-- Brad Friedman
I've been quite critical of the Obama/DNC plan (or lack thereof) for "election protection" this year, noting that it looks, smells and sounds a lot like a slightly beefed-up version of the Kerry/DNC "we'll have thousands of lawyers in place on Election Day should anything go wrong."
On Election Day, of course, if DNC lawyers are still trying to keep up with what's going on, it's already game over. While for years Osama Bin Laden and Muslim extremists had supposedly declared war on the U.S., as the legend goes, America paid little attention until it was too late. So it is with the raging Republican War on Democracy, where proactive steps are necessary (beginning long ago, but we'll take what we can get at this point) to join the war and push back against the GOP's assault on the most democratic of all values, the right to freely cast one's vote, to have that vote counted, and to have it counted accurately.
Back in 2006, after speaking to a group of DNC election attorneys in Chicago, I wrote about the "Dysfunction at the DNC" and the persistent cluelessness they had displayed at the time concerning a number of very real threats to our electoral system. While Obama has certainly displayed a tendency to understand at least some of the issues at stake --- far more so than his '04 counterpart --- the party, from every sign I'm able to get, remains out of touch with the serious threats they face: from the massive front-end disenfranchisement efforts, about which they are at least somewhat aware, to the back-end disenfranchisement efforts via manipulation and/or often-undiscoverable "tabulation error" of completely un-transparent electronic voting systems used in virtually every county, in every state in the union.
So we may be grasping for any optimistic straw we can find here, but at least today we have one such sign of proactivity from the Obama/DNC that we can tell you about...
Last week, Eartha Jane Melzer in the Michigan Messenger, quoted James Carabelli, the chair of the Macomb County, MI, Republican Party, as saying that the state GOP had plans to use lists of foreclosed homes in order to challenge voters at the polls on Election Day. "Lose your house, lose your vote," the eye-catching, to-the-point headline of Melzer's article declared.
"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses," Carabelli reportedly told the reporter.
Yesterday, in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, at least five days after the comment was reported, the Obama campaign finally spoke out publicly about the outrage in the form of comments from Joe Biden, during a rally in the key "swing state." As seen in the video at right, some 21+ minutes into his 30 minute speech (hat-tip Jill from "Brilliant at Breakfast"), Biden declares...:
So while Biden acknowledged the reported GOP assault on the right to vote, out loud, he used the opportunity to suggest voters should vote for him and Obama. He didn't bother to speak about what his campaign planned to do to assure those voters could actually cast a vote for him, given the efforts supposedly planned to keep them from doing so, or to assure that those votes would be counted and counted accurately.
The good news, then, today --- and again, we may be grasping at straws, of course --- Mark Halperin, writing for Time magazine's "The Page" blog, reports on a conference call this afternoon where the Obama campaign and the Michigan Democratic Party announced they are filing an injunction [PDF] to block the alleged "vote caging" scheme by the GOP in MI.
"It is an absolute attack on their right to vote," Obama counsel Bob Bauer says on the call, as reported by Halperin, and a "completely false and completely illegal basis" to challenge votes. He went on to note that "this is a standard operating procedure within the Republican party that’s been under legal challenge."
After the story of the GOP plans to use foreclosure lists to challenge voters was first reported, Caribelli then claimed he "never said anything even close to that. We won't be doing voter challenges on foreclosures, and we've never had a plan to do it."
And if you believe that, I can get you a really low adjustable rate mortgage on a recently available foreclosed home in Detroit.
Bauer went on to respond, during the call, to a reporter who'd asked about the GOP's continuing voter fraud canard (versus real concerns of election fraud, via disenfranchisement, electronic manipulation of tallies, etc.) that Republican phonies have been pushing for so many years, and continue to disingenuously ramp up each and every day now, through a massive disinformation campaign [PDF].
"If you look across the United States at the moment, at lawsuits that Republicans have either filed, or practices in which they've engaged in various states --- like Wisconsin and Ohio --- the threats to the electoral process this year isn't coming from [voter] fraud, which is bandied about, for frankly political purposes as far as we can tell," Bauer responded.
"The threat here is through massive voter suppression, which, as I said, follows a national pattern," the DNC attorney continued. "What we're dealing with is a national and systematic campaign to disenfranchise voters through a variety of well-established mechanisms of voter suppression within a political party that has been continually called to account for this conduct in the courts."
He is, of course, correct about the "massive voter suppression" efforts which lay at the heart of the GOP strategy to "win" this year. As to his, and the rest of the Obama/DNC's apparent inability to understand that simply ensuring voters get to vote is not nearly enough, all signs are that they have a very long way to go, and their continuing ostrich act may well cost them yet another Presidential victory this year.
A segment of today's conference call, discussing the Dem plans to counter the GOP's alleged vote caging scheme in Michigan, follows below [appx. 15 mins]...
The irony of today's announced lawsuit is that just yesterday the McCain campaign launched what they are calling --- presumably with a straight face --- their "Honest and Open Election Committee" and a website to go with it on which they make a number of claims about "transparency" and "zero tolerance for fraud."
I'll try to withhold judgment on their new initiative for the moment, as I've been trying to invite a spokesperson for that effort to join me to discuss it tomorrow on KPFK/Pacifica's "Special Election Year Coverage," which I'll be hosting live at 2pm PT (5pm ET) here in Los Angeles.
While we're still trying to get a commitment from one of their reps to come on and discuss these issues, unfortunately, the Obama campaign has similarly failed to offer a spokesperson to discuss their "election protection" efforts on the show yet either.
If neither of them cares to come on and discuss their plans, I guess I'll have to do it without them, which would be a shame --- probably for them --- so I hope one or both decide to show up. And I hope the Obama folks begin to wake up, big time, to the war that they still don't even seem to realize they are in.