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Thursday, September 18, 2008

In a Week of Profoundly Scary Items . . . 

. . . we initially thought this one, by Mark Crispin Miller, the most profoundly scary:
To understand how Team McCain intends to get away with stealing this election, we must recall how Team Bush got away with it four years ago. (Those aren't two different teams.)

The plan for stealing this contest has everything to do with the ostensibly surprising choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP.

Here's why:

1. Election Day, 2004: The Myth of Bush's Christian "Surge"

First, let's recall that, after the 2004 election, everybody said that Bush had won because the true believers of the Christian right had come out--or, rather, poured forth--in unprecedented numbers, often at the last minute, to support him. Of course, by "everybody," I'm referring to the entire commentariate, both mainstream and left/liberal. On TV and in print, in news analyses and op-ed articles, they all said that Bush/Cheney had been re-elected by America's "values voters."

And they said it with a certain awe--as well they should, since Bush's victory was a sort of miracle. He had disapproval ratings in the upper 40's: higher than LBJ's in 1968, higher than Jimmy Carter's in 1980. Nor was he very popular in his own party, as many top Republicans came out against him--including moderates like John Eisenhower, rightists like Bob Barr, and many others such as William Crowe (chair of the Joint Chiefs under Ronald Reagan), General Tony McPeak (former Air Force chief of staff and erstwhile Veteran for Bush), libertarian Doug Bandow, neocon Francis Fukuyama, Lee Iacocca and Jack Matlock, Jr. (Reagan's ambassador to the USSR); and many other, lesser figures in his party also publicly rejected him.

And so did sixty (60) newspapers--all in "red" states--that had endorsed Bush four years earlier: two thirds of them now going for Kerry, the others none of the above. American Conservative, Pat Buchanan's own magazine, ran endorsements of five different candidates, only one of them for Bush. And 169 tenured and emeritus professors from the world's top business schools all signed a full-page ad decrying his economic policies, adducing them as reasons not to vote for him. (The ad was written by top faculty at his own alma mater, Harvard Business School.) The ad ran in the Financial Times, which, like The Economist, endorsed John Kerry.

And still Bush won, despite such big defections, thanks to that enormous turnout by the Christian right, as everybody kept on saying--even though there were good reasons to be very skeptical about that notion.

2. Election Day, 2004: There Was No Christian "Surge"

First of all, that talking point came from the Christian right itself, whose members certainly had every reason to exaggerate their clout. That they thus credited themselves, and that the claim was duly amplified by their own party and its propaganda organs (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, et al.), should have been enough to make all non-believers doubtful.

And non-believers should have been especially suspicious of that claim because there's not a shred of evidence to back it up. On the other hand, there's solid evidence that that immense, last-minute vote for Bush was nothing but a propaganda fiction, cooked up by Karl Rove to mask his party's theft of that election.

To begin with, that fiction is preposterous on its face, since there were nowhere near enough of such right-wing believers to account for the incumbent's staggering advance, as Bush reportedly received 11.5 million more votes than he had won four years before. And how many evangelicals did that surge include? According to Karl Rove himself (among others), there were 4 million evangelicals who had not voted for Bush/Cheney in 2000. So, even if Rove managed to get every single one of them to vote for Bush this time around (and it's unlikely that he did), they could not possibly have made so big a difference--unless, of course, their numbers somehow
magically increased inside the polls, like Jesus's loaves and fishes.

In any case, Bush seems to have done worse with evangelicals than he had four years before. Consider how his "base" performed, in fact, on that Election Day, as measured by the National Exit Poll (and scrupulously analyzed by Michael Collins, whose essay, "The Urban Legend," is included in Loser Take All). Close study of the numbers in 2004 reveals that there was no big national surge of "values voters": on the contrary.

First of all, the nation's rural vote declined, dropping from 23% to just 16% of the overall national vote; and Bush's total rural vote went down from 14 million to just under 12 million. And while the nation's small town vote increased substantially--by 88%--those voters did not favor Bush as they had done four years before, but opted in near equal numbers for John Kerry. Of those 9.5 million votes, Bush got 4.9 million, while Kerry got 4.7 million. (In 2000, Bush had won 3.1 million small town votes, to Gore's 2 million.) And then there were the voters in the suburbs, who did come out for Bush in greater numbers than four years before--but hardly by enough to make for a decisive jump of any kind, as Bush won 28.3 million of those votes, to Kerry's 25.6 million.

Thus was there no elevated turnout in those regions where most "values voters" live--nor did the post-election polls suggest that "moral values" drove Bush/Cheney's startling re-election. On Nov. 11, Pew published the results of their most precise survey of the electorate. Having asked Americans to name the issue that most concerned them as they cast their ballots, Pew found that Iraq was Number One, noted by 25 percent, followed by "jobs and the economy," noted by 12 percent, with 9 percent invoking "terrorism." Only 9 percent named "moral values" as their main concern--with only 3 percent of them referring specifically to "gay marriage" (and another 2 percent referring to the candidates' own private lives).

Those numbers tell a very different story from the one hyped proudly by the men atop the Christianist machine. In particular, they said that they helped Bush prevail through their well-managed opposition to gay marriage--which Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, called "the hood ornament on the family values wagon that carried the president to a second term." That there was evidently no such wagon did not blunt the impact of such theocratic propaganda, which quickly resonated all throughout "the liberal media," so that it now stands as the truth.

Indeed, it was accepted as the truth so quickly that it went unquestioned even after the dramatic mass reaction to the Terri Schiavo case a few months later, when Bush and the Republicans in Congress intervened in that domestic tragedy, trying to force the very outcome that the Christianists were calling for: "Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case," ABC News reported. The public supportedthe removal of Schiavo's feeding tube by 63% to 28%, according to the network's polls.

And so it was throughout the media. According to USA Today, 76% disapproved of Congress's handling of the case, while only 20% approved. CBS News found that 82% believed that Bush and Congress should have stayed out of it. And so it went, with poll after poll confirming that the Bush Republicans' attempt to force their "moral values" on the situation was appealing only to a small minority, a/k/a the fringe. "When nearly 70 percent of the American public disagrees with you," wrote Eric Boehlert at the time, "you're out of step with the mainstream."

That strong reaction by (at least) two-thirds of us was far more telling than the press, and most top Democrats, were willing to perceive, and so they couldn't, wouldn't see the awful truth: Either We the People had abruptly given up our "moral values" since Election Day, or our apparent vote for Bush was a deception, based on vote suppression and election fraud committed in Ohio and elsewhere throughout the nation.

Thus the myth of that immense, last-minute Christian turn-out was a rationale concocted to "explain" Bush/Cheney's re-election--and the US press immediately bought it, out of a clear eagerness to close the book on that election right away, and thereby black out all the glaring signs of fraud throughout Ohio (and Florida, and elsewhere). Indeed, the press at once laughed off the "theory" of widespread election fraud, dismissing all the facts as fantasy; and in their place it offered fantasy as fact (as they had done before, and have done since).
Last night we felt reasonably certain that we would be able to count Mr. Miller's piece the most disturbing of the fortnight. Then, earlier today, right on cue, along came Scott Horton.

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