My guest today is journalist and long-time election observer, Harvey Wasserman. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Harvey. I understand you and Bob Fitrakis have another election-related book just out. What can you tell us about it?
speaking at union square; photo credit Lionel Delevingne
Thanks, Joan. Our new WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION is built around the basic reality that it's highly likely the Republicans will do just that this year. We've made it a $4.99 e-book so it'll be easy for people ($4.99 for the 99%) to get. It's at www.harveywasserman.ning.com
The reality is that through the Electoral College, which narrows the number of votes the GOP needs to steal; the suppression of voter turnout, i.e. the new electronic Jim Crow; the theft of the vote count with e-voting machines; and control of the governorships in most of the key swing states, the Republicans have something close to a lock on this election.
Add in Citizens United and the unlimited cash they can spend and you have an almost unbeatable fortress. It could be defeated, as it was in 2008, by an inspired and devoted grassroots army of election protection activists. But Obama's corporate presidency has cut the heart out of the movement that put him in office. So no matter how badly Romney/Ryan might appear to screw up, in the end it appears highly likely they will take the White House, one way or another. We don't, after all, think Rove, Adelson and the Koch Boys will let mere legalities stand in the way of their trillion-dollar agenda, do we?
Let's dissect your claim, Harvey. Start with the Electoral College. How does its structure play into this?
At the Constitutional Convention, the Electoral College was established to balance the interests of the small states against the big ones, but also to give slaveowners at 3/5ths "bonus" for their slaves. Their Congressional districts and presidential electors were boosted by the number of slaves they owned, even though the slaves themselves obviously weren't allowed to vote. So from Jefferson to Buchanan, every president either owned slaves or had a vice president who did. And the slave south had far more power in Congress than it should have had.
As history unfolded, the Electoral College was used in 1800, 1824, 1876. 1888 and 2000 to turn the presidency over to candidates who lost the popular vote. (The election of 1896 may have been stolen, and 2004 was a definite).
There is no logical function for the Electoral College except to make it easier to steal elections. It does this by disenfranchising the majority of voters when it comes to the presidency, focusing the decision on key "swing states" and thus narrowing the number of voters who make a difference.
If you live in "solid" places like NY, CA, IL, TX, New England (except NH) and other predictably red or blue states, your presidential vote has essentially no impact. This means the moneyed interests can ignore you and focus their resources more precisely on the dozen or so swing states that will actually decide the election.
So every four years it's the "purple" states that matter. We actually coined that term to describe Ohio, Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico, 2004, which were showing blue for Kerry at 12:20 but swung red toward Bush by morning. Now it's used to describe states that could go either way. (By the way, there are an even number of electors, so a tie is possible; it did happen in 1876 and almost again in 2004).
Without the Electoral College, vote theft would have to go nationwide, making it much more expensive and difficult to pull off. Instead, control of the governorships in key states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona----all with GOP governors this year----make the theft pretty cheap and simple.
How does voter suppression fit in here and is it the same as the effect of the electronic voting machines?
Modern industrial voter suppression was pioneered under the Jim Crow laws of the south after the Civil War. Karl Rove and the Billionaire GOP Boys Club is now updating Jim Crow and taking it nationwide. It is the evil twin of e-voting theft. First they narrow down the electorate. Then, once in range, they electronically steal the rest of what they need.
As we explain in WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA'S 2012 ELECTION?, historians tend to classify the racist violence of the Ku Klux Klan as a "boys-will-be-good-ol'-boys" product of random bigotry. But in fact the Klan's major function was as a well-oiled voter suppression machine, the terrorist wing of the southern Democratic Party.
The math was simple. Of the eleven states of the former Confederacy, about half had populations of freed ex-slaves in the range of 40%. So if they voted in a Republican bloc, and joined with just a small number of liberal whites, they could take over. Something like this happened during Reconstruction, when U.S. Grant sent troops in to protect black voters and re-make the South. It worked beautifully in many states, with black-white coalitions bringing education for the first time to poor whites and ex-slaves alike, along with a host of other invaluable reforms.
This was too much for the white Democrats. Once the troops were gone after the stolen election of 1876, their Jim Crow laws made it virtually impossible for blacks to vote. One of them, banning ex-felons from voting, was used to steal the 2000 election in Florida.
