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“The Myth Of Voter Fraud”: Persists Because It Is A Racialized Weapon In A Power Struggle Over The Soul Of American Democracy

When there has been election fraud in American elections, it has usually been committed by politicians, party operatives and election officials who have something at stake in electoral outcomes. Voters rarely commit fraud because for them, it is a motiveless crime, the individual benefits to the fraudulent voter are immaterial, while the costs are prohibitive.

The most important illustration of outright corruption of elections is the century-long success of white supremacists in the American South stripping African-Americans of their right to vote. Elites and party bosses in the urban North followed the Southern example, using some of the same tricks to manipulate electoral outcomes and to disfranchise immigrants and the poor.

From this perspective, the impact of election fraud on American elections has been massive. It was only with the rise of the Black Freedom Movement and passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, that the tricks and political chicanery were halted. In fact, according to the political historian J. Morgan Kousser, the Voting Rights Act is the most important fraud-prevention legislation ever passed.

In response to these victories, a reactionary movement arose to push back against progress in civil rights and to counter the thrust toward a more equal society. Over the last 40 years, that movement has made important gains, especially in the courts, where a conservative Supreme Court, in a 2013 case called Shelby County v. Holder, gutted one of the most effective features of the Voting Rights Act – the “preclearance” formula which forced states and localities with the most egregious histories of vote denial to obtain permission from the Justice Department before putting new election rules in place.

Prior to the contested 2000 presidential election, only 14 states either requested or required that voters show some form of identification at the polls. Since then, the number of states requiring ID to vote has doubled and the forms of acceptable identification have narrowed. In what is likely no coincidence, the rate at which states have adopted tougher photo identification requirements accelerated with the election of the nation’s first black president and the demise of legally-mandated federal oversight in the Shelby case.

In rapid succession, partisan lawmakers in state after state have pushed through the new rules, claiming tougher identity checks are necessary to staunch or prevent voter fraud. And yet, in no state adopting a photo ID requirement has any lawmaker or anyone else, for that matter, presented a credible showing of a problem with voters corrupting the electoral process. In other words, if the claimed reason of preventing voter fraud is taken at face value, there is no rational basis for the policy intervention. So what is actually going on?

I think the phony claims and renewed political chicanery are a reflection of the fact that a century-and-a-half after the Civil War, and 50 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a deeper struggle for democracy, equality and inclusion continues. Beneath the skirmish over arcane voting rules is a fraught tension between our ideals and our fears, between what we profess to believe about the “sanctity” of the ballot, and racialized and class-based notions of worthiness embedded in the question of who is to be a citizen in the United States.

The myth of voter fraud persists because it is a racialized weapon in a power struggle over the soul of American democracy. To see this, we must set our current politics in a historical context. Long-standing fears about unworthy citizens polluting and distorting electoral outcomes are the underside of the usual celebratory story we like to tell ourselves of a progressive struggle for voting rights. In fact, the struggle has not unfolded in a linear fashion. Each successive advance has generated counter-movements rooted in alternative and reactionary histories aimed at “taking back” at least a part of what has been lost. In our own time, from the moment blacks began exercising their newly (re-)won right to vote, that right was undermined in ways that constrained its power to deliver social justice. The question of who is to be a citizen in our racially divided and injured society remains unresolved.


By: Lorraine C. Minnite, Director of the Urban Studies Program at Rutgers University–Camden: Bill Moyers Blog, Moyers and Company, March 9, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Democracy, Voter Fraud, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Kerry Teaches Rubio The Basics About The Middle East”: Explaining Current Events To A Student Who Failed To Do His Homework

At the recent CPAC gathering, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, seemed to stumble on one of the basic facts of the Middle East. “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” the Florida Republican said.

The senator seemed confused. In reality, President Obama has put an anti-ISIS military strategy in place, and that’s fine with Iran, since Iran and ISIS are enemies.

I’d hoped that Rubio just misspoke, or had been briefed poorly by an aide, but apparently not – -at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon, the far-right Floridian continued to push this strange theory, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on the point. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Rubio said. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”

And so, Kerry told him why he’s wrong.

For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the heart of the exchange.

KERRY: What’s important, senator, with respect to your question is to understand this. And I think this has been a misread by a lot of people up here on the Hill, to be honest with you. There is no grand bargain being discussed here with regards to this negotiation, this is about a nuclear weapon potential. That’s it. And the president has made it absolutely clear they will not get a nuclear weapon. Now the presumption by a lot of people up on the Hill here has been that we somehow aren’t aware of that goal even as we negotiate that goal. Our negotiation is calculated to make sure they can’t get a nuclear weapon. It’s really almost insulting that the presumption here is that we’re going to negotiate something that allows them to get a nuclear weapon.

