In 2008, the Republican Party was fleeing in disarray from a catastrophe of its own making, and for the first time since 1996 a Republican presidential nominee was basically abandoned by his party's power structure to win or lose on his own merits. As usually happens when Republicans are judged in the cold light of reality, the guy lost in a landslide. That is not happening this time around: As worthless and despicable a lowlife as Mitt Romney clearly is, the GOP has no intention of allowing this election to be a straight-up contest between candidates - Romney is merely the tiniest pinprick (emphasis on "prick") on one head of the entire oozing, tentacled corporate/GOP hydra that is once again slouching toward Washington to reclaim the office it considers to be its property.
This colossal, lurching monster - fed by an almost limitless, internationalized resource base stolen from basically all the people of the world in the late financial crisis - has spent billions of dollars and countless hours of corrupt media agitprop since 2008 to create the pretext for what they intend to do on November 6th, and these people are not accustomed to investing on mere hope. When this much money is on the line, they've proven time and again that they consider elections too important to leave up to voters, and our confidence in the outcome of the legitimate vote has blinded us to the historically-proven threat of something very different than an election occurring on Election Day.
There seems to be an attitude on the part of a painfully large number of people among us - which I understand, but can't possibly condone - that if the process is already so corrupt that we can't guarantee the legitimacy of the result, that we have already lost and should not bother thinking about how to respond in the aftermath of a fraudulent outcome. With that mentality, we might as well draw Republicans a map telling them how to guarantee their desired outcome, because the only way we're willing to fight them at all is if they abide by the rules. "Now, I'm warning you, Republicans - if you rig the election, I'll pout and whinge and implicitly endorse it by posting petulant 'Americans Are Stupid' rhetoric to make myself feel better, then vacate the field so you can get busy wallowing in your spoils.'" The people who got away with stealing trillions of dollars, plotted the invasion of Iraq, and ordered the use of torture must quake in their boots when they see so many of us broadcasting that message.
That is not a sustainable approach to democracy: At very least the active portion of the citizenry has to be aware of and prepared to combat threats to its rights, not only before and during elections, but after - in fact, perpetually. This is not a game, and there is no point, ever, where you are required to walk away or submit to anything that is unconscionable. Republicans spend so much time and money seeking to control the electoral process through state offices and voting machine companies because they know how many of us are infected with the authoritarian impulse to submit and go home the instant someone with a nameplate declares on official letterhead that the Republican has won. Game over. Nothing to see here. Better luck next time. Too bad, so sad, buh-bye.
They know a lot of us live in a state of denial about their depravity and ruthlessness, and that we desperately want to believe that winning the support of the American people just automatically translates into achieving office. The thing is, democracy is not - and never has been - built on other people respecting your rights: It's built on you defending yours while respecting theirs, regardless of what they do. You create (or destroy) democracy every moment of your life in the way you choose to respond to events - it's not something you inherit, and it's not something that requires the permission of those who have never and will never understand it. Without being prepared to back it up, all this GOTV and campaigning would make about as much sense as joining a gym while being a heroin addict - a vain, farcical act of self-delusion on the part of someone not willing to confront the real challenges before them. We must acknowledge that the integrity of the process depends on us, not the other way around, and be prepared to put forth the increased effort needed to reflect that fact.
Understand, this is not some nebulous expression of concern: The machinery of tyranny being deployed today by our opponents makes that of 2000 and 2004 look quaint, and while our own information weapons are far more evolved today than back then, we're still missing the big picture - or more precisely, the way that control of the small picture (e.g., who programs the vote tabulating machines, and who certifies the outcome) is a fulcrum to far larger consequences. Ensuring the integrity of the fundamental process should be sine qua non, but instead we treat it like a dubious afterthought tainted with conspiracy theory rather than a fact of life repeatedly hammered into our consciousness by recidivist Republican thieving.
There's really no excuse to be shocked at this point. As far as I know, no Republican official in this generation has ever been sent to jail for election fraud, and no official result favoring a Republican has ever been overturned, so why would they stop - in fact, why would they fail to double-down and become even more brazen? To think otherwise flies in the face of everything we've observed about them, everything we know about criminal behavior, and every fact of human psychology. They have means, motive, opportunity, and a virtual guarantee of getting away with it based on historical trends, so go ahead and tell me that the people behind the Iraq War and the financial con job that nearly destroyed the American economy will refrain from rigging voting machines they own because it would be too logistically difficult or their conscience as Americans would prevent them. Also feel free to tell me that anything we're doing right now would preemptively detect such an effort and stop it from happening.
