Voting Wrongs — Elizabeth Drew on how the GOP is planning to steal the election.
Florida 2000 was the poisoned apple of our electoral system. Republicans saw that by manipulating the rules they could –when it comes down to it—steal an election. Ample evidence exists that a majority of Floridians intended to, did, or thought they did, vote for Al Gore. Following the success of the George W. Bush team in winning Florida and thus the election came Karl Rove’s zealous use of alleged “voter fraud” as an instrument for expanding the power of the party and the Bush White House. At the behest of the Bush White House in 2007, the Justice Department fired seven US Attorneys on the ground that they hadn’t pursued voter fraud, which the attorneys said they could find no evidence of. (Rove had other motives.) The next step would be gaining control of as many state governments as possible: The Republicans took over twelve in 2010, to reach a total of twenty-two. Through them, the Republicans launched a national drive to intimidate and hinder the Democratic party’s constituencies from voting—in the name of protecting the political system against a cooked-up threat.
Conveniently, the five conservative Justices of the Supreme Court, in an unusual bout of the “activism” they usually deplore, overturned in Citizens United over more than a century of law protecting the political process from uncontrolled contributions by corporate interests as well as labor (which cant compete on raising such funds). Corporations that would prefer more relaxed regulatory policies and lower corporate taxes have combined with the Republicans and others who want to get rid of Obama in making huge contributions to the new Super PACs. And Sheldon Adelson, under legal challenge for his management of his casinos in Macao, and willing to shell out $100 million to get a friendlier Justice Department, became one of the most powerful people in America. Candidates, including the newly chosen Republican vice presidential contender, paid court to Adelson in his Las Vegas headquarters.
The highly conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), financed by the Koch brothers and big corporations drew up a “model law” to guide Republican-controlled states in designing ways to keep Democratic supporters from voting. Other conservative groups—some originating in the Tea Party, which is also supported by the Koch brothers—have also sprung up to join the fight to restrict voting by allies of the Democrats. The group True the Vote, for example, is operating on a theory of pure fantasy: its literature imagines busloads of unqualified You-Name-The-Democratic-Group being dropped off at registration places. True the Vote officers say that they will go to polling places to make sure that unqualified people are not permitted to vote. The country may now be entering into a period marked by confusion or even chaos in our election system. Hundreds of thousands of people are about to start to go to the polls before their states have settled their voting requirements, or without knowing what they are. Though the rules have yet to be decided in either state, voting has already begun in North Carolina, and is scheduled to begin in Ohio on October 2. Either candidate needs to win by decisive margins in both the popular and electoral college vote to avoid a legal mess.
Fact vs. Fantasy — Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic argues that the inability to judge arguments on their merits and separate fact from fantasy is what ails the conservative movement.
Just now, the GOP nominee was exposed as believing, or pandering to donors who believe, that the 47 percent of Americans who vote Democratic are the same 47 percent of Americans who pay no income taxes. That is demonstrably false, but many on the right have lined up behind his remarks, and started to shame co-ideologues who dared to criticize the Republican standard-bearer.
Breitbart.com has spent much of the Obama Administration giving its readers the impression that ACORN, the board of NPR, and the question of whether or not the NAACP is racist are urgent priorities for the right. In doing so, it elevated a young man with a hidden camera who tried to lure a female reporter on a boat, intending to seduce her on hidden video and then humiliate her with the footage. Despite that, the young man remains a hero to many movement conservatives.
For them, the ends justify the means.
The right needs to value robust argument more highly. And to denigrate those who subvert it more forcefully. For public discourse is all it has to test ideas and formulate an evolving agenda.
If Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager reflect on why they conduct themselves with more integrity than Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, even though they needn’t do so to succeed in talk radio; if the most intellectually honest scholars at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation think about why they hold themselves to a higher standard than the most hackish of their colleagues; if all the people who know better reflect on the reasons for their own behavior, they’d perhaps better appreciate why it is vital to stop staying silent when prominent co-ideologues fall short of the most minimal standards.
Yes, there will always be hucksters. And spending all one’s time fighting them is a foolish enterprise.