RUBIO: Well I haven’t discussed about the nuclear weapon but I – and I’m not saying there is a grand bargain – what I’m saying is that I believe that our military strategy towards ISIS is influenced by our desire not to cross red lines That the Iranians have –

KERRY: Absolutely not in the least.

Rubio went on to insist that many of our Sunni allies in the region – including Jordan and U.A.E. – feel as if we’ve kept them “in the dark” about the nuclear talks with Iran, reducing our “trust level” in the region.

Again, Kerry had to patiently explained to the Republican, “Senator, that is actually flat wrong.”

Honestly, it was like watching a competent teacher trying to explain the basics of current events to a student who failed to do his homework. Andrea Mitchell said the Secretary of State took Rubio “to school.”

Rubio recently said he’d have an important advantage in the race for the White House because he, unlike the GOP governors, has “a clear view of what’s happening in the world.” The senator added that for governors running for president, international affairs will be “a challenge, at least initially, because they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”

That’s not a bad argument, though it’s predicated on the assumption that senators who deal with foreign policy actually have some idea what they’re talking about. This afternoon, Rubio fell far short.

For more on today’s committee hearing, be sure to check out msnbc’s related coverage.


By: Steve Benen, Yhe Maddow Blog, March 11, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | John Kerry, Marco Rubio, Middle East | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Similarities Are Pretty Uncanny”: Was Walker’s Secret E-mail System Shadier Than Clinton’s?

Every national politician in the country is going to be peppered with questions about what they think of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail controversy. This morning is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s turn. Walker didn’t hold back–he told the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack:

“It’s a logical assumption that the secretary of state is talking about highly confidential classified information. How can she ensure that that information wasn’t compromised. I think that’s the bigger issue—is the audacity to think that someone would put their personal interest above classified, confidential, highly sensitive information that’s not only important to her but to the United States of America. I think is an outrage that Democrats as well as Republicans should be concerned about.”

As McCormack notes, Walker’s attack shows quite a bit of chutzpah, because he himself got caught running a secret e-mail network for his inner circle of advisers when he was Milwaukee County executive. In their illuminating book, More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin, Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, reporters for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, provide the details.

In May 2010, the Walker administration asked a constituent services coordinator named Darlene Wink to resign, after a Journal Sentinel columnist caught her posting online political comments supporting Walker while she was supposed to be working on the taxpayers’ dime. As Stein and Marley write,

When the Wink story broke, Walker’s deputy chief of staff, Kelly Rindfleisch, quickly dismantled a private Internet router set up in her office, which was twenty-five feet away from Walker’s. During her few months on the job, she had been using the secret router and a laptop—both separate from the regular county system—to trade electronic messages with Walker’s campaign staff and raise money for state Representative Brett Davis, a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. With attention suddenly on Wink, who had also used the router, Rindfleisch stuffed the device into a credenza in her office. “I took the wireless down,” she wrote in an e-mail to Tim Russell, who had served as Walker’s deputy chief of staff before Rindfleisch. Russell, then working as Walker’s housing director, had initially set up the router for Wink and Rindfleisch to use, prosecutors alleged.

Walker e-mailed Russell that night, telling him he had talked to Wink and felt bad about what had happened. “We cannot afford another story like this one,” Walker wrote to Russell. “No one can give them any reason to do another story. That means no laptops, no websites, no time away during the work day, etc.”

As Walker emphasizes to McCormack, prosecutors never charged him with any wrongdoing, though two of his aides were convicted of doing political work while on the county payroll. And Walker obviously wasn’t privy to sensitive classified information, as Clinton was. Still, the similarities are pretty uncanny, and Walker’s willingness to attack Clinton anyway is a good illustration of his aggressive political style.


By: Joshua Green, Bloombery Politics, March 9, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | E-Mail, Hillary Clinton, Scott Walker | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Media Already Bungled Hillary’s ‘Emailgate’: This Is Why The Former Secretary Of State Can’t Stand The Press

Hillary Clinton found herself in a familiar place on Tuesday: amid a gaggle of excited reporters eagerly shouting questions at her about a matter they thought was of the highest importance and she thought was absurdly trivial. If this is the first Clinton controversy of the 2016 campaign, it has a meta quality about it: since no one knows if there’s anything problematic (let alone incriminating) of substance in her emails themselves, we’re left talking about how we talk about it.

At this early stage, that can be an important conversation to have. I’ve written some very critical things about Clinton, both in the past and with regard to this issue; most particularly, on Monday I wrote this piece arguing that she owes her liberal supporters a campaign worthy of all she and her husband asked of them over the years. And since the presidential race is just beginning, this is a good opportunity for the reporters who will be covering her to do some reflection as well, about where they and their colleagues went wrong in the past and how they can serve their audiences better in the next year and a half.