We all acknowledge that the GOP will perpetrate some level of organized election fraud on November 6th - a few local manifestations have already been exposed (e.g., the registration suppression plot in VA), and they're already demonstrating that GOP officials are organized behind the effort. That is how bald-faced it already is, weeks before the big day: A Republican official is caught destroying voter registration forms and arrested for multiple felonies, but the Republican-controlled state election board that would have to pursue prosecution refuses to do so. So do not underestimate how brazen the Republican offensive on our democracy will ultimately become.
Given what we saw in the Wisconsin recall - dead-even exit polling when the polls closed blowing up into a 7-point Walker lead within half an hour of official counting commencing - we should be prepared for the possibility that they'll simply try to overwhelm us by going insanely big. I'm not saying that is going to happen, but it would be the most devastating to Democratic morale, provide the strongest possible media pretext for wall-to-wall propaganda drowning out the facts of what is going on, create the most pressure for Democratic candidates to concede quickly, and impose the highest barriers both legally and in public perception to pursuing recounts, investigations, and legal action.
Republicans often use this tactic of behaving so outrageously that they shock their opponents into total disarray and helplessness. It's the basic theory behind the "blitzkrieg" concept of warfare - to attack so quickly, so brutally, and so overwhelmingly that there is simply no time for an enemy to even psychologically come to terms with what they are experiencing, let alone mount an effective counterattack. They apply the same principle to economics, which is the origin of the Shock Doctrine approach to imposing radical corporatist policies that would never otherwise be tolerated. Mitt Romney has already demonstrated the campaign aspect of the principle to some extent, telling so many lies, so frequently, that there is an active attempt to short-circuit people's ability to make sense of what is going on. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Scott Walker demonstrated how effective the principle can be when deployed in election fraud: If you're going to rig a result, it's more powerful to be totally outrageous and implausible when the public isn't prepared for it - the crime is so brazen that no one dares to even mention what's right in front of their faces; the media declares Game Over; the opposing candidate instantly finds themselves abandoned, labeled a Loser, and told to concede quickly to avoid further disgrace; and by the time cooler heads have a chance to organize inquiries, the public has by and large moved on, and cocktail circuit pundits dismiss even obvious questions as "sour grapes" by deluded partisans unworthy of coverage.
This is perhaps the answer to the question of why dictators "reelect" themselves in ludicrous unanimous votes rather than trying to craft some plausible facade of real democracy - it's not about convincing anyone that they've actually been elected, but about totally smashing the will of those who oppose them by behaving with absolute impunity. They say, "Not only do I rule, but I rule so absolutely that I can stage this farce where I rub it in your faces, and there's nothing you can do about it." The exact same people who organized Walker's response to the recall are now deeply involved in funding and coordinating the Romney campaign, in addition to numerous other wealthy interests of equally low reputation and deep criminal background. So we have to be aware of this possibility on a visceral level, and prepared to make an agile transition to acknowledging and responding to it even though we were hoping to avoid such a thing completely.
When the Romney campaign claims that they believe they're going to win 305 electoral votes, I want to believe that they're just blustering or delusional - after all, there is no numerical basis for such a claim in any polling that isn't total fiction - but organizationally we have to deal with the possibility that they have the resources in place to produce just such a ridiculous outcome, or at least something close to it. People in our line of politics have to learn not to be shattered by the unexpected and the egregious, but to expect only what happens and respond with aplomb rather than forever being plankton jerked hither and thither by pundit narratives and nebulous perceptions largely under the control of our enemies through media ownership. So I want to set the following guidelines moving forward:
1. Unless you're part of the President's campaign staff, do not place too much emphasis on opinion polls, whether encouraging or discouraging. The only polls to be concerned with are unadjusted exit polls on the day of the election - actual voters saying how they actually voted, not "potential" or "likely" voters discussing their intentions. Keep track of these polls as Election Day proceeds, and be very careful about what sources you trust for describing what those poll results are - just because someone says an exit poll said thus-and-such doesn't mean it did. Furthermore, disregard "adjusted" exit polling when official returns start coming in and are fed back into the model: This is a particularly Orwellian practice that basically amounts to rewriting history to fit official declarations - "Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia," and exit polls have always correctly predicted whatever elections officials claim the outcome was, etc. International election monitors use unadjusted exit polling as one of the strongest bases from which to determine the legitimacy of outcomes, so there is no excuse to pretend that it's all some abstract exercise with no meaning.
2. Report and document all difficulties with voting to the relevant officials, to the Obama campaign, and to this community.
3. Photograph your completed ballot before turning it in. Most people at this point have phones capable of doing so. There are no guarantees, but this might in some contingencies provide useful statistical information about the actual vote.
