There’s been a steadily building discussion, albeit shrouded in some mystery, about the potential impact on Election Day (and to some extent, before it) of right-wing “volunteer poll watchers” who are promising to descend on minority neighborhoods to make sure the Pink Elephant threat of “voter fraud” does not transpire.
Much of the talk centers on True the Vote, a Houston-based, Tea-Party aligned group that is claiming it will deploying a million such volunteers. These patriots, it seems, have all been trained to spot the nefarious (if imaginary) efforts of ACORN, the New Black Panther Party, and other representatives of the 47% to stuff the ballot box with the votes of illegal immigrants, welfare bums, and others who do not understand that “constitutional conservatism” is the only legitimate governing ideology for America.
True the Vote clearly does not represent an idle threat. Well before election day, reports are surfacing that it (or its state affiliates, like the Ohio Voter Integrity Project) is challenging the registration status of voters in battleground states based on changed addresses, residences listed on tax rolls as commercial property, and student addresses.
But it’s the specter of Election Day (or perhaps in-person Early Voting locations) that should trouble everyone, regardless of partisan affiliation. It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous scenario than that of hundreds of thousands of self-righteous suburban wingnuts showing up in poor and minority neighborhoods to hassle would-be voters, with Fox News cameras on hand to record any random examples of Solid Citizens experiencing resistance from annoyed locals.
And if we head towards Election Day with Obama still enjoying a clear lead in the polls, you have to figure True the Vote’s shock troops will be loaded for bear, viewing themselves as the last desperate defenders of “their” country against the barbaric hordes of looters and baby-killers who are already plotting to herd them into concentration camps during Obama’s second term, after they close the churches and shut down radio talk shows. At a minimum, we can expect “poll-watchers” to come up with enough “documented” example of “voter fraud” to support a general post-election effort to de-legitimize the results.
Demos and Common Cause have published a report analyzing the threat of chaos and outlining steps to combat it. And over at The Democratic Strategist, James Vega, J.P. Green and I have distilled four distinct strategies for dealing with voter intimidation and conservative media exploitation of precinct chaos.
In general, the best antidote against this madness, other than alert cadres of progressive poll-watchers and a police force willing to enforce the right to vote, is simple awareness. Perhaps True the Vote is issuing empty threats. But there’s no excuse for this becoming a November Surprise.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 28, 2012
I have, at times, marveled at some of the more ridiculous efforts to smear President Obama and his family. Dinesh D’Souza, for example, wrote a strange book attacking Obama for trying to carry out an “anti-colonial” agenda he inherited from his Kenyan father. It’s a thesis as silly as it is ugly, based on bizarre assertions about the president having the mindset of an African “Luo tribesman.”
The Weekly Standard criticized it for “misstatements of fact, leaps in logic, and pointlessly elaborate argumentation.” When D’Souza’s thesis first appeared as a piece in Forbes, one of the magazine’s own columnists blasted D’Souza’s “intellectual goofiness,” “factual problems,” and “unsubstantiated ideological accusations.” The Columbia Journalism Review called D’Souza’s piece “a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia” and a “singularly disgusting work.”
By the time the disgusting attack was turned into a movie, it was tempting to think the deranged attitudes of Obama’s most over-the-top detractors couldn’t get any worse. Michelle Goldberg’s latest report proves otherwise — now they’re launching nauseating attacks against the president’s mother (thanks to my colleague Vanessa Silverton-Peel for the heads-up).
For a while now, pictures purporting to show Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, modeling in 1950s bondage and fetish porn have been floating around the darker corners of the Internet. Now, though, they’ve made their way into a pseudo-documentary, Joel Gilbert’s Dreams From My Real Father, which is being mailed to voters in swing states, promoted by several Tea Party groups and by at least one high-level Republican. At the same time, Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book, Obama’s America—the first of all his works to hit the top spot on The New York Times bestseller list—has a chapter essentially calling Dunham a fat slut. [...]
What matters here is not that a lone crank made a vulgar conspiracy video, one that outdoes even birther propaganda in its lunacy and bad taste. It’s that the video is finding an audience on the right. Gilbert claims that more than a million copies of Dreams From My Real Father have been mailed to voters in Ohio, as well between 80,000 and 100,000 to voters in Nevada and 100,000 to voters in New Hampshire. “We’re putting plans in place, as of next week, to send out another 2 [million] or 3 million, just state by state,” he told me.
