Colson: The dark tale of voter-fraud mythology
Hit & Run
While still fanning the flames of intolerance, hate, paranoia and bigotry on the campaign trail, everybody’s favorite real estate swindler (Donald Trump) now appears to be taking aim at the very process he has been trying to exploit shamelessly and violently — the right to vote freely and without intimidation by partisan “poll watchers” or by “caging” tactics that undermine legitimate voters’ rights to cast ballots.
And what’s more, Trump has been building the foundation for voter intimidation for some time with his “Crooked Hillary” campaign, along with his insulting depiction of immigrants as so many criminals, rapists, drug dealers and terrorists-in-waiting, given that the Hispanic voting bloc, at the least, appears ready and eager to vote against him.
Trump, I guess, is not so politically oblivious that he hasn’t noticed his poll numbers dropping like molten rocks tossed skyward by his insanely blustering and volcanic persona.
In recent weeks, he has taken to warning his dwindling base of supporters that he might actually lose this election and that if he does, it is due to one thing and one thing only — the Democrats will cheat and steal the election from him.
Now, I should start out by saying I have no illusions about the purity of the Democratic Party when it comes to electoral cheating.
I was living in Chicago as a kid at the time of the 1960 presidential election, and my parents were working hard to get Democratic then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy elected over Republican then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
The Dems of that time were a hide-bound bunch of party hacks, and Chicago was the center of hackdom in this regard, since the party was firmly under the thumb of eminently corrupt then-Mayor Richard J. Daley.
It has become an article of faith among students of American politics that Daley, by putting dead people on the voter rolls and other tactics, may have been the single most important factor in Kennedy’s triumph that year.
Because of the transitory nature of elections, the hints and rumors of large-scale voter fraud in Chicago in November 1960 have never been fully vetted, though that election is still considered by many as a black mark on the history of the Democratic Party.
Still, the bogeyman of voter fraud has been so abused and misused in the decades since the Nixon-Kennedy election, it would be almost comical if it weren’t so critical, and most of those abuses have come under the guise of patriotic fervor in the minds and hands of Republican Party apparatchiks.
More than 30 states have passed new “voter-ID laws” and other restrictions ostensibly intended to prevent a veritable tsunami of voter fraud that, interestingly, seems to exist only in the febrile brains of arch-conservative politicians and their deluded supporters.
And, just as interestingly, these voter-fraud-suppression efforts seem to hit mainly at blacks, students, the elderly and other groups that traditionally are accepted as being solid supporters of the Democratic Party.
A 2012 article in The New Yorker titled “The Voter-Fraud Myth” reported on the workings of one of the groups stoking the flames of the voter-fraud hysteria, known as True the Vote.
It was founded in Houston in 2009 by a teabagger named Catherine Engelbrecht, who in turn gets much of her advice from right-wing attorneys and organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, all deeply steeped in voter-fraud myth-making as a way of delegitimizing Democrats and their supporters.
According to the story, True the Vote in 2012 “mistakenly” identified the home of a black family as a vacant lot and, on the strength of that mistake, challenged the right to vote of the family members who had been voting reliably in the Democratic column for decades and living at the same address.
And such scenes were and are playing out in countless neighborhoods, towns, counties and states, even today.
True the Vote, in fact, is one of the key responders to Trump’s call for epic numbers of poll watchers and monitors, all of which is feared by Democrats and progressive activists as simply another way to keep minorities, students, the poor and the elderly away from the polls in the 2016 election.
Which, of course, is part of The Donald’s master playbook, along with his apparent plans to challenge the presidential election results if they don’t go his way.
Sometimes I have to just sit back and gape at what this nation has become.
By the way, I should point out that it was Republicans who perpetrated one of the nation’s most monstrous examples of voter fraud in 2000, when Florida’s Republican Party stalwarts engaged in wholesale voter-suppression tactics and, after Election Day, so tangled up the ballot count of a close statewide vote that the election was turned over to the U.S. Supreme Court.
And it was the right-leaning justices who ended up giving Florida’s Electoral College votes, and the national election, to George W. Bush, even though Democrat Al Gore clearly garnered the majority of actual votes cast across the nation.
So, for me, all this Republican talk about Democrats and voter fraud is a case of the pot calling the kettle black in the thick of a long, dark night.
Look it up, learn, and weep for our future.
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