It has become commonplace in modern political discourse to assert that the Republican Party stole the 2000 election and there is a growing chorus, recently detailed in these pages, charging that the GOP pilfered the 2004 election as well.
Now there is a new rumble of thunder building on the left concerning possible election fraud in the 2008 primaries. This time the designated victim is none other than Senator Hillary Clinton!
Yes, you heard that right. Hillary Clinton, she of Whitewater and the Rose Law Firm billing records fame, has a growing and vocal coterie of agents charging that she was unfairly jobbed by unseen forces who refused to allow a woman to lead the Democrats into the November election. While this characterization of the Democratic nomination battle is bizarre and easily disproved, it certainly holds dangerous implications for the future, namely the fact that every future election will be subject to allegations of fraud and that candidates who cannot concede defeat gracefully will resort to the “big lie” in order to rationalize their loss and delegitimize an opponent’s victory.
This disturbing aspect of modern politics began, appropriately, in the 2000 general election. The Democrats and their media echo chamber charged that George W. Bush and the Republicans stole Florida and fraudulently won the election. They willfully discounted documented evidence of Democratic Party shenanigans in St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Detroit. Likewise, those charging vote fraud ignored Democratic candidate Al Gore’s efforts to disqualify military absentee ballots which would certainly have trended Republican and his attempts to cherry-pick Democratic counties in Florida for special recounts. Finally, after exhaustive studies by Florida daily newspapers determined that Bush did, indeed, win the state, the Democratic conspiracy mongers shrugged their shoulders and continued to insist that the “other” party stole the 2000 election.
The crying-foul tactic worked well enough for the Democrats that they decided to re-employ it in 2004. The party and their media allies ignored Democratic dirty tricks, such as flattening the tires of thirty vans the Milwaukee Republicans had rented to drive voters to polling places. Instead, the Democrats with the assistance of a complicit media simply hammered home their theme that Republican skulduggery had stolen Ohio and thus the election. The fact that Bush won Ohio by 120,000 votes did not dissuade the conspiracy theorists one bit. They repeated their “fraudulent election” mantra until certain people started believing them.
Today, in 2008, we are treated to the spectacle of Hillary Clinton’s supporters claiming that unseen forces stole the Democratic presidential nomination, her assumed family heirloom, and foisted Barack Obama on a largely unwilling party and its membership. The conspiracy theorists, including the PUMAS (Party Unity My A**), ignore the fact that Obama largely played by the party rules and eked out a victory. They resent the fact that Obama received the type of adulatory media usually reserved for Hillary in the past. Finally, they cannot admit that their candidate’s limitations and a national case of Clinton fatigue spelled defeat. In the wake of a bitter loss it is much easier to believe that the unseen forces of conspiracy caused defeat and to pinpoint these as the source of one’s unavailing grief.
It is instructive to compare this Democratic Party paranoia with the Republicans and their much more reserved approach to electoral reverses. In 2000 incumbent Republican senators lost hotly contested elections in Michigan and Missouri. Allegations of voting irregularities abounded in Michigan. The Missouri situation involved a case of dubious legality in which the state Democratic Party kept a deceased candidate, Governor Mel Carnahan, on the ballot after his tragic death in a plane crash after a campaign event in October. The Missouri campaign featured recorded telephone calls from the Reverend Jesse Jackson telling likely Democratic voters in St. Louis that the polls would be open late on election night, it highlighted thousands of fraudulent voter registrations turned in by groups like ACORN, and it also included numerous voters registered at multiple addresses and others registered at nonexistent addresses. The Republicans declined to contest these two elections. Likewise, they did not challenge John Thune’s loss to Senator Tim Johnson in South Dakota in 2002 despite evidence of vote manipulation on Indian reservations. Finally, the GOP lost a number of razor-thin decisions in 2006, including senatorial races in which incumbents were defeated in Missouri and Virginia. The defeated candidates accepted their reversals of fortune graciously and did not challenge the official results.
What does this say about our modern political dialogue? Does this mean that the Republicans are more emotionally capable of dealing with defeat than Democrats? Does it mean that the Democrats are more tenacious in the pursuit of victory? No one can say with certainty, but this signals an ominous portent for the near future.
The Democratic Party caterwauling about fraudulent elections and the Republican reluctance to respond to allegations has further poisoned an already toxic political atmosphere. The George W. Bush Republicans, reflecting their champion’s inarticulate nature, preferred to see elections as national referendums and ignored Democratic charges of fraud, confident that the voters endorsed moderate Republicanism at the ballot box. They did not, however, realize that a “big lie” once unleashed does not die easily. Distasteful though it may have been for a party that historically disdains confrontation, the Republicans need to answer these charges and the Obama Democrats must do the same today. The rewriting of history continues even as we speak and no one will correct the record until these baseless charges are fully debunked.