Ted Frier

Ted Frier
April 02
Ted Frier is an author and former political reporter turned speechwriter who at one time served as communications director for the Massachusetts Republican Party, helping Bill Weld become the first Bay State Republican in a generation to be elected Governor. He was Chief Speechwriter for Republican Governor Paul Cellucci and Lt. Governor Jane Swift. Ted is also the author of the hardly-read 1992 history "Time for a Change: The Return of the Republican Party in Massachusetts." So, why the current hostility to the Republican Party and what passes for conservatism today? The Republican Party was once a national governing party that looked out for the interests of the nation as a whole. Now it is the wholly-owned subsidiary of self interest. Conservatism once sought national unity to promote social peace and harmony. Now conservatism has devolved into a right wing mutation that uses divide and conquer tactics to promote the solidarity of certain social sub-groups united against the larger society while preserving the privileges of a few.


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DECEMBER 19, 2011 2:41PM

Voter "fraud" a faith-based GOP invention

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Never was a proverb more true than when applied to modern Republicans for whom "the wish is father to the thought."  

If conservatives can imagine something it must be true. That is why tax cuts pay for themselves and global warming is a hoax. That is why Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and evolution is an atheistic communist plot.

And today, the right wing's faith-based, wishful thinking extends to American voting rights, where Republicans are waging a relentless war against minority voting on the flimsy pretext that Republicans are combating a pandemic of ballot-box thievery.

"Give George a headline and he's good for another 30 miles," said General Omar Bradley about his hard-charging, armored division lieutenant, George S. Patton. Likewise, give Republicans a talking point and there are no lengths to which they will not go.

Thus, eight GOP-appointed US attorneys (out of just 93) lost their jobs for refusing to pursue the trumped-up charges of election fraud that Karl Rove intended to use to discredit Democrats in the waning days of the Republican's disastrous 2006 election -- which was, for me, the most dangerous of the Bush administrations long train of abuses against the Constitution because it revealed the depths to which Republicans were ready to go to transform the awesome power of federal law enforcement into a partisan arm of the GOP.

Likewise, the community organizing group, ACORN, no longer exists thanks to a Republican witch hunt that several independent investigations by states attorneys general have since concluded were based on bogus charges. A craven Congress then cut the group's funding after registration irregularities produced by ACORN's minimum wage canvassers -- that the ACORN leadership itself flagged -- were waved like red capes before the bullish audience on Fox News.

We already know that the actual cases of voter fraud are few and far between from the number of prosecutions and convictions. And more recently, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a report that 0.0002% of votes in the recent Wisconsin election were "fraudulent" -- the result of ex-felons who were ineligible to vote.

This finding led comedian Stephen Colbert to quip that "our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere."

But Christian Schneider, who writes for the National Review, doesn't think this is funny. He speaks for the magical thinking common among conservatives today when he says: "Mere statistics are a terrible way to determine whether vote fraud is occurring."

More dispositive than the actual findings of the Brennan Center investigation, from the conservative point of view, is the fact that the Brennan Center is bankrolled by George Soros and -- "as a bonus" -- retains that well-known pinko outside agitator, Alec Baldwin, on its advisory board.

In place of facts, Schneider offers theories that pander to the prejudices and fears of Schneider's white Christian readers who are horror-struck by the takeover of their country by "Them!"

Since voter fraud is "virtually impossible to prove," Schneider reasons it's also virtually impossible to prove it doesn't exist -- and on a massive scale. 

It's possible, says Schneider, that laws relaxing voter-registration requirements "may have allowed groups like ACORN to stuff the rolls with names of fictitious people." And once those votes are cast, "it is impossible to track down who came in and voted using that name."

It also stands to reason, Schneider insinuates, that voter fraud is most prevalent in those big cities with the largest populations represented by Democratic district attorneys who are least likely, for political reasons, to prosecute such "crimes."

There may be very little vote fraud, Schneider concedes. Then again, "there may be a great deal." But in the absence of the draconian steps Republicans are taking to deliberately make voting more difficult (by means of voter ID requirements and the like) "we just won't know."

Schneider offers no proof for his slanderous assertion that Democrats are stealing elections. What he offers instead are tantalizing possibilities.

Schneider cites a 2008 report issued by the Milwaukee Police Department on its investigation of possible fraud in the 2004 election. The report states the department's "belief" that 16 workers from the John Kerry campaign and third-party groups "committed felony crimes" that went unprosecuted.

As evidence, the MPD found 128 individuals registered to vote in a building that had no residential living. Schneider said the MPD task force also questioned the validity of several homeless shelters - one that had 162 registered voters and another 136.

