Friday, January 07, 2005

Quiet triumphs: A parallel (updated)

From time to time, I've drawn parallels between the JFK assassination controversy and our much more recent fight to have Republican vote fraud recognized. In both cases, an underground resistance struggled against the prevailing wisdom of both parties. For the Warren Commission critics, the holy grail was either a new investigation or a new trial. After much effort, both goals were reached, and on both occasions, hopes shattered.

The critics then set a new goal -- the battle for history.

This objective seemed the most difficult of all. Even the most fervent JFK activist (and those guys could get pretty damned fervent) had little hope of ever seeing a college or high school textbook which repeated anything but the Oswald-did-it scenario.

Well, last night I read a textbook -- yes, a genuine college-level text, used in a course on 20th Century American history -- which presented both sides of the assassination controversy, in a brief but reasonably fair fashion. Indeed, the authors of the text seem to express a slight bias toward the anti-"lone nut" position.

Unfortunately, the pro-conspiracy side of the book's argument segued into a discussion of Oliver Stone's film. An unfortunate choice, that. Even Stone would probably agree that students should be referred to any number of books (choose your author: Russell, DiEugenio, Lane, Davy, Scott, etc.) and not to any made-in-Hollywood product. (Hell, this thread offers newbies as good an intro as any.)

Even so, the fact remains. We're in. We made the textbooks. We're winning the battle for history -- at least on that front. Yes, the fight took 40 years -- but many expected it to take longer.

Now we must engage in another battle for history. Our new front concerns the question of Bush's legitimacy and the Republican party's control over electronic voting. We can win this fight too.

And thanks to the internet, thanks to the new rapidity of communications, we won't need 40 years to do the job.

Investigations and lawsuits are fine. Never shy away from an opportunity to meet the enemy in those forums; even if the opposing forces should prevail, the struggle itself will always uncover new facts. For example, there are rumors that the Arnebeck suit has a hidden Ace -- a "smoking gun" piece of evidence. Even if his suit is tossed out (and don't be surprised if Moyer does just that), the evidence, if it exists, may still see the light of day.

This is a battle for brains. We cannot right the wrongs committed by the far rightists and the fundamentalists until we change more minds. The Republicans themselves made this point repeatedly during the debate over the challenge to Ohio's electors: They complained that we are undermining the country's faith -- and the world's faith -- in the American electoral system.

True enough; that system is broken. Faith should be undermined. The less faith, the better. We are advocates of reality, not faith.

According to one poll, 42% of our fellow citizens think that vote fraud played a small or large role in the last election. That's no small number. We have come close to convincing the majority of our fellow citizens that our position has merit. When the number of doubters shoots past the 50% mark, we will have achieved the most important victory -- and other victories will follow.

A side note: Those of you who watched the debates may have noticed that the Republicans kept repeating (in their usual scripted way) the same theme: They screamed that the Democrats were alleging that George Bush personally changed the vote "from a computer in the White House."

I know of no-one who has seriously made that suggestion. (Maybe someone somewhere tossed out that idea in a humorous fashion; if so, I'm unaware of the particulars.) So why do the Republicans keep trying to convince their constituents that vote fraud activists made such a claim?

I'm reminded of the attacks on Gary Webb. When the L.A. Times and other media snipers decided to smear his CIA/contra cocaine stories, they pretended that Webb had claimed the CIA agents were literally out on the streets of Central Los Angeles selling crack. Of course, Webb made no such suggestion. But he was easier to demonize once a "false Gary Webb" was held up for public ridicule. The number of people who heard the smear campaigners' goofball misrepresentation of his work exceeded the number of people who read his actual reportage.

If the trick worked once, keep working it...

Overviews. The morning-after accounts of the electoral challenge are coming in. The best I've seen is Democracy Now's interview with ground-level Ohio activist Harvey Wasserman, who compares this fight to the civil rights struggle. (Indeed, the current fight is an extension of the civil rights struggle.)