You can’t understand Hillary Clinton’s perspective without understanding what happened in the 1990s, and the media transformation that was going on while Bill Clinton was president. From the first moments of that presidency, Clinton’s opponents were convinced he was corrupt to the core. They assumed that if they mounted enough investigations and tossed around enough charges, something would stick and Clinton would be brought down. If you think the endless Benghazi investigations are ridiculous, you should have been around then; if Bill Clinton wore the same tie two days in a row, Republicans would hold a week’s worth of hearings to investigate what he was covering up.

The media atmosphere in which this all occurred was profoundly different than it had been just a few years before. Conservative talk radio came into its own in the 1990s, providing Republicans both an outlet for their most outrageous charges and a goad to produce more of them. (When they won control of Congress in 1994, Republicans literally made Rush Limbaugh an honorary member of their freshman class). Fox News debuted in 1996, in time for the impeachment crisis of 1998. The previously leisurely news cycle accelerated rapidly, and nothing fed it like scandal.

While the Clintons bear responsibility for getting many of those scandals going with questionable decision-making or behavior, it’s also true that the mainstream media made huge mistakes during that period by treating every Republican charge, no matter how ludicrous, as though it was worthy of a full-scale investigation splashed across the front page. Again and again, they reacted to the most thinly justified accusations as though the next Watergate or Iran-Contra was at hand, and when it turned out that there was no corruption or illegality to be found, they simply moved on to the next faux-scandal, presented no less breathlessly.

That past — and journalists’ failures to reckon with it — are still affecting coverage today. When this email story broke, how many journalists said it was important because it “plays into a narrative” of Hillary Clinton as scandal-tainted? I must have heard it a dozen times just in the past week.

Here’s a tip for my fellow scribes and opinionators: If you find yourself justifying blanket coverage of an issue because it “plays into a narrative,” stop right there. That’s a way of saying that you can’t come up with an actual, substantive reason this is important or newsworthy, just that it bears some superficial but probably meaningless similarity to something that happened at some point in the past. It’s the updated version of “out there” — during the Clinton years, reporters would say they had no choice but to devote attention to some scurrilous charge, whether there was evidence for it or not, because someone had made the charge and therefore it was “out there.”

“Narratives,” furthermore, aren’t delivered from Mt. Sinai on stone tablets. They’re created and maintained by journalists making decisions about what’s important and how different issues should be understood. If you’re going to tell us that a new issue “plays into a narrative,” you ought to be able to say why there’s something essentially true or significant about that narrative.

To be clear, I’m not saying reporters shouldn’t aggressively investigate Hillary Clinton, when it comes to her tenure at the State Department, her time in the Senate, her activities as a private citizen, or anything else. They absolutely should, just as they should look into all candidates — that’s their job. She wants to be president, and the public needs to know as much as possible about who she is and what she would do if she gets to sit in the Oval Office.

But as they do that, they should exercise their considered news judgment, just as they do every day on every other topic. They should apply similar standards to all the candidates; if it’s important that Clinton used a private email account while at State, then it must be equally important that other candidates have used private emails for work, and they should be subject to as much scrutiny as she is. When a new revelation or accusation emerges, the questions reporters should ask themselves include: Is there evidence for this? What’s the context in which it took place? How does it bear on the presidency? How can I present it to my audience in a way that makes them smarter and better informed?

Any reporter could come up with a dozen others. But “Does this play into a narrative?” ought to be the last question they ask. As I wrote about Hillary Clinton, there are ways in which she owes her supporters better than what they’ve gotten from her in the past. But that’s only half the story. The news media owes their readers, listeners, and viewers better than what they got, too.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; The Week, March 11, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, Hillary Clinton, Media | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Iran Nukes? Thank Neocons”: The No-Diplomacy Posture Is Exactly What Has Brought Matters To This Point

I have probably written many times in the past that Republicans hit a new low, but as of this week you can toss all those. This Senate letter is the definite low of all time. I didn’t think these people could shock me, but this one genuinely was shocking in so many ways—not least the dishonor it brings on the United States Senate—that every other nutso thing they’ve done drops down one notch on the charts.

Treason, as the Daily News blared? I don’t know for sure about that. But I know to a certainty that if a group of Democratic senators had done this to a Republican president, Republicans and conservative pundits would be screaming the T-word and demanding the Justice Department investigate the senators.