On the right today, they are so numerous, prominent and shameless, their pathologies so ingrained in right-wing media and politics, their wealth so corrupting to young talent, and their pathologies so seldom challenged by those who know better, that Republicans are operating at a persistent information disadvantage. (Too many believe even their own bullshit.) The Bush Administration showed that it’s possible to win at the ballot box anyway — but that the victory isn’t worth much, save an ill-conceived war in the desert, exploding deficits, and a financial crisis. Improving on this metric won’t solve all the right’s problems, or answer every question about the right way forward, but it would go a long way toward mitigating its least defensible excesses. For some, the resulting improvements would be enough to make the GOP preferable to the Democrats.
Where Is Cuba Going? — John Jeremiah Sullivan returns to Cuba with his family and looks at the past and the future of that tragically magical island.
We landed under searingly vivid skies, something like what the blue tablet from a packet of Easter dye lets off. The land right around the airport is farmed; we saw a man plowing with oxen. The fertility of Cuba is the thing you can’t put into words. I’ve never stood on a piece of ground as throbbingly, even pornographically, generative. Throw a used battery into a divot, and it will put out shoots — that’s how it feels. You could smell it, in the smoky, slightly putrid smell of turned fields. More and more, as we drove, that odor mingled with the smell of the sea.
This was the first time I was in post-Fidel Cuba. It was funny to think that not long ago, there were smart people who doubted that such a thing could exist, i.e., who believed that with the fall of Fidel would come the fall of Communism on the island. But Fidel didn’t fall. He did fall, physically — on the tape that gets shown over and over in Miami, of him coming down the ramp after giving that speech in 2004 and tumbling and breaking his knee — but his leadership didn’t. He executed one of the most brilliantly engineered successions in history, a succession that was at the same time a self-entrenchment. First, he faked his own death in a way: serious intestinal operation, he might not make it. Raúl is brought in as “acting president.” A year and a half later, Castro mostly recovered. But Raúl is officially named president, with Castro’s approval. It was almost as if, “Is Fidel still . . . ?” Amazing. So now they rule together, with Raúl out front, but everyone understanding that Fidel retains massive authority. Not to say that Raúl doesn’t wield power — he has always had plenty — but it’s a partnership of some kind. What comes after is as much of a mystery as ever.
Our relationship with them seems just as uncertain. Barack Obama was going to open things up, and he did tinker with the rules regarding travel, but now they say that when you try to follow these rules, you get caught up in all kinds of forms and tape. He eased the restrictions on remittances, so more money is making it back to the island, and that may have made the biggest difference so far. Boats with medical and other relief supplies have recently left Miami, sailing straight to the island, which hasn’t happened in decades. These humanitarian shipments can, according to The Miami Herald, include pretty much anything a Cuban-American family wants to send to its relatives: Barbie dolls, electronics, sugary cereal. In many cases, you have a situation in which the family is first wiring money over, then shipping the goods. The money is used on the other side to pay the various fees associated with getting the stuff. So it’s as if you’re reaching over and re-buying the merchandise for your relatives. The money, needless to say, goes to the government. Still, capitalism is making small inroads. And Raúl has taken baby steps toward us: Cubans can own their own cars, operate their own businesses, own property. That’s all new. For obvious reasons it’s not an immediate possibility for a vast majority of the people, and it could be taken away tomorrow morning by decree, but it matters.
Otherwise, our attitude toward Cuba feels very wait and see, as what we’re waiting to see grows less and less clear. We’ve learned to live with it, like when the doctor says, “What you have could kill you, but not before you die a natural death.” Earlier this year Obama said to a Spanish newspaper: “No authoritarian regime will last forever. The day will come in which the Cuban people will be free.” Not, notice, no dictator can live forever, but no “authoritarian regime.” But how long can one last? Two hundred years?Perhaps a second term will be different. All presidents, if they want to mess with our Cuba relations at even the microscopic level, find themselves up against the Florida community, and those are large, powerful and arguably insane forces.
My wife’s people got out in the early 1960s, so they’ve been in the States for half a century. Lax regulations, strict regulations. It’s all a oneness. They take, I suppose, a Cuban view, that matters on the island are perpetually and in some way inherently screwed up and have been forever.
Doonesbury — Community property.