How to think like a Republican (if you must)

How, dear reader, do they do it? How do Republicans, in control of nearly every office from president to dogcatcher, manage to think of themselves as martyrs, as victims? And how do they justify to themselves, in the mirror each morning, such manifestly evil activities as trying to make so as few African Americans as possible can vote?

The answer: they actually manage to convince themselves they're only playing defense.

Strange but true: Republicans believe that the Democrats are the evil ones, and that it's all they can do to try to keep up. Exhibit A: "If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats In Every Election and Why Your Life Depends On It," the new book by right-wing talk-show host Hugh Hewitt, who is also a columnist on the Weekly Standard's web site.

The premise is that the Democrats "are a brass-knuckled party." They "play to win, and if winning requires cheating and lying, so be it...Putting a close election in front of the Democratic Party is like putting a beautiful woman in a bikini on a kickboard in the Jaws movies. Cue the music."

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How now?

Since Hewitt's entire book relies upon this premise, it's worth examining the claim in detail. Though the detail is relative, considering the three "chapters" in which he makes the argument are added together only 11 pages long. What do we "learn" in those 11 pages? That since "Tammany Hall was born in the same year the Constitution was ratified...it is accurate to remark that Democratic dirty tricks are as old as the Republic."

Actually it's inaccurate. Tammany started as a social club.

That the "key words" for understanding the Democratic Party's essence are "Tammany, Pendergrast, and Daley; Kennedy and Texas and Illinois in 1960..."

Funny. All the functioning political machines these days have been Republican--like the one recently taken down in Illinois, in which Republican governor George Ryan's campaign manager Scott Fawell oversaw a farrago of kickbacks, bribes, and campaign activities on the taxpayers time and dime. For instance, Fawell and his assistant, Richard Juliano, funnelled tens of thousands of dollars in bogus "consulting fees" from, of all things, the 1996 presidential campaign of Phil Gramm, into accounts they controlled.

And what manner of outrages have the Democrats committed since 1960? Here, in full, are the terms of Hewitt's indictment:

-California Democratic operative Bob Mulholland threatened Arnold Schwarzenegger during the recall campaign with "real bullets." (Actually, he said that unlike in the movies he played in, the fights in politics weren't fake: "Schwarzenegger is going to find out that, unlike a Hollywood movie set, the bullets coming at him in this campaign are real.")

-That Al Gore in 2000 "broke a two-centuries-old tradition in American politics of keeping presidential politics out of the courts" (Hewitt has just broken an even older tradition of keeping lies out of books: the first lawsuit in Florida in 2000, of course, was filed by the Republicans).

-That military ballots were "excluded based on technicalities relating to postmarks and signatures" (yes: the "technicality" was voting after election day).

-That Robert Torricelli, unlike any Republican in God's creation, took gifts from a supporter.

-That "the last act in the recent abanonment of Democrats of all pretense to electoral ethics" consisted of the suit filed in the Ninth Circuit to postpone the Cali recall. (Hewitt neglects to mention that the suit called for fixing California's punch-card ballots to meet the standards set up in Bush v. Gore.)

-That Al Gore "dialed for dollars" from his government office and Bill Clinton "rented" the Lincoln Bedroom. (Apparently, the sin was falling short of the Bushian standard of renting out to corporations the drafting of the actual language of bills,)

Sela. That's it. On these thin reeds rests a typical--prototypical--Republican case that Democrats will "cheat in 2004, 2006, and beyond. It's in their blood. It's in their genes. And now they have learned new tricks, and Democratic judges have seen what's expected of them in close elections in Florida, New Jersey, and California." (Note he says judges; apparently the outrages of JUSTICES--like, um, Supreme Court ones--are unworthy of mention. Fair and balanced, you know.)

The outrage he anticipated as his book went to press this summer? Quelle horreur: the Dems will "wake up to the reality that their 'presumptive' nominee is a stiff. This recognition raised Republican fears of another episode in Democratic ruthlessness: a dump-Kerry maneuver late in the political season."

I swear. That's the money shot. When Republicans say Democrats "cheat," this is the best they can come up with. It's funny. And serious. Because the thousands of Republican vote suppressors I am about to meet in Cleveland actually believe they're engaged in a righteous crusade to save democracy from the Democrats, who are prepared to steal it.

Since Republicans like history, here's another history lesson, this one actually accurate, from an author that actually knows something: Harvard professor Alexander Keyssar, and his award winning study "The Right To Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.

"But perhaps the most celebrated instance of electoral irregularity in the 1890s occurred in rural Adams County, Ohio, where 90 percent of the electorate, entirely from 'old and excellent American stock,' was being paid to vote."

That was Republican country, friends. Remember: they can't cheat if it's not close.


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