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...if we refuse to take it seriously after, when there are actual empirical ways to test for it in official results?  There seems to be a kind of visceral terror among some people at the thought of raising issues that MSM-minded cult-of-civility centrists would consider too far out of bounds regardless of any rational consideration or remotely sane civic responsibility.  And that seems to be the reason for a rather stark disconnect between how the issue of election fraud is treated before vs. after an election: Before an election, we receive any number of authoritative, dire warnings about Republican intent to suppress votes, deceive voters, defraud ballots, sabotage the ability of Democratic-leaning constituencies to participate, and basically do everything within their physical capacity to rig an election.  

But even when these things undisputedly occur and fail to be rectified, the moment an election ends the topic is suddenly taboo: People shrink from the subject, and their reticence is reinforced by a small but incredibly obnoxious cadre of self-appointed Very Serious PeopleTM who find it intolerable to hear the results of concluded elections questioned without prompting from some political or institutional authority.  This needs to change if our approach to electoral integrity is to be anything more than self-gratifying kabuki.

The dichotomy is surreal: Apocalyptic warnings and angry, self-righteous condemnations of the other side's plain agenda of subverting democratic processes, followed by sullen, silent resignation when (not if) that agenda actually materializes.  Isn't this ass-backwards?  Aren't we supposed to be angrier, more engaged, and more confrontational when Republicans walk right up to us and spit in our faces than when they're merely skulking around the corner looking shifty and being Up to No Good?  

At least, that's my sense as an assertive citizen who cares more about common sense than what some cocktail-sipping professional commentator with a perpetual man-crush on Thomas Friedman might have to say about my credibility.  The only way to have credibility in the first place is to not be like those muppets, and certainly not to admire them as models of reputable discourse.  People whose idea of reality consists of nothing more than an internal Overton Window dictated by social etiquette rather than facts in context are virtually never right, and they will always end up acting like complete tools whenever an inconvenient and discourteous subject arises.  We have all witnessed the following scene many times throughout the media since it became an infotainment petri dish:

Reporter: And what do you think of (insert hot-button issue) ?
Liberal Guest: (Simple, incisive, fact-based statement completely dismissing the false framing of the issue without bothering to legitimize it with direct mention)
Reporter: (Aghast) But...but...you really think that?  I mean, that's kind of an extreme position, isn't it?
Of course, the standard doesn't work both ways: A conservative can be as outrageous as they please without ever worrying about being belittled, because lies, preposterous narratives, and deranged fantasies are not a challenge to the social etiquette of politics - they are, if anything, its substance in a corrupted circumstance where the very idea of reality is regarded as a hateful, menacing, and tyrannical limitation on the freedom of powerful people to behave on instinct.  So the same animatronic media goofball who sputters in melodramatic bewilderment at hearing an especially "rude" guest say that 2 + 2 = 4 will put on their pensive face, periodically nod, and give all the appropriate cues of legitimacy as a more courteous guest informs him that billionaires are oppressed in America and homeless people are like Auschwitz commandants.

We saw probably the worst examples that have ever existed in this country during 2003, in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, when simply referring to events as they unfolded before our eyes was treated by these people and their everyday mimics as being on the same level of 9/11 Truther conspiracy theories and tinfoil-hatted gibberish.  To even use the word "lie" in opposing the invasion of Iraq during a Serious PeopleTM interview on the subject was such a faux pas that guests who crossed that threshold could expect not to be invited on that network again for years to come, if ever - and that is in the relatively few cases where opposition on any level whatsoever was considered credible and legitimate enough to air.  The media had totally walled itself off from reality, and was debating how large Saddam's WMD stockpiles were, how quickly we should invade, and whether Bush's particular approach to the invasion was the best way to go about it.  

Even years later, most Democrats in office, predictably, internalized the derangement and would never go beyond saying that Bush had "misled" the country into a "mistake" and criticized his murderous war of aggression as merely "incompetent foreign policy."  And most people in general accepted those cues without question, even if they opposed the war on moral or practical grounds: To just outright declare the simple fact of what we were all witnessing was considered an act of jarring "insensitivity," "rudeness," and deeply-resented shattering of the social milieu.  Even on a subject of such imminent import, to just baldly tell the truth was treated by many as tantamount to taking a shit in the middle of a ballroom.  And since there is no delicate, courteous, or well-mannered way to say the federal government of the United States was under the occupation of murdering psychotics who were committing treason before our very eyes, the default demand was simply that the truth not be spoken at all.