4. In the event the official results favor Romney, don't panic. Don't give up. Don't tune out. Don't turn into a helpless, whining infant bitching about your fellow Americans in total ignorance of whether or not their will was even involved. Do not act like a Loser. Do not waste your time listening to or parroting prefabricated media narratives designed to discourage, demoralize, and confuse you. Do not tolerate people who do any of the above in this or other communities upon which the democratic process ultimately depends, including high-level officials. Remain focused, seek facts, ask questions, communicate with the campaign, and if you have the slightest doubt about the legitimacy of the result - any result, from the top of the ticket down to the most local races - ask your candidate not to concede until more is known. Hound them not to concede: It's your election to concede, not theirs.
Now, I want to be absolutely clear about this: Republicans can win legitimately - it's just a testament to their tyrannical culture that that's often not good enough for them. Given what we've already seen of their wantonly criminal, if not frankly treasonous behavior this election season, it would be very difficult to know even if they had won legitimately. But the only way to assure the quality of the result, whatever it is, would be thorough preparation not only to detect and prevent acts of election fraud but to respond quickly and assertively when they are "successfully" perpetrated. And, of course, to accept it if the facts point to a legitimate Republican victory despite all their shenanigans.
Nonetheless, it must never, ever simply be treated as the default assumption that people whom we observe constantly trying to sabotage democracy have won legitimately simply because their officials, their voting machines, and their media say they've won. If a result doesn't pass the Smell Test, we don't swallow it until we have concrete answers, period.
As I've noted before, what exactly it would entail to deny recognition of an official result is unclear - it would be uncharted territory, especially if any of our more influential candidates, let alone the President, agreed. I have enough faith in myself, my fellow Democrats, and my fellow Americans to say that we would find our way even in that murky situation. The main thing is simply not to lose your head no matter how disheartening the official outcome is - not to dance on puppet strings all the way to Loserville like we have in the past, and like they undoubtedly would expect us to again if they attempt another coup like 2000 or apply the same tactics used in the Wisconsin recall to multiple swing states on 11/6.
Now, that doesn't mean we won't officially win - after all, I have no knowledge one way or the other whether, how, and to what extent the Obama administration is monitoring and plans to fight the vast and multi-layered Republican effort to rig this election. I know they've fought to overturn superfluous and onerous voter ID laws that have been enacted simply to reduce the number of minority and low-income voters, but beyond that the information hasn't reached me - for instance, I don't know what kind of statistics they intend to compile on the Election Day to verify the plausibility of official, computer-tabulated results. That should be the first line of defense, not the last: If you can't verify the final count - at least probabilistically - then who is and is not allowed to vote doesn't really matter, does it?
Even total suffrage with universally adequate and equal resources made available to every district would be a farce without some reasonable guarantee that what came out the other end of the process was a function of what went into it, not some directive from GOP headquarters to its loyal servants who own, program, and operate the vote counting machines. So I'm not claiming to be in possession of a crystal ball or have insider knowledge of the GOP: I can only say these things because I've observed their overall behavior for over a decade, and the pattern has been consistent - they're not a political opposition, they're a criminal organization seeking the demolition of our republic and society so they can collect the wreckage as loot. Nothing more, nothing less. And they behave accordingly. Isn't it about time we behaved accordingly with our understanding of what they are and how they intend to operate, at least being prepared for their worst efforts?
Anticipating a likely objection, I'm not saying we are "doomed" - quite the opposite - and anyone who thinks that is the message of this diary has badly missed the point. We can't maintain any kind of effective action if it's all based on some shallow, manic-depressive cycle of becoming enthusiastic when we're told to do so then retreating in a demoralized funk when we're told to do that. I'm saying two things of seemingly opposite importance that actually add up to the same message of empowerment and freedom: If Barack Obama mopped the floor with Mitt Romney, our victory would still not be secure; and if Mitt Romney or any other sociopathic douchebag like him rode into the White House at the head of a tank column and declared himself Caesar, our defeat would not have been decided. You shape the reality of this country with every moment that passes, in every decision you make, and your freedom is not measured by what events happen to you, but in how you choose to address it.
Be prepared for Obama to win handily; be prepared for Obama to win by a close margin; be prepared for a wave of right-wing terrorist attacks and an even greater flood of petty crimes against Obama supporters to follow an Obama victory; be prepared for Mitt Romney to win legitimately, as unlikely as that seems; be prepared for Mitt Romney to be declared the winner through election fraud; be prepared for the media to be directly accomplice to a fraudulent Republican result; be prepared to be embarrassed and disgusted by the weakness, blindness, and confusion of your fellow Democrats if such events unfold; and be prepared to flip the lights back on if the worst happens, and in untrembling voice say "No. This is what's going on, this is what I'm going to do about it, and this is what you're going to do about it if you're worth your salt." Be prepared for what happens, nothing more, nothing less. In other words, be a thoughtful and constructive agent of history, not a passive product of it. There is no other requirement to being a progressive, and no possibility of calling yourself one without meeting it.