Steve Freeman -- yes, the same University of Pennsylvania prof who provided a seminal analysis of the exit polls -- has contributed a superb editorial to the San Francisco Chronicle. Freeman makes the important point that the U.S.-sponsored exit polls in the Ukraine were far less trustworthy than the ones conducted here:

So why is the response rebellion in the former Soviet Union nations but passive acceptance here? It's not that exit polls are reliable everywhere but here. In fact, both of the exit polls in the Ukraine were flawed. One did not adequately cover the strongholds of the government candidate; the other used face-to-face interviews, thus asking respondents to risk retribution. Both polls are alleged to have been sponsored by the West, principally the United States, hoping to install a friendly, pro-NATO government. The U.S. exit poll, in contrast, was independent, well-funded and run by the most experienced exit pollsters in the world
.Freeman has much more; this is a good piece.

Salon has a few words to say about the fight, although their story concentrates on the concurrent Gonzales fiasco.

You'll also want to read what Bob Fritakis has to say. Here's a point I should have raised earlier:

Even the Senate's new Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, joined the challenge -- a startling, unexpected but hopeful twist. Indeed, he spoke not of voting problems in Ohio but of problems in Nevada.

"Today, our brave men and women of the armed forces are working to bring the right to free and fair elections to Iraq," Reid said. "Their sacrifice absolutely demands that we work to ensure our own elections are fair. That is what today’s debate is about." Reid cited problems in his state, saying: "In this past election in my home state of Nevada, phone calls were made to heavily African American parts of Las Vegas to trick those voters into not voting. Those calls, which we were unable to trace, told voters that Election Day was November 3rd, not November 2nd. Our registration process in Nevada was also tainted by the proven destruction of Democratic voter registration forms. That fraud is still under investigation."
We discussed Nevada in these pages fairly earlier on, but the hullaballo over Ohio tended to overshadow all other concerns.

In state after state, reports cropped up of attempts to mislead black voters into thinking the vote was on November 3, not November 2. We should place in the same category the "pseudo-GOTV" telephone campaign designed to make independent voters think that John Kerry supported gay marriage.

Not long ago, I came across a GOP site which laughed at these attempts to mislead voters: Anyone dumb enough to be taken in by such tactics (the writer argued) deserved to have his vote taken away. So let's say I'm a scamster, and let's say I use a ruse to convince your grandmother to give me her credit card information. According to the Republicans, if she's that stupid, she deserves to be robbed.

Lovely philosophy, that.

Oh...and for a note-perfect parody of the arguments raised by Republicans during the debate, check out The Common Ills. Funny stuff!

THANKS, EVERYONE! I've already written a note of gratitude to Barbara Boxer. (I even told her "I love you" -- an outburst which shouldn't bother my girlfriend, since she feels the same way.) If you want to express your thanks to her and to the noble House members who supported the challenge to the objectors, Buzzflash gives you an easy way to contact each and every one.

And let me offer my own gratitude to the readers who had kind words for my own humble efforts. I'm tempted to say that your notes almost brought a tear to my eye -- but that admission might injure my rep as a cantankerous ol' grizzly bear. So let me just say...thanks.


Anonymous said...

I dearly wish you wouldn't conjoin the Kennedy assasination and vote fraud -- such a forced convergence is a Republican dream, the sort of thing they would come up (to dismiss both), so why hand it to them on a platter?

A corrupted voting system is much simpler to assess; there are already hundreds of affidavits attesting to same. The evidence for conspiracy in the Kennedy assasination is of an entirely different character and quality.

There's so much else missing from American textbooks -- things for which there is a clear historical record -- you don't need to look to Dallas 1963.

For god's sake, please don't bring up it up again, you only give food to those who claim the whole thing is nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work, Joe! This is one information highway I drive down daily...Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I don't think he was comparing an assassination to the Ohio vote. I think he was comparing how people rush in whenever anyone questions and says, "Hush up! Don't say that!" Kind of like you did when you attacked him.
I got his point, understood and think it's strong.
Enjoyed the links. (I didn't go to Salon, I don't view ads for access.) I watch Democracy Now! but had already forgotten that segment, thanks for highlighting it.
And thanks for the Common Ills's Senator Dumb Butt, that was hilarious. And really funny because it's so true.
Jim Newman