The same mentality more or less applies to the legitimacy of elections, beginning from the very moment the polls close - i.e., the instant it becomes the exclusive domain of Authority rather than a complex interplay of statistical science, demographics, and variably biased interests.  If Authority says the results are close, then we are given permission to look more closely at the process and pursue recounts - but even then, regardless of what is found, accusations of significant fraudulence are simply off-limits among the Very Serious PeopleTM and those who think such mental muppets are to be emulated.  Minor errors, inadequate facilities, and even a few "dirty tricks" would be considered - although for the most part they would be ignored without further inquiry or action - but major fraud is totally outside the bounds of political etiquette and thus impossible for those bound by such etiquette to entertain, regardless of how odd something looks.  Nothing short of the very Authority in question telling them it happened would cause them to take the possibility seriously.

The situation is even more surreal when the official result is not close, thus preventing any taxpayer-funded recount or inquiry: Campaigns would have to fund any additional measure themselves, which would make it impractical to pursue any recount wider than a few limited areas.  If suspected irregularities are broader than they can afford to explore, and the few areas they can afford to recount wouldn't likely produce enough new votes for their side to swing the election, the campaign would (quite rationally) simply not pursue the matter and opt instead to keep the money for later use.  Such is the hard, amoral logic of political animals, and I don't judge them for it.  Since Authority has declared no official doubt about who is the victor in such cases, the chattering classes and other less-than-critical thinkers will neither make any attempt to probe deeper, nor acknowledge any such attempt by others as rational and legitimate regardless of how it is justified or what is subsequently found.  

If a campaign in such a circumstance refused to concede despite an official result that is not close, and attempted to draw attention to irregularities they lacked the resources to independently explore, the overwhelmingly likely outcome is that the media would lambaste them as "sore losers" and simply ignore every point they attempt to make.  No political animal would deliberately subject themselves to such a gauntlet merely for the sake of one election, and certainly not for the principle of the thing, so no such scenario would ever be challenged under the status quo.  The net result is that there is a very broad domain of possible electoral fraud that would add up to the perfect crime because we consent to political taboos based on nothing more reality-driven than the sociopathic etiquette of infotainment media.

If voting machines and, more menacingly, vote counting machines can be tampered with to produce arbitrary results - a conclusion independently reached by several reputable inquiries over the past decade or so, leading (as far as I've seen) to relatively few and superficial reforms - then what would be the downside for a criminal Republican of inventing a strong margin above the threshold for automatic recounts?  The opposing campaign would have to pay for their own effort to uncover fraud that might not be uncoverable without a thorough investigation beyond both their means and authority, and meanwhile they would be savaged both by media friendly to the "winner" and media in general for daring to propose something outside the parameters of etiquette.  They'd become politically radioactive, very likely spend all their money without uncovering definitive proof sufficient to invoke a federal investigation, and all the while show themselves to be "unreliable" and "not a team player" to other politicians in their party.

So even having a voter-verifiable paper trail doesn't really provide any protection if the numerical scale of the fraud is sufficiently large: At what point would the candidate who has just been told by Authority that they've been crushed at the polls have a chance to find and investigate irregularities?  Every moment they delay conceding would increase the peril of their future political career, and pretty soon the pundit sharks would smell blood in the water - "Is this candidate going to make a fool of himself?  Oh, I can't wait!"  With the media already likely gushing over the landslide victory of their opponent, even intimating, let alone outright asserting the possibility of fraud would instantly turn the tenor of coverage into something like a tank of piranhas on PCP.  A paper trail doesn't mean anything if the losing candidate is highly unlikely to request a detailed recount, and no one else would know what had happened quickly enough to organize a lawsuit preventing the destruction of voting materials.

Who, then, protects us from this "perfect crime" scenario of election fraud?  It certainly isn't the media, and can't be our candidates for reasons already stated.  Pollsters?  As we've seen repeatedly, pre-election polling has already become horribly corrupted, and producing any number of pretext-creating polls through any number of front organizations would be little more than an afterthought to actual vote-tampering.  Just flood the spectrum with results within a certain desired range, and then point to the average of those "polls" as substantiating the ultimate election outcome.  Granted, there are limits even to that, but it's more than enough to guarantee outcomes in situations where the Republican Party considers its core agenda and long-term plans to be on the line.  Frankly, whenever that kind of high-stakes confrontation with nationwide implications occurs with the GOP, that's when the results tend to come out looking funny and defy exit polling - and as far as I know, always in their favor.

So we really should make a conscious, deliberate decision here as Democrats and as individuals: Are we going to be as serious in uncovering and confronting election fraud when it actually occurs as we are about merely condemning the GOP's overall penchant for subverting the democratic process?  Do we value the opinions of amoral and a-factual Dickensian grotesques more than simple common sense, truth, and the survival of our own basic rights?  Quite simply, it's no longer sufficient to rely on candidates and news organizations to perform these functions, because they either can't or won't.  We have to aggressively probe every election that in any way smells the least bit off - demand that authorities prove the official results legitimate to our satisfaction, not redefine the term "legitimate" to mean that authorities have approved it.  Where there is any reasonable doubt about the plausibility of an outcome, an official result is nothing more than an unsubstantiated claim until the relevant locations and aspects of a process have been verified inside and out.  It's a difficult standard and we'd have to operate under a lot of ambiguity for a long time, but it's definitely better than the certainty of having no plan in place to deal with potential major fraud.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    We can't control how bad the worst are, only how good the best are. That is the secret to progress.

    by Troubadour on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 06:40:32 PM PDT

  •  Seems to me a few years ago repubs warned of (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, R2P2

    possible voter fraud here in TEX ass , i mean Texas, and then the only discovered voter fraud that was noted in the election was by a repub. I think it went dark around that issue for a while.

    Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things. Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) Just A Real Nice Guy, thinking out loud.

    by arealniceguy on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:15:58 PM PDT

    •  That's sort of their prime tactic now. (6+ / 0-)

      They take whatever their worst intentions are, paste them on to their opponents, and then harp on them so insanely for so long and so loud that by the end of it no one wants to talk about it and they can just act with impunity.  The Boy Who Cried Wolf means something a lot different if the boy is a wolf - it's desensitizing the public to extremes so that their own actions are perceived as less out of the ordinary.

      We can't control how bad the worst are, only how good the best are. That is the secret to progress.

      by Troubadour on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:22:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Right now, the same things is happening in Canada (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    The global right wing foments and exploits this in every country. The scariest part about the global right is that it organizes itself organically around language, its substance is literally insubstantial. Domination is their raison d'etre. Conversation is not necessary.

    Compare this to the global left, which splintered throughout the second half of the 20th Century due to an insistence on substance and dialogue over phenomenological resonance.

    •  Profound thoughts. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      R2P2

      Republicans are larger-scale manifestations of far more basic evolutionary forces - they're like bacteria on the scale of civilizations.  We're more like a crystallization that keeps forming finer and finer structure the more energy is poured into it, often to the detriment of its own structural strength.

      We can't control how bad the worst are, only how good the best are. That is the secret to progress.

      by Troubadour on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 07:45:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Voter fraud is generally thought to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    when someone votes using a dead person's name or Mickey Mouse, etc. A voter that is fraudulently voting.  

    I think you are talking about vote theft, flipping votes, voter suppression and other deviant acts around voting.

    I have the same questions you do. When an election is called by a major television network while people are still in line voting, the losing party should immediately step in and question and double check every single thing that went on in that election. They don't, though.

    After 2004 in Ohio, Rep. John Conyers and the Congressional Black Caucus investigated, proved voter suppression, wrote a book about it and Kerry and the Dem establishment acted as if they were a little crazy.

    I am with you, it makes no sense. It is not conspiracy theory. I would love to see a thorough investigation of every aspect of the Wisc. election and the result of it.

    I am pretty sure that in Karl Rove's true playbook there is a line item that says -- If you want to win an election, make the polls look like your candidate is going to win, steal a few votes and have the networks call it for your candidate 50 minutes after the polls are due to close (in Wisconsin they were still open when the election was called). No one will have the balls to question you and if they do, make them look like they are crazy conspiracy theorists.    

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 10:19:09 PM PDT

  •  I think this is sideways (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DemFromCT, Meteor Blades
    What Good is Warning of Election Fraud Before the Fact... ...if we refuse to take it seriously after, when there are actual empirical ways to test for it in official results?  There seems to be a kind of visceral terror among some people....
    Why are you going ad hominem in the second sentence? Maybe because you've misframed the issue, here and in your previous diary. How seriously we take election verification shouldn't be measured by how suspicious we are of the Wisconsin recall results.

    I think it's empirically demonstrable that at Daily Kos, concerns about voting machines get very little attention except when allegations of vote count fraud -- often poorly supported -- are made after Democratic candidates lose elections. If we actually tried to associate election verification with sore losers, I'm not sure we could do much better.

    We have to aggressively probe every election that in any way smells the least bit off - demand that authorities prove the official results legitimate to our satisfaction, not redefine the term "legitimate" to mean that authorities have approved it.
    By waving your hands about the suspiciousness of results that most of us don't find especially suspicious, and then demanding that something be proven "to our satisfaction," you risk turning election verification into a strange cousin of birtherism (by way of Ron Paul). Pretty much everyone in the 99% wants vote counting systems that assure and demonstrate that the reported winners actually won. A lot fewer people -- even on Daily Kos -- want to replay the "Fraudster Wars" after every contentious election, although we'll gladly speak out about results that really are suspicious or FUBAR.

    If Wisconsin extended its post-election audit requirement to all statewide elections, the audit would provide fairly strong evidence about whether vote miscounts ran rampant on Tuesday. Better yet would be to mandate risk-limiting audits, which provide strong evidence of election outcomes no matter how large or small the initially reported margin. Some people favor 100% hand counts, and those certainly could work, too. I myself don't see how polemical essays about muppets are likely to promote any of these solutions.

