Monday, November 17, 2008

That’s Not Nice

Joe Conason reports that Republicans and the right wing noise machine are doing everything they can to sabotage the recount in the Minnesota senate race between incumbent Norm Coleman (R) and Al Franken (DFL).

The recount has yet to begin, but the ordinary post-election precinct canvassing has already reduced Coleman’s putative lead from more than 700 votes on Election Night to 206 votes as of yesterday. It remains to be seen whether Coleman will follow his own advice should Franken take the lead when the canvass is complete — or whether his worries about healing and expenses were pure smarm.

In any case, the Coleman camp is clearly worried and has turned up the noisemakers to discredit both the canvass and the recount. Nearly every movement of a few votes into Franken’s column has elicited shrieks of “fraud” from the incumbent’s friends. In each case, those shrill complaints have been thoroughly discredited by independent observers.

On Fox News and on the Journal editorial page, much was made of 32 absentee ballots allegedly kept overnight in an election official’s car and then counted the next day. Nothing of the kind occurred, as Coleman’s own attorney later admitted after apparently inventing the story himself. But the purpose of the false tale was clear enough — and those spreading it didn’t mind smearing innocent people whose characters are superior to theirs.


What is really happening as the votes are canvassed has little to do with the dark fantasies of the far right. When a Star-Tribune reporter visited a county office where precinct totals were under review this week, observers from both the Coleman and Franken campaigns endorsed the process as careful and fair. “I’m just watching like everyone else. It all seems pretty straightforward to me,” said Democrat John Stiles. A Republican volunteer named John Nygaard concurred: “It’s very transparent — I’m impressed. I didn’t realize how much work went into this.”

Minnesotans are legendary for being nice people. (I might be slightly prejudiced; my father is from Minneapolis and I lived there for two years while in grad school at the University of Minnesota.) So this kind of bullying and right-wing freak show is unusual in the Gopher State — Michele Bachmann being the exception that proves the rule. (To Mr. Coleman’s credit, he ran a largely positive campaign.* However, he had a lot of outside supporters who combed through every episode of SNL or stand-up routine that Mr. Franken wrote or performed looking for the naughty bits.) If Mr. Franken does lose, I expect him to be gracious in defeat, and if he does win, I would hope that the GOP would learn that one of the reasons they lost is because they don’t play nice.

*See Rook’s note in the Comments about the Coleman campaign.