Forget ACORN. If you really want to know who's defrauding millions of Americans out of their right to vote it's Mitt Romney and the Republican Party. And they've got lots of ways to do it.
One of the most popular is obvious enough. In those states where Republicans control both the governor's office and state legislature a systematic effort has been underway in earnest over the past two years to erect barriers to voting by those traditional Democratic Party constituencies such as the elderly, the poor and the young who might stand in the way of the Conservative Movement's drive for a monopoly of power.
But another form of voter fraud is less obvious. It involves stealing people's votes by - and let us not flinch from the word - lying to them.
In a glorious eight-minute dissection (what Fox News would surely call a shrill and unhinged screed) Rachel Maddow cites chapter and verse to prove her case that "the degree to which Mr. Romney lies, about all sorts of stuff, and doesn't care when he gets caught, may be the single most notable thing about his campaign."
Maddow Blog editor Steve Benen has been filing regular updates to what he calls his "Chronicles of Mitt's Mendacity." And Benen is now up to Volume XII.
For example, campaigning in Wisconsin, Romney complained "The President put an ad out yesterday talking about gasoline prices and how high they are. And guess who he blamed? Me!"
Not true, says Benen.
Another Romney campaign ad argues that Obama "has managed to pile on nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined."
Not even close, says Benen.
In the same ad, Romney claimed "President Barack Obama named himself one of the country's four best presidents."
That's blatantly untrue, says Benen. And on and on and on it goes.
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank was equally gob-smacked by the audacity of Romney's dishonesty.
Writing about Romney's most recent speech in Washington, Milbank judged as "incorrect, wrong, false and fictitious" Romney's serial falsehoods that: 1.) President Obama: was responsible for the "weakest economic recovery since the Great Depression;" that 2.) eliminating Obamacare would save "about $100 billion a year;" that 3.) Obama was "taking a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it;" and that 4.) the President had created an "unaccountable panel, with the power to prevent Medicare from providing certain treatments."
Milbank noted that Romney's speech earned no fewer than three "Pants on Fire" ratings from PolitiFact for his bald faced lies - just some of the more than 32 times PolitiFact has flagged Romney for similar fibs, falsehoods and fabrications.
Not only does Romney's lying seem gratuitous it's also epidemic on the right. In his New York Times column on Saturday, for example, Joe Nocera marvels at conservative efforts to pull the plug on the growing popularity of Chevrolet's electric hybrid Volt by flat out lying about the vehicle, which was recently named European Car of the Year and is coming off its best month yet with 2,200 cars sold.
Yet for months, the conservative propaganda machine has been mocking the Volt as "roller skates with a plug," says Nocera.
Nocera quotes the Volt's inventor, legendary auto executive Bob Lutz ("who is about as liberal as the Koch Brothers," says Nocera) as dismissing as "nuts" conservative criticisms of a car that he says makes "a significant achievement in the auto industry."
In his Forbes blog, Lutz counters what he called the "rabid, sadly misinformed right." Nocera also says Lutz "has largely given up" on conservatives after even his conservative intellectual hero, Charles Krauthammer, described the electric car as "flammable."
Although Lutz remains deeply conservative, Nocera said he's "become disenchanted with the right's willingness to spread lies to aid the cause."
With the nation now celebrating the 50th anniversary re-release of the classic movie To Kill a Mockingbird, Mitt Romney reminds me of that loathsome pair, Bob and Mayella Ewell, the father-daughter tandem who Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch described as "victims of cruel poverty and ignorance" who brought false charges of rape against the Negro tenant farmer Tom Robinson in "the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted."
Like Atticus's all-white, Southern male jury, Romney seems to assume that American voters will merely "go along" with his assumption - the "evil assumption" - that all Democrats lie, that all Democrats are immoral beings, that all Democrats are not to be trusted.
It should be noted that Atticus Finch lost his case before a jury that was more receptive to its own prejudices than to the truth. And if Mitt Romney also exhibits that "cynical confidence" his falsehoods won't be doubted, the reception he got from the Newspaper Association of America last week may explain why.
There was Mitt Romney standing before a gathering of journalists, making a series of "incorrect and dishonest accusations," writes David Corn, and not once was Romney "hooted out of the room" by the nation's assembled press corps. Indeed, says Corn, "he faced no penalty" at all.
The nation's press, like Attitus' backward Alabama jury, has its own rigid and time-honored codes which prevent it from seeing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And among them, says Atlantic magazine's James Fallows, is the "false equivalence syndrome" - that "objective-seeming" method of covering the news that unwittingly and inexcusably awards Republicans a license to lie because it compels the media to give equal credence to "both sides" in every dispute even when one of those sides just makes stuff up.
It has never been enough for a people to merely have the formal right to vote. That vote must also count for something when cast by an "informed" voter whose choice is an accurate reflection of the voter's genuine wants and beliefs.
While it may not be possible to plant democracy at the end of a bayonet it has always been possible to create the appearance of democracy using physical threats or force. We are all familiar, for example, with the cynical charade of right wing dictators and left wing revolutionaries whose legitimacy derives from their having been "elected" in a campaign when they were the only candidates allowed on the ballot, or chosen by voters who were manipulated and coerced.
It is also possible for partisans to manufacture an artificial legitimacy through lies and distortions of the critical information voters need to make an informed judgment on the important issues of the day - the bare minimum that's required in a democratic political system that claims to be founded on "consent of the governed."
And a party or a candidate that seeks political power by depriving voters of their rightful connection with reality is engaged in a coup d'etat every bit as real as if the overthrow had been carried out with guns.
But let's be clear. Lying is not merely a moral failing. In a democratic republic like ours whose legitimacy is rooted in popular sovereignty and consent of the governed the routine, almost promiscuous fabrication of basic facts by Republicans and Republican candidates like Mitt Romney is as much a theft of a citizen's right to vote as if that citizen was prevented from ever voting at all.