The numbers of voters involved is telling: 16, 128, 162, 136. These are not the hordes out of which landslides are fashioned and Schneider undercuts his own argument by showcasing such puny returns. As even he admits: "It wouldn't occur to me to risk imprisonment to cast a few extra votes. Then again, it wouldn't occur to me to pepper-spray entire groups of shoppers on Black Friday in order to be the first to purchase discount electronics, but apparently people do it."

Irregularities in voter registration drives are a dime a dozen. This is especially true where volunteers or lowly-paid canvassers -- who may literally be earning a dime for every dozen signatures they get -- are registering voters or collecting signatures for candidates and ballot petitions in shopping malls and outside grocery stores. And because mistakes (and even fraud) are common in these drives, everyone who does this for a living abides by the rule of thumb that you must always collect twice as many signatures as you actually need just to be safe.

"Mickey Mouse" is not only a registered Democrat from the Cleveland inner-city. The precocious rodent is also a Tea Party activist from Arkansas. And a "Save the Whales" environmentalist from Cape Cod. And a bottle-returning militant re-cycler from just about anywhere. And, if I had to bet, someone who thinks Newt Gingrich should be on the ballot in all 50 states.

And so, while voter registration and signature drive "fraud" might be epidemic, the instances where actual frauds cast real votes in real elections is extremely rare, and for all the reasons Schneider himself admits: The risks just aren't worth the rewards.

But what is epidemic are the efforts by Republicans to suppress the Democratic vote. Republicans know that if you really want to steal an election you don't waste your time on nickel and diming the opposition with a handful of extra votes here or there. The really big money in election theft is in preventing those votes from ever being cast in the first place.

And that's where Republicans excel.

Schneider's examples of alleged fraud measure in the hundreds. The targets of Republican voter suppression, on the other hand, number in the hundreds of thousands.

We know this not from unproven allegations like Schneider's but from actual convictions in actual courts of law.

It's only because liberals lack the right wing's integrated media infrastructure and the right's relentless staying power to pound a story unmercifully 24/7 for months on end, that James Tobin and Paul E. Schurick are not household names the same way ACORN is.

Tobin was a former top New Hampshire Republican Party official and New England campaign chairman for President Bush in 2004 who was convicted on telephone harassment charges for the part he played in a plot to jam the Democrats' phone banks on Election Day 2002.

Schurick, on the other hand, was the 2010 campaign manager for former Republican Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. who was convicted just this month by a Baltimore jury on four counts of using robo-calls to suppress the black vote.

The calls were placed to 112,000 voters in the state's two largest African American districts. These voters were told they could stay home because the Democratic candidate - incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley - had already won.

"Hello. I'm calling to let everybody know that Governor O'Malley and President Obama have been successful," an unidentified woman caller says. "Our goals have been met. The polls were correct, and we took it back. We're okay. Relax. Everything's fine. The only thing left is to watch it on TV tonight. Congratulations, and thank you."

Other members of the former Republican Governor's team also face prosecution for their role in the fraud, the Associated Press reports, as prosecutors presented documents that outlined the broader strategies used by the GOP for suppressing African American votes.

Every conflict needs its pretext, and the Republican's "war on voting" is based on charges of voter fraud that are inflated if not works of pure fiction.

But that won't stop faith-based Republicans for whom wishes are the parents of thought from repeating these baseless charges again and again whenever they can. That is because, while the Republican Party's voter fraud epidemic might be make-believe, their determination to stop Democrats from legitimately voting isn't.

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the cure for most of america's problems lies in getting democracy, and socialism.

unfortunately, the nation was crafted to support individual greed, and the concentration of political power necessary to defend the wealth of the few from the needs of the many. there can be no real progress, until america decides to start over, 'you can't get there from here.'

the republicans are just the current manifestation of this culture, they are as natural as hyenas and neither hyena nor republican can be changed so long as the environment makes them viable.

I agree with you on the predatory nature of those who lead the GOP. I would never have predicted the response we've seen these past three years in the utter unwillingness of these oligarchs and their paid agents in the GOP to help us dig out from a crisis of their own making. Our hyenas have really shown us their true spots. I am also sympathetic to your quest for socialism and democracy, though the devil is always in the definitions and details, since I still think the key objective in all our politics is to find that elusive balance between liberty and equality.
Ted, I liked this a lot. Another accurate take of yours on what the Dems in particular and the nation as a whole are up against when it comes to understanding what the current Republican party has morphed into and the tactics they deploy to maintain their position.

This piece goes way beyond the usual finger pointing one encounters here. Brilliant.
Thanks whirlwind, I appreciate that.
Well said sir. Proving a negative is always a pretext to stopping something positive. You might get a kick out of this link from the Colbert report:
voter-id-laws. Rated