    •  sensible approach to a question (0+ / 0-)

      that's been horribly mangled by the diarist.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 05:03:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I never mentioned Wisconsin in this diary. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      oldpotsmuggler

      And I never mentioned anyone in particular, nor any particular prior discussion.  You're the one arbitrarily investing such meaning into this diary.

      I think it's empirically demonstrable that at Daily Kos, concerns about voting machines get very little attention except when allegations of vote count fraud -- often poorly supported -- are made after Democratic candidates lose elections. If we actually tried to associate election verification with sore losers, I'm not sure we could do much better.
      Your very first statement after accusing me of ad hominem is to prove my point.  Of course concerns about election fraud follow seemingly implausible losses - that's called normal human motivational behavior.  And if your interpretation of that is "sore loser" - a far more extreme ad hominem than you accuse me of - then you're basically just defining reality by political etiquette as I said.
      By waving your hands about the suspiciousness of results that most of us don't find especially suspicious
      Where are you getting this "most of us" shit?  Because your view is based on the claims of Authority, that makes you a Very Serious PersonTM and others are on the fringe?  It's like you're acting out every nutbag media psychology I just described.
      Pretty much everyone in the 99% wants vote counting systems that assure and demonstrate that the reported winners actually won.
      And you rhetorically support that as long as no one attempts to enforce that desire.
      A lot fewer people -- even on Daily Kos -- want to replay the "Fraudster Wars" after every contentious election
      No one other than you and Republicans is suggesting that taking election fraud as seriously after an election as before is tantamount to that.
      If Wisconsin extended its post-election audit requirement to all statewide elections, the audit would provide fairly strong evidence about whether vote miscounts ran rampant on Tuesday. Better yet would be to mandate risk-limiting audits, which provide strong evidence of election outcomes no matter how large or small the initially reported margin. Some people favor 100% hand counts, and those certainly could work, too. I myself don't see how polemical essays about muppets are likely to promote any of these solutions.
      That may or may not be sufficient - this diary isn't specifically about Wisconsin.

      We can't control how bad the worst are, only how good the best are. That is the secret to progress.

      by Troubadour on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 09:47:12 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  seriously? (0+ / 0-)

        I concede that it's mostly impossible to figure out what the diary is about. If it's arbitrary to suppose that it has something to do with recent events, hey, oh well.

        And if your interpretation of that is "sore loser" - a far more extreme ad hominem than you accuse me of - then you're basically just defining reality by political etiquette as I said.
        What do you mean, if my interpretation of that is "sore loser"? I find it unlikely that you are actually so poor a writer. Are you insinuating that I called you a poor loser? I didn't. Why not respond to what I actually wrote?
        Because your view is based on the claims of Authority, that makes you a Very Serious PersonTM and others are on the fringe?  
        Funny how the buzz words you're applying to me here resemble the ones in your diary. I had better not arbitrarily invest any meaning into them, right?

        I can't tell what you mean by saying that my "view is based on the claims of Authority," unless it's that I link to supporting evidence a heck of a lot more often than you do.

        In this case, I think most people who read DKos diaries and comments would come to the same conclusion about the prevailing opinion. But if you want to make it all about me, kewl.

        No one other than you and Republicans is suggesting that taking election fraud as seriously after an election as before is tantamount to that.
        Where have I said anything against taking election fraud seriously after an election? Where has anyone said anything against taking election fraud seriously after an election? What could anyone do to rebut this criticism?
  •  I asked a Sociology professor why the USA was so (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    afraid to even consider that there might be/have been widespread electronic electoral fraud. You come near to his answer with this:

    There seems to be a kind of visceral terror among some people at the thought of raising issues that MSM-minded cult-of-civility centrists would consider too far out of bounds regardless of any rational consideration or remotely sane civic responsibility.  
    But there's even more to it. We have already found ourselves to have been scammed, and if we look too deep we will have to either DO something about it or accept the lie forever. Therefore he certainly wasn't going to be examining that issue any time soon. "I'm an 'academic,'" he said, "I don't have to deal with actual issues, only the trends in my area of expertise, which is a tiny part of a much larger field." He was very thankful that it was not his problem and that was the end of the interview even as I pointed out that corruption in one spot adulterates the whole.
    I was not surprised that that was his reaction. I sure was surprised that he was right up front honest that he could see there were problems and he was not going there!
  •  Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! Steal money with (0+ / 0-)

    a gun and go to jail. Steal money with a briefcase, and retire wealthy.

    Since the actual technological capability to steal elections became a reality (like 30 years ago), I've seen some incomprehensible shit go down. And I can't remember a single incident that redounded to the benefit of the left wing. In my opinion, too much has happened for nothing to be real.

    Thank you.

    There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

    by oldpotsmuggler on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:24:22 PM PDT

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