Friday, October 17, 2008

The Election Narrative

Worried that the McCain/Palin ticket will not win on November 4th, the right wing is spinning up the narrative that they will use on Nobember 5th to explain a possible loss. It is a good narrative, for them, as they get to use this to bring back the "super secret liberal takeover" myth that extreme or unfamiliar parts of the American left hold unfair sway over national elections. With it, they also get to continue using the "silent majority" myth: that they only lost elections because of lefty shenanigans, not because the majority of the voting population had chosen someone of another party to support.

I reckon this isn't completely disingenuous from the folks crying "Sore Loserman" in 2000, when one side wanted actual votes verified and all...

They've already put the words in the mouths of the center-left coalition, what folks like me will say on Nobember 5th if Obama loses - that he lost because he was black - despite the fact that it is not yet November 5th, the election has not yet been won or lost by any campaign, and I haven't yet chimed in about why the election was theoretically lost.

I mean, this sort of mythbuilding and narrative creation isn't completely one sided, as Democrats in Georgia explained Roy Barnes' thrashing at the hands of Sonny Perdue as being the undue result of "rebel flag voters;" not the teachers Barnes shat all over with his NCLB-like education initiatives.

But you can always tell which side feels weaker going into an election based on how shrill they sound and how many excuses are being made before the fact. Right now, the idea that an organization like ACORN will turn the entire election and undermine the foundations of democracy is rather laughable. Slate has a fascinating explanation of what is going on. This whole thing is political, and gives Republicans an easy boogeyman (one they've been after for a while). It is the same kind of unhinged narrative that comes out of the far left about right-wing malfeasance during elections. The unfortunate thing is the traction it is getting, and that just goes to show how much more effective the right wing mythmaking machine is than the left.

It is also a shame that the media can't seem to expose possible scandals like this ACORN stuff long before the fact (like, when they first find out about it) and take their cues mainly from the right wing blogosphere on these items. It is also a shame that the media will spend far more time on items like this (that get them ratings) than tracking down really real problems like faulty election machines, inaccurate voting databases, ridiculous micro-precinct voting, gerrymandering along political lines and a host of other problems with our election systems that go ignored.



DADvocate said...

Sore and Loserman. Geez. Talk about myth building.

666,000 new registration in Ohio during the week people could register and vote at the same time. Already lots of fishy ACORN stuff exposed there with the Democratic Secretary of State going along as much as the courts will let her.

At least you give some mention of how pathetic the MSM has been. We don't have journalist any more. We have advocates.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

The Sore Loserman stuff was a mythbuilding on both sides, as it was instigated mainly by folks on the right who wanted to act like the 2000 results were more like a 55-45 election rather than having an election so close it required examination. I didn't like the idea that anyone would question motives about verifying an election's validity. Every election should be validated, and everyone should be on board making sure election results are accurate. In 2000 things got very political about the validation of the election.

On the left, election shenanigans were used to explain how Gore could (breathless gasp) LOSE!1!! to Ol' Dubya, without really looking at why so much of the American electorate had chosen to support the Republican that year. It was far easier to say the election had been stolen than to actually run a self diagnostic about how Democrats and their allies had behaved and legislated in order to lose votes in Middle America.

I also brought up the Georgia governor's race, in which the exact same thing happened. But instead of the election being "stolen" through votes not being counted, the narrative was that it was the Rebel flag voters who had swung the election. This narrative did not require any self-diagnostic either; which would have forced Georgia Democrats to examine Gov. Barnes' awful record on education, the ridiculous districting of the electoral map, and the shenanigans of several prominent state Democrats like Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

As far as voting in Ohio: I don't know much about the laws there, but I can only imagine that registering new voters and voting at the same time is a logistical and resource management nightmare. But again, for that to be possible, voting rules must have been created at the state level and passed some sort of muster as far as how that would work. I'm sure the detractors of the register and vote legislation brought up the red tape nightmare it could cause, and offered that it may be abused by either side. Valid detractions, again, that have been ignored by the MSM on the front end, and now causing scandal at the back end.

This kind of thing just makes me wonder: how difficult is it to come up with a reasonable method of voting in this country? We have database and network software that can run accurate checks. We have reasonably accurate maps so that folks can figure out where they are supposed to vote. Even in Georgia, where the biggest complaint with the electronic voting has been that there is no paper validation should something happen to the machines - is it so difficult to apply micro-printing technology that we use in restaurants and at gas stations to print out a hard copy paper reciept of who you voted for?