It may seem hard to believe that even the most gullible, wild-eyed fools would find such garbage credible, but there are those on the right who are actually embracing this. Goldberg added, “[T]he fact is, people are reporting receiving the disc in the mail. Tea Party groups and conservative churches are screening it. It was shown at a right-wing film festival in Tampa during the Republican National Convention, and by Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum Council in Missouri. Alabama GOP Chairman Bill Armistead recently recommended it during a speech.”
We’re well past the point at which these right-wing activists care about basic levels of decency, but if there’s any justice, this kind of attack will backfire, and make the purveyors of the garbage look far worse than their intended targets.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 28, 2012
With the first presidential debate coming on Wednesday, further details are emerging about how the two candidates have been preparing for the face-offs. The debates have a special importance for Mitt Romney, who trails President Obama by 4.3 points in both Real Clear Politics’s composite of national polls and their aggregation of polls in most swing states. Many politicos believe that the debates are Romney’s last chance to turn the race around. So what’s his secret weapon? Zingers.
This from Peter Baker and Ashley Parker in today’s New York Times:
Mr. Romney’s team has concluded that debates are about creating moments and has equipped him with a series of zingers that he has memorized and has been practicing on aides since August. His strategy includes luring the president into appearing smug or evasive about his responsibility for the economy.
This nicely illustrates one of the big problems that the Romney campaign has brought upon itself: They keep trying to find one magic moment on which they can turn around the race. They banked first on the vice presidential roll out and then on the GOP convention as instances where the American people would see and embrace a new Mitt Romney while finally turning on President Obama in the manner Republicans believe he deserves. That magic bullet instinct also explains the campaign’s jumping around from attack message to attack message (see: welfare attacks, “you didn’t build it,” “bumps in the road,” and so forth).
But as I argue in my column in U.S. News Weekly this week (subscription required), while we remember big moments in debates, they rarely if ever actually turn elections. The classic example is Gerald Ford’s declaration that the Soviet Union wasn’t dominating Eastern Europe—it’s remembered as a crippling gaffe, but he closed on Carter during the period of the debates that year. And while conventional wisdom (and, apparently, the Romney campaign) holds that Ronald Reagan only broke through after decisively besting Jimmy Carter with “there you go again” and “are you better off…?” in their late October debate, he was already leading in the polls at that point. It’s true that the polling trend line shows a Reagan surge after the debate, but he had been leading Carter since the late spring and had been creeping upward since late August. The Reagan-Carter debate accelerated an existing trend; it didn’t turn the election or change its dynamics.
And there’s another reason why the Romney campaign shouldn’t bank on zingers to turn around their flailing, failing effort. As The American Conservative’s Daniel Larison observes on Twitter today, “if people don’t like a candidate to start with, they aren’t going to be impressed when he uses one-liners and put-downs.” He goes on to wonder whether Team Romney realizes that candidates with high negatives (and Romney’s are so very high) shouldn’t be relying on zingers. People already find Romney unlikable, in other words; coming across as more of a smarmy smart-ass isn’t going to help him.
On a lighter note, the idea of Mitt Romney’s arsenal of prepared one-liners has given rise to a new Twitter meme: #MittZingers.
By: Robert Schlesinger, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, September 29, 2012
According to Bloomberg News, Mitt Romney is taking advantage of a tax loophole to pass off a fortune to his children without paying taxes on it. According to administration figures, this loophole costs the government $1 billion over a ten-year budget window:
In January 1999, a trust set up by Mitt Romney for his children and grandchildren reaped a 1,000 percent return on the sale of shares in Internet advertising firm DoubleClick Inc.
If Romney had given the cash directly, he could have owed a gift tax at a rate as high as 55 percent. He avoided gift and estate taxes by using a type of generation-skipping trust known to tax planners by the nickname: “I Dig It.” [...]
While Romney’s tax avoidance is both legal and common among high-net-worth individuals, it has become increasingly awkward for his candidacy since the disclosure of his remarks at a May fundraiser. He said that the nearly one-half of Americans who pay no income taxes are “dependent upon government” and “believe that they are victims.” [...]
The Obama administration estimates that closing the loophole Romney used would bring the federal government almost $1 billion in the coming decade.
One analyst said that $1 billion is a “laughable” under-estimate of the loophole’s effect, as “a single billionaire could pay $500 million more in estate taxes if these trusts are shut down.”
It’s unclear whether Romney would close this particular loophole, since he refuses to divulge details about his tax plan. However, he has been upfront about his desire to eliminate the estate tax, which only affects the richest Americans. That tax cut would save the heirs of the Koch and Adelson fortunes billions of dollars. As ThinkProgress detailed, the lion’s share of tax breaks doled out in the U.S. go to the very rich.
By: Pat Garofalo, Think Progress, September 27, 2012