The centerpiece of the GOP's Jim Crow revival is the voter ID requirement. We all know voter fraud is a hoax. But they're using it to strip 10 million or more voters nationwide, nearly all of whom are suspected Democrats. That makes the game closer. Then those few keystrokes they can use to shift the e-vote tallies will seem all the more credible.
Who's paying attention to all these dirty tricks? Where's the media?
The corporate media clearly want nothing to do with this, and neither does the corporate Democratic Party. The two men most responsible for the continuation of presidential election theft are Al Gore and John Kerry. Both legitimately won the presidency, both had it stolen from them, and neither did anything about it. Gore pursued it to the Supreme Court, lost in the worst highest court decision in US history having to do with an election, then dropped it and never said a word. Kerry had the presidency won at 12:20 election night, had it stolen by 2am, and conceded less than 12 hours later with hundreds of thousands of votes left uncounted. He's never said a word about it either, even though he had a $7 million fund standing by to research this very reality.
Since then, the Democratic Party has done absolutely nothing to reform the process. There are far more flippable electronic voting machines in use now than there were back in 2000 and 2004. A governor or secretary of state can flip a vote count in a matter of minutes. But it's the Democrats who stand to lose big time this year. The GOP controls the governorships of nine key swing states. But if the Dems are unwilling to say anything about it, why would the corporate media pursue the story?
Basically, this is a way for the corporate parties to keep power. They can steal elections from each other as long as they want. But the key for them is that when a third party rises up to threaten real change, the two of them can get together to rig the vote count and make sure their joint corporate power is not threatened. They did this to the Populists and Socialists 1890-1920. And they'll do it now if corporate power and profits are threatened.
So this year, if the Democrats aren't pursuing a reality that could cost them the election, why should the corporate media get ahead of them? And since the media has a huge stake in preserving corporate power too, and also makes millions while the two corporate parties spend on advertising, they will never rock the boat.
As a result, our reporting from Ohio 2004 remains the only serious on-the-ground reportage on the stolen 2004 election. Some great investigators like Greg Palast, Brad Friedman, Mark C. Miller and the like have followed up on the story. And Bobby Kennedy had the courage to take it to Rolling Stone, which had the courage to print it. After which the both got a major beating from the corporate media.
But not a single corporate newspaper has ever followed up on the story here, and we don't expect any ever will. There's just too much money and power at stake in keeping the system "credible" and in solidarity against bottom-up movements that may want to use the ballot to create real change.
How discouraging. Where does this leave us, besides wringing our hands, Harvey? Is there anything we can do?
It leaves us where we always are---fighting out the issues one-by-one, at the grassroots. As the empire collapses, we are experiencing a known phase of history. Arrogance, greed, repression, the rich getting richer at the expense of the rest of us, followed by economic collapse, always accompany the time when a nation has passed its peak and can't let go of the illusions of power.
No president will ever solve these problems. It's always nice to think the guy---soon there'll be a woman---will help you out. Obama made some helpful Supreme Court appointments and here and there a snippet or 2. But he escalated the utterly worthless, useless war in Afghanistan, and has broken his promises on Guantanamo and the Drug War, among other things. His record on civil liberties is horrific, worse in many ways than Bush's. There is no reason to think his second term would be any better. Can we really trust him, for example, to protect social security and Medicare?
The last president to keep a truly important campaign promise was Dwight Eisenhower, when he actually ended the Korean War. So voting is something we do one day in November. Every president since 1852 has been a Democrat or a Republican. Every election has anointed a new corporate candidate.
Then we deal with what we get in the White House by continuing to pick our issues and fight them out. Solartopia will be won by shutting one reactor after another and replacing them with wind and solar. Civil liberties will be protected fight by fight. Women's issue, gay rights, the environment, the economy---no matter who's in the White House, we have to fight these out at the grassroots.
So hand-wringing? No way...Hand-to-hand campaigning, absolutely. To pharaphase a Buddhist saying: Before the election, organize, organize organize. After the election, organize, organize, organize.
And along the way, no circular firing squad, ok? Some people are still blaming Ralph Nader for "costing Al Gore the election" of 2000, when it was Gore who failed to fight when it was stolen and the Democrats who haven't lifted a finger to reform the system.
So, let's be easy on ourselves, work for Obama if you want, or Jill Stein, or whomever...but the moment after you cast your ballot, it's back to work on the issue of your choice...PLEASE!!!
Amen. Spoken like a true activist. Thanks so much for talking with me, Harvey. Onward and upward. Let's talk again soon!