Imagine if, say, 47 Democratic senators had written an “open letter” (a moral cop-out that permits the senators to say that it wasn’t “really” a communication to Ayatollah Khamenei) to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1986 assuring him any treaty Ronald Reagan signed with him could and quite possibly would be altered or abrogated by them. Or worse still—imagine that 47 Democratic senators had written an open letter to Saddam Hussein in the fall of 2002 reminding him that only Congress could declare war and that most of them would long outlast President Bush, while closing on the breathtakingly cloying note of being happy to have enriched Saddam’s “knowledge of the constitutional system.” There seems to me no doubt whatsoever that some Republican senators and members of Congress would have been baying for Logan Act prosecutions.

Much as part of me might savor it, I don’t think we ought to go there. A far better punishment for these disgraceful intriguers would be for the letter to backfire and increase the likelihood of a deal being struck. And it might well have that effect: If the mullahs genuinely want a deal, then surely a threat like this from the Senate would make them more anxious to pursue one while they can, and then hope that Hillary Clinton, who’s indicated she’d support a deal, becomes the next president and can make it stick.

Let’s hope that’s the effect—but let’s never forget the intent. These Republican senators, says Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council, an advocate for a deal, can’t block a settlement; “but they can get the Iranians to think that it’s impossible to trust the United States,” he says. Thus, “the intent of the letter was to show the United States to be untrustworthy.”

It’s pretty amazing that members of the United States Senate would want to do that to their own country—not just in the eyes of Iran, but in the eyes of the five other powers involved in the negotiations. Three are some of our closest allies (Britain, France, and Germany). The other two are the not inconsiderable nations of Russia and China. All five have had negotiators sitting at the table with us and the Iranians for a year and a half. Wonder what they think of this.

It’s a disgrace, but only another in a long history of Republican-conservative disgraces with respect to Iran. Indeed these go back to 1953, when Dwight Eisenhower green-lighted the coup that Harry Truman had blocked. And they extend up to 2003, and the now largely forgotten but suddenly rather timely story of the Bush administration’s rebuff of an Iranian diplomatic overture that could have made the history of the U.S.-Iran relationship a very different one from what it has been.

It was all widely reported then; this Washington Post article provides a good rundown. In sum, it was a point in time when the (Shia) Iranian republic had been cooperating with the United States in tracking down some (Sunni) al Qaeda men; through a Swiss intermediary, Iran passed a letter to the White House feeling the Bush administration out on broad-ranging negotiations—possibly curtailing its nuclear ambitions, cutting back on its support for (or maybe even disarming) Hezbollah, and most strikingly of all, indirectly recognizing Israel’s right to exist—all in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions.

The offer was real. Whether it had Khamenei’s blessing, no one in the West really knows. Still, some elements in the Bush administration wanted to pursue it. But guess who won? As that Post story reports it, “top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative.”

We can’t know what might have happened. “But we do know one thing,” Parsi says. “When diplomacy is rejected, as it was under Bush, when the official U.S. policy was for regime change in Tehran, you give the Iranians every incentive to do everything they can to prevent the United States from pursuing regime change.” That means spreading its talons across Iraq, and it chiefly means, of course, pushing ahead full-speed with its nuclear ambitions.

Here’s part of what that rejection of diplomacy has done for us. In 2005, Iran put an offer on the table to the Europeans calling for it to keep 3,000 centrifuges. But that was rejected, because the United States wasn’t willing to talk to Iran. So what did Iran do? While we were refusing to negotiate and rattling the saber, they were building centrifuges to beat the band.

So today, Parsi told me, Iran has about 22,000 centrifuges, of which 9,400 are operational. Any deal is going to let Iran end up with around 6,000 centrifuges. That’s twice the amount it was asking for in 2005, when we could have struck a deal at 3,000. But we weren’t talking to Iran then, because it’s weak to talk to terrorists and because the regime was on the verge of collapse anyway, see?

Our years of resistance to diplomacy, a product of neocon doctrine and pressure, has thus made the situation clearly and tangibly worse. The Obama administration, and the other five powers, are trying to stuff back into the tube the toothpaste that Dick Cheney and his confederates squeezed out. And for its attempt to repair the gaping wound the neocons and their friend Mr. Netanyahu inflicted on the world, the administration is now subject to this poisonous and quasi-treasonous attack that is designed to increase the likelihood of war with Iran (Senator Tom Cotton, the letter’s author, spoke openly at the recent CPAC conference in support of regime change).

I applaud the seven Republican senators who did not sign the letter, even if it is a little like applauding the members of the Manson family who didn’t actually kill anybody. And for those who did sign, eternal shame. The only silver lining is that the right’s track record on Iran suggests strongly that the result will be the opposite of that which they desire.


By: Michael Tomasky, The daily Beast, March 11, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | Iran, Neo-Cons, Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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