As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Elections Are A Minor Inconvenience

Minnesotans want Norm Coleman to concede, by a two-to-one margin, so they can move on with full representation in their government. And the DNC has turned up the pressure by demanding that Coleman concede. But Norm Coleman and his business buddies don't care.

A group of several dozen of the most influential business lobbyists in Washington is vowing to raise and spend whatever it takes to bankroll Norm Coleman’s upcoming appeal fight, in the wake of a three-judge ruling declaring that Al Franken defeated Coleman in the Minnesota Senate race.

The group of lobbyists, which calls itself “Team Coleman,” is made up of some of the biggest players in D.C.’s permanent lobbying establishment, and includes executives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Restaurant Association and others.

“We will raise as much as is necessary,” Dirk Van Dongen, a leading member of Team Coleman and the president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, told me in an interview. “We’ll keep raising money as Norm needs it. We continue to be active in raising resources for Norm to carry out this fight to the end." [...]

But Democrats are likely to point to the lobbyists’ fundraising as proof that they’re merely keeping this battle alive to keep the seat vacant and prevent Dems from getting a leg up in the big upcoming policy battles involving the business lobbies, such as the battle over the Employee Free Choice Act.

Van Dongen (who is the father of WhoRunsGov editor Rachel Van Dongen) rejected that claim.

“That’s a side benefit,” Van Dongen said, when asked if the goal was to keep the seat vacant. “But this is all about us doing everything we can to be sure that Norm has had a fair election and to get him back in his Senate seat. We’d be doing exactly the same thing if the Republicans were in the majority.”

Well, there you have it. The amount of corporate money plowed into a doomed-to-fail project is a small price to pay for the "side benefit" of keeping that 59th Democratic vote out of the Senate. I wonder if Team Coleman funded any of the tea parties, too.

And we're beginning to see this obstruction and delegitimizing of the election system as a pattern. In NY-20, where Scott Murphy has moved into the lead on the strength of absentee votes and is heavily favored for victory if the numbers continue to flow in at this level, the Republican candidate Jim Tedisco and his buddies from the Brooks Brothers Riot Roger Stone and John Sweeney have decided that their best option is to suppress as many votes as possible, and use the language of "voter fraud" to deny legitimate voters the franchise. Despite the fact that actual cases of fraud are almost nonexistent. Not even the junior Senator from New York has been spared.

This just in from Columbia County: when Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s absentee ballot came up in the queue, the poll watchers for Jim Tedisco objected to it, saying the senator was in the county on election day and should have voted in person.

Gillibrand's office maintains that she wasn't in the county on Election Day.

And today, a judge said that most of Tedisco's 1,200 objections are invalid. But this statement by a Tedisco ally says it all.

They're not doing it because they believe the votes to be illegitimate, really. What they're doing, in the days and now hours leading up to the court hearings that will decide the outcome of the race between Republican Jim Tedisco and Democrat Scott Murphy, is creating a fact on the ground for the judiciary to overturn, if it dares [...]

"It's always better to be ahead-that's the whole goal of this process," said Nick Spano, a Yonkers Republican and former state senator who came out on the right side of a lengthy recount process in 2004, eventually winning by 18 votes.

This will never end. The Coleman and Tedisco cases can be put on a continuum. Conservatives now see electoral results as simply a starting point. They have adopted the cries of "stolen elections" from 2000 and 2004 and turned them right around. It was all so very predictable. They've had a plan for stealing elections for years and years, and Coleman and Tedisco are just following the playbook.

The latest and most elaborate of these jokes is the urban legend that American elections are rife with voter fraud, particularly in the kinds of poor and minority neighborhoods inhabited by Democrats. In 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that fraudulent voting would be a major target of the Department of Justice. As the New York Times reported last month, the main result of this massive effort was such coups as the deportation of a legal immigrant who mistakenly filled out a voter-registration card while waiting in line at the department of motor vehicles.

But the administration has remained ferociously committed to suppressing voter fraud -- as soon as it can find some. In April of last year, Karl Rove warned a Republican lawyers' group that "we have, as you know, an enormous and growing problem with elections in certain parts of America today. We are, in some parts of the country, I'm afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are, you know, colonels in mirrored sunglasses. I mean, it's a real problem.

"I appreciate that all that you're doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the ballot -- the integrity of the ballot is protected, because it's important to our democracy."

The goals here are to intimidate and alienate people from the voting process, suppress as many votes as possible, and delegitimize the victory, even if the Democrats manage to run the legal gauntlet and win. Eventually, Al Franken and Scott Murphy will be seated in Congress. But there's no harm for the Republicans to just keep on with the same dirty tactics, with a look to the next election, when they can whisper about how "the Democrats stole the last one."

...Howard Dean on Hardball today: "This could be a national pattern ... this looks like a national attempt by the Republicans to keep people out of office if they have a D after their name."

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