Tuesday, September 21


Read Barbara Ehrenreich's article in The Progressive, "To Catch A Thief":

But no matter how many people we register and drive to the polls, the possibilities for monkey business are numerous and arcane. Among them:

* Computer fraud, especially in places offering touch screen voting without a paper trail (although a paper trail is no guarantee of accuracy if it's generated by the same screwed-up software as the touch screen votes). It's particularly worrisome that at least two of the companies that provide computerized voting machines--Diebold and InterCivic--have strong ties to the Republican Party.

* Selective discouragement of easily identifiable Democratic voters, i.e., black ones, such as occurred in Florida in 2000. Already, John Pappageorge, a Republican state legislator in Michigan, has urged his party to take measures to "suppress the Detroit vote." Plainclothes officers from the Florida state police have been trying to intimidate elderly black voters by going to their homes and interrogating them about their status as voters.

* Relying on the Pentagon to forward e-mail votes from troops in combat zones to their local election offices, as Missouri and North Dakota are planning to do. As The New York Times has editorialized, this creates a situation "rife with security problems."

* And, the most lurid of all, declaring a red alert and postponing the election, a possibility already floated as a trial balloon by Tom Ridge.

But if the preventive measures fail to produce a credible election, don't expect the Democratic Party to lead the fight for democracy. The most painful scene in Fahrenheit 9/11--and there are quite a few contenders for this title--is the one in which members of the Congressional Black Caucus speak to the Senate, one by one, pleading for just one Senator to join them in stopping the Supreme Court's selection of Bush. When faced with a truly revolutionary situation--an electoral coup from the right--Al Gore folded like a lawn chair. As for Kerry: He may have had some backbone thirty years ago, but too many years spent sitting in the Senate have rendered it the consistency of Play-Doh.

All this sounds good to me--local planning for local responses and national coordination by a trusted group like United for Peace and Justice. But we have to get started, well, last week. Democratic voters need to be assured that some of us won't take another coup lying down. And Republican dirty-tricksters need to start feeling the first shivers of fear. If all the people who are saying they're willing to hit the streets actually do so, there won't be a lot of people left indoors to wait tables, teach school, or pay taxes during W's second term.

I do take issue with Ehrenreich's assertion that too many years in the Senate have rendered Kerry's backbone "the consistency of Play-Doh." In fact, I've been impressed over the years with Kerry's willingness to do the hard dirty work that other Senators were loathe to take on either because of the unpopularity and/or political risk or because the possibility of reward in terms of votes or campaign contributions was remote. He'll have to do the "dirty work that others shirk" in Iraq, on the economy and deficit, and other areas Bush has royally screwed up if he's elected. "9/11 changed everything," the Republicans like to say. "The Bush pResidency changed everything," I say. This time, unlike the situation with Gore in 2000, we know just how high the stakes are.


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