quasi in rem

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Going to the Mattresses

I was exhausted by the recount in 2000. Days upon weeks of legal shenanigans and unexpected plot twists. Because it was all new, the force of adrenaline kept it interesting and kept both sides in the fight for the first few days. But by December, what at one point had been a rollicking misadventure pushed on by excitement, turned into an eminently serious 24 hour a day slugfest, where preparation, stamina and resources became determining factors. The Republicans seem to have won on all three of these aspects.

One of my favorite stories of the 2000 recount came from a friend who was on the ground for the Bush campaign in Palm Beach County during the early days of the recount. She was in charge of organizing some of the protests outside the courthouse and she confided in me that she could always count on the Cubans in the community to come out and loudly voice their support.

“I love the Cubans, “she told me,”They all own their own personal megaphones.”

Well everyone has their own megaphone now. And whether it be a blog, an internet message board, or the anchor seat of a major network news show, Democrats have organized themselves and are more than prepared to fight the fights necessary after this election to ensure the win, no matter what the outcome of the actual vote. They are cornered. They have control of no part of the federal government for the first time in almost 150 years. Not the Supreme Court*, not the Presidency, not the Senate and not the House of Representatives. Their prospects of winning control in the House are negligible, and in the Senate, unlikely, and so they must win the Presidency.

And even though we are weeks away for the vote, election litigation is already off and running. Claims of voter fraud, vote suppression and voter intimidation are already beginning to fly. The Drudge Report has reported that the Kerry/Edwards Campaign handbook instructs local party offices to file complaints of voter intimidation whether or not any intimidation actually occurs. Massive fund raising efforts to pay for the post-vote litigation is already underway by the Democratic Party.

States that were close last time, and will be close again, Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have now joined Florida as definite loci of post-election contention. States that were not close on the Presidential race, but that will have close Senate races this year, Colorado, South Dakota, and Alaska, are also on the radar as places where registration, voter intimidation and ballot issues will be raised in court. Do a Google search on the Google News site for “vote fraud” if you want a sneak preview of all of the different districts where the Democrats will file suit on November 3, to contest the outcome of the vote. And because it is unlikely that Bush would win with more than 300 electoral votes, every single state matters. If they can’t win back Florida, they can get Ohio and Wisconsin, or New Hampshire, Minnesota and Missouri. And combination of 20-30 Electoral votes and the outcome of the election is completely different. In 2000, Iowa, New Mexico and Wisconsin were all decided by around 5000 votes or less, and yet no major litigation was filed by either party in those states to contest the vote count. Those were indeed halcyon days.

In the last election, Republicans won the legal, and political, struggle for the election, not only because the law was on their side, which it was, but also because the struggle took place in Florida, where the GOP had strong network of campaign and legal resources. Not to mention a friendly Secretary of State. That will not be the case this year. The legal struggle will be pandemic across the nation under a vast variety of legal and political regimes. And the Democrats are ready. They are mad as hell that they are out of power. They are mad as hell that their guy gave up last time when there was some gas left in the tank. They are mad as hell the this President is their President. They are mad as hell and they aren’t about to retreat and they are not going to surrender. They have gone to the mattresses. And they will stay there through January 19th of next year regardless of any deleterious impact on our Constitutional system of government.

Are Republicans similarly prepared? It sure does not feel that way and that is understandable. After all, even if Republicans lose the Presidency, they will still control the other two branches of government.* Not to mention the fact that Republicans won the fight in 2000, and in the past four years have managed to move the debate from how and where to spend the government’s money, but how big and how permanent the tax cuts should be. And, while incumbency has it privileges, one of them is not inspiring a sense of irrational desire in their party members. A certain element of irrational desire is necessary to throw bogus claims at your opponents, to show up at midnight to protest a vote count, and to institute litigation even where there is no evidence of malfeasance.

I do not sense the desire from the national party, nor among the local voting public, but then again it is easier to find an honest man in the general public of Washington D.C. than it is to find a Republican (not that those two population subsets are mutually exclusive). It seems to me that this year, where even the date of December 13th seems a pipe dream for certification of the election, the party that is willing to go to the ends of the earth, and stay there, will be the victor. So far, all indications are that the party ready to make that sacrifice is the Democratic party.



* Note: I share the sentiments of all of those who believe that this Court is not a Republican court. However in the wake of Bush v. Gore, which seems to be a litmus test of sorts for most who measure the partisan nature of individual judges, the general consensus is that this is a majority Republican court.

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