I guess it is just easier to ignore a problem that only gets attention every two to four years. Then again, with two to four years to fix stuff, one would wonder why we're still dealing with so many shenanigans.

ACORN is just this year's boogeyman. The real problem is that Sec. State and local precinct offices are being asked to do their jobs (in verifying registrations) and they aren't aware of how many cracks are legally allowed by their own rules. The real problem is that people will let such offices get away with that neglect, care about it for about four months during an election year, and then ignore it again until the next election.

Too bad that's not an issue in the campaign.

Anonymous said...

"the 'silent majority' myth: that they only lost elections because of [the other sides] shenanigans, not because the majority of the voting population had chosen someone of another party to support."

You left out the illegitimate majority myth, that the votes and opinions of vast segments of the population should be discounted because they are not "real" Americans.

And both sides continually employ some version of both of the silent and illegitimate majorities.

DADvocate said...

ACORN is more than the boogeyman. Indianapolis has more registered voters than people of voting age. You sound like the more radical lefties for whom all this is OK as long as they're winning. There's a video on the net somewhere of an ACORN worker admitting she told people to vote for Obama, illegal activity.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

If Indianapolis has more people registered than they have a voting population, they have far bigger problems than ACORN. The local elections commissions and the Secretary of State's office who verify and validate those registrations are asleep at the wheel if that's going on. Not that a government bureaucrat asleep at the wheel would surprise me, to be sure, but there's actually someone in charge of making sure those things don't happen.

My point is: ACORN, or any group, for that matter, shouldn't be able to get away with any shenanigans because the system we have should be built to effectively screen out the BS and keep the goods. Any idiot could go out and register himself a million times - it is up to the people compiling the voting rolls to "quality check" said idiot back down to one vote, and to prosecute said knucklehead (if said activity is actually illegal and not just obnoxious) under the appropriate laws.

What I've heard most about this "voting scandal" is a bunch of local and state elections officials complaining because they actually have to provide the service they are being paid to provide.

People who actually break election law, voter registration law or any law where there is evidence of wrongdoing should be prosecuted. But it can't be selective prosecution, it has to be across the board. Thing is, it is difficult to police such behavior effectively, so it is always going to appear subjective, and there is always going to be someone out there saying "but so-and-so on the other side is guilty of the same thing." That's why we have the local and state elections officials, because it is easier to police this sort of thing from their offices as opposed to out on the street.

So ACORN can be your boogeyman this election, because with such subjectivity in enforcement, there will be a different boogeyman next time on whichever side loses.

DADvocate said...

...a bunch of local and state elections officials complaining because they actually have to provide the service they are being paid to provide.

ACORN intentionally overloads the system so that the officials cannot do their job effectively. No business or agency can function effectively with a tremendous overload. Keep driving van loads of people up to McDonald's and you'll get a failure of their system.

Your complaining that people with criminal intent shouldn't be held accountable.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

No, I'm not. If overloading a system is indeed illegal, if they are violating laws of any kind, they should be prosecuted. Simple stuff.

But I haven't heard of any indictments - only investigations. Investigations that, to my knowledge, have yet to bear any fruit.

I've worked in a school, I know what it is like to get overwhelmed with work. I've worked at a college during registration for classes and it required gettin' to work early and stayin' late and going through - literally - piles of paperwork. And I've worked in busy restaruants my whole professional life. I've fought my way out of the weeds enough to know how things break down when you have more orders coming in than tables in the dining room.

But it ain't like this is a shock to me. When you work in a tourist restaurant in a beach town, you know you're going to get slammed on the 4th of July. When you work at a college, you know you're going to get slammed the week before registration closes. I can only assume that election officials have a good idea that voter registrations pick up during an election year.

There are many ways to address this problem, and my point is that this is a problem every election year, ACORN or not. Expecting an uptick in voter registrations that you have to verify? There are thousands of poli-sci students in colleges all over this land that would love to get an unpaid evening internship doing this work. Can't do that? Run the registration deadline forward a few weeks to give the officials time to sift through the crap. Can't do that? Create vote registration tampering laws and link them to fraud on an official basis, and tell the state Attorney General to GATA.

All it takes is a little bit of foresight, common sense and resource management, and these problems that consistently plauge our elections will dramatically decrease.