There’s a wonderful term in psychology called “projection.” As I understand it, it’s the tendency of certain people with specific weaknesses or conditions to see that problem with others, and not themselves. Alcoholics think everyone else has a problem drinking. Pedophiles (or almost and wannabes, like Mark Foley) take strong stances against it and work to expose others. And so on, and so on.
I’m seeing a bit of that on the national political level, and it ain’t pretty.
For every election since 2000 (and probably earlier), the Democrats have raised the issue of election fraud and accused the Republicans (through one of their favorite bugbears, Diebold) of “rigging” and “stealing” the election. And since 2000, there have been more than a few instances of serious political games regarding elections — and the ones that stick out most firmly in my mind were pulled by Democrats.
In 2000, when it became clear that the fight for the Florida votes (and, consequently, the election) was going to be fierce, the Gore campaign sent battalions of lawyers to the Sunshine State. They were well-armed with legal arguments and tools, and chief among them was a plan to disqualify absentee ballots cast by active service members.
(A brief explanation: there was a conflict between Florida law and actual military capability regarding postmarks on absentee ballots — the law required the ballots to carry postmarks that the military simply could not provide. The Gore campaign argued that since they did not carry the appropriate marks, all the absentee ballots cast by voters currently on active military service (who tend to vote more Republican than Democrat) should be disqualified — in effect, depriving our troops of the very rights they were risking their lives to defend. Of all the Florida shenanigans, that one is the one that struck me as the most craven and rank, and the one that seems to get the least amount of attention.)
In 2002, Senator Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) was in a nasty fight for re-election. He was embroiled in a corruption scandal that just would not go away. He finally accepted that he could not win re-election, so he sought to withdraw from the race.
The problem was that the deadline for withdrawing had long passed. It would take extraordinary circumstances to allow his name to be taken off the ballot, and the substitution of a replacement candidate.
Such extraordinary circumstances have arisen before. Candidates have died, have been indicted or convicted of crimes, and other such major events have been adjusted before.
But that wasn’t the case here. The “extraordinary circumstance” here was that the incumbent was polling so badly, that his defeat was pretty much a given.
The Republicans howled in protest. They fought the case in court, saying that Torricelli could have withdrawn earlier, in accordance with the law, and now simply saying “I don’t want to run any more because I’m most likely going to lose” was nowhere near the magnitude of death or conviction.
That didn’t matter. The Democrats found a friendly judge who bought their argument and swapped Torricelli for former senator Frank Lautenberg, who handily defeated the Republican challenger, Doug Forrester — who found himself having spent a TON of money on anti-Torricelli ads and research that was suddenly rendered utterly worthless.
In Texas, Tom DeLay found himself the target of a very zealous prosecutor. Ronnie Earle was convinced that DeLay was corrupt and had to go, and did everything he could to get DeLay. He took the case to a grand jury — which refused to indict him. So he took it to a second grand jury, which did indict DeLay — but had to violate the United States Constitution to do so. Finally, Earle got a third grand jury to indict DeLay.
So DeLay finally bowed to the inevitable and resigned as House Majority Leader, as well as resigning his seat and withdrawing from re-election.
But that wasn’t good enough for the Democrats. They sued to keep DeLay’s name ON the ballot, even though he had withdrawn from the race and even declared his legal residency as outside the district. After several rounds of court fights, DeLay was allowed to get off the ballot, but the Democrats (in stark contrast with the Torricelli precedent) managed to keep the Republicans from naming a new candidate. So next month, the election to choose DeLay’s successor will feature only a Democrat and a Libertarian, with the Republicans forced to mount a write-in campaign.
And now in Florida, we have the case of Mark Foley. The Republicans have been allowed to substitute a replacement candidate for him, but it’s too late to change the ballots. In prior cases, the parties have been allowed to put a sign in the polls stating that “a vote for candidate X will be counted as a vote for their replacement, Y,” but in this case the Democrats have gone to court — and won — to prevent that. Apparently telling voters that “a vote cast for Mark Foley will not be counted as a vote for Mark Foley, but Joe Negron” is comparable with a sign saying “vote for Mark Foley” inside the polling places.
The cynic in me kind of hopes that the Democrats are right, and that the Republicans do have Diebold helping them in elections. They say it takes two thieves to make an honest deal, and vote-rigging just might help balance out the games the Democrats seem to play as a matter of course.
Ideally, though, I’d like to see both parties stop this bullshit and just play it fair.