like to know in Ohio if they removed the Republicans who didn't vote. In any case, people who want to vote, who are eligible to vote, should be allowed to vote.

Thanks for your thoughtful piece AND for pointing out some problems with dear Kos. (Nice guy but NOT perfect.)

Peace hugs!

Curmudgette said...

kate anne said:

The Salon article is an out an out slam. There is a point in the issue of removing people who haven't voted in two consecutive national elections...

The Salon piece makes a number of points that deserve a thorough airing. The thing that bothers me about the way this has played out is that the burden of proof seems to be entirely on those who question the results... a lot of us. All the Salon piece really proves is that we have a battle of experts. Some staticians say this. Other statisticians say that. That's par for the course. What is tragic about the way both the mainstream media and the "progressive" blogosphere have handled this issue is that they are not treating contradictory claims equally. It allows people like Armando to say, for instance, that all of RFK's evidence was "debunked as FRAUD." No, it hasn't been debunked. Much of it has been disputed, which is entirely different. Silencing debate is as sure a way to kill democracy as stealing elections.

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