When you think of the beatings and the murders… Bull Connor’s police dogs and fire hoses… The steel plate in Rep. John Lewis’ head… The sniper’s bullet that silenced Martin Luther King… When you think of these horrors, can you stand silently by and witness yet another assault on minority voting rights in America? And can you suppress a surge of rage when you hear John McCain and Sarah Palin attempting to disguise this new affront as a righteous crusade against “voter fraud”? The two spin merchants are attempting the most barefaced lie of their scandalous campaign: accusing an activist group of illegally padding voter registration lists with made-up names (in minority neighborhoods, naturally) and blaming Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party is launching litigation to skew the election by purging voters lists. In every election the Republican Party tries to use the courts to disqualify voters in heavily Democratic areas, and this election is no exception. You may have read of a recent case in which the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Republican attempt to challenge newly registered voters in Ohio. The lawsuit followed reports that Democrats were registering many more new voters than Republicans. And there are more legal tricks in progress as the Republicans attack America’s voters once again.
You may also have noticed that a public relations campaign is under way to cast suspicion on a group called ACORN (for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). McCain added his voice to the din during Wednesday night’s debate. Accusing ACORN of “perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy,” he demanded a clarification of Obama’s “links” to the group.
Here’s the story behind the story. ACORN’s community activities include registering voters in minority communities. The group hired unemployed people to do the legwork and paid them by the name. To pad their pay packets, some of the hired hands listed fictitious names. ACORN is required by law to submit all registrations it receives but dutifully flagged the suspicious-looking ones so the authorities could trash them. The existence of the flagged names triggered lurid news stories and a Republican complaint to the FBI.
Of course, even if some of the names got through there would be no threat to democracy because fake names on a voters list do not mean fake votes are cast. After all, these names don’t belong to real people. (It is highly unlikely, for example, that “Mickey Mouse” is going to show up at the polls.)
What about Obama’s links to ACORN? He naturally came across the group as a community organizer in Chicago, and once used his legal training to help ACORN get voters the right to register at their local driver’s license office. Obama’s campaign also paid ACORN to get out the vote during his primary contest against Hillary Clinton. But he has had no connection with ACORN’s voter-registration drive.
That doesn’t stop McCain from pointing his finger at Obama, and Palin from shouting “voter fraud” to fire up her mobs. Someone in the Bush Administration also took the trouble to (illegally) leak news of the FBI “investigation.” This is just more tabloid theater conjured up to cast a cloud over Obama as the McCain-Palin hate-talk express careens down its suicidal campaign path. But I doubt anyone will take it seriously. American voters vividly remember how George Bush stole the 2000 election from Al Gore. We know who represents the real threat to the fabric of democracy in America, and it isn’t ACORN.