August 19, 2004
Planting poisonous seedsBy Richard Baehr
Paul Krugman, salving his wounds after his knockout at the hands of Bill O'Reilly on Tim Russert's show, has offered a warning in his August 17 column about what he says is the coming threat to the "credibility of our democracy." The grave threat Krugman discusses is that the result of the coming Presidential election will be "disastrously suspect." And how will we know if the result is suspect (and the election presumably stolen)? That question is easy —— Bush wins.
Krugman, with this article, has one—upped the conspiracy mongers who have never accepted the results of the 2000 election. The charges about the stolen election in Florida in 2000 have been spread and kept alive by many parties —— Michael Moore, Terry McAuliffe, Mary Frances Berry, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and many elected Democratic Party officials. The goal of this campaign has always been delegitimizing the Bush Administration and keeping the issue alive as a motivator for future campaigns of Democratic partisans, particularly African American voters.
This propaganda campaign has been very successful. Surveys show that 40% of all Americans, and over 80% of African Americans believe the election of 2000 was stolen in Florida.
Krugman repeats one of the principal untruths of the stolen election charge in his article, namely that voters who were mis—characterized as felons by the state of Florida were not allowed to vote. He says that many of those wrongfully excluded were African Americans, implying, of course, that their votes would have elected Al Gore, in which case presumably 9/11 would never have occurred, there would have been no recession, the stock market would have reached Dow 15,000, and Democrats would have rightfully claimed what is theirs: control of the nation's political power.
Were Krugman at all interested in the truth, rather than malicious smearing, he could have read any of the well—documented analyses of the 2000 Florida race that prove the charges false. For example, this or this.
Florida was practically a tie in 2000, but Bush won. Close state races are not that uncommon, either for the Presidential ballot, or Senate or Governors races. In 2000, Gore lost Florida very narrowly, but won New Mexico, Iowa, Oregon and Wisconsin by less than 0.3% of the vote overall, taking all 29 Electoral votes from those 4 states. Florida, on the other hand, only gave 25 electoral votes to Bush. In three of these four states which Gore won (all but Iowa), there were suspicious voting or tallying issues that might have thrown the results into some question.
But neither Bush nor Republicans ever made an issue of the results in any of the four states. They accepted their very narrow defeats, as the GOP did in the Senate races in South Dakota in 2002, and in Nevada in 1998, and in Washington State in 2000, three races the GOP lost by a total of 3,000 votes out of over 3 million cast (0.1% margin). Had the GOP won these three Senate seats, and Jim Jeffords not done his Benedict Arnold imitation (there would have been no reason for him to switch parties if his move would not have given the Democrats Senate control), the GOP today would hold 55 Senate seats, and a lot more federal judges would have been confirmed.
The Supreme Court did not hand Bush his victory in 2000, despite the oft—repeated mythology that it did. The newspaper surveys of all the under—votes, conducted in the months after the election, showed that had the recount not been halted, Bush would have won anyway.
Were Krugman more interested in the truth than in DNC talking points, he might also have learned that in the 2000 race 20 Florida counties refused to make use the state's list of felons, and thereby allowed several thousand ineligible Floridians to vote. The number of felons who voted was many times the number of potential voters who were not allowed to vote because their names were wrongly included on the felon list. Given the overwhelmingly Democratic voting patterns of felons, the net effect was to create several thousand net votes for Gore. But for Krugman, any mistake that allowed felons to vote is not worth writing about. Only mistakes that hurt his candidate are worth repeating.
Krugman suggests that nefarious schemes are already well underway for the 2004 election, to once again deny the franchise to black voters in Florida. Relying on a column by fellow Times columnist Bob Herbert, Krugman suggests that Florida's state police are intimidating elderly black voters, trying to scare them away from voting in November. The reality is that there may have been vote fraud in Florida in a recent local election, and the state is trying to investigate it. Krugman seems unaware that vote fraud has been much more often associated with Democrats than Republicans for many decades, particularly in minority communities (Lyndon Johnson with Hispanics in his Senate "victory" in 1948, Richard Daley with black voters for Kennedy in the Illinois Presidential race in 1960, American Indians in the South Dakota Senate election of 2002).
Krugman also sees bad faith on the part of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, because the felon list the state prepared for the 2004 election was seriously flawed. The list has now been scrapped by the Governor, after it was discovered that it contained very few Hispanic names. In other words, the list should have been larger, not smaller. It is unclear whether a revised list will be established by Election Day, and if it is, whether county election officials will choose to use it. If the list is not prepared, perhaps 50,000 felons, who should be ineligible to vote under Florida law, may get to vote.
Krugman seems unconcerned about tens of thousand of felons voting, but very concerned that a felon list would be used which might contain a thousand bad names. After all, in his world it is results that matter, not the integrity of the process, whatever lip service Krugman might seem to be paying to protecting the "credibility of our democracy."
The thin veneer of needing to protect the franchise is further eroded when Krugman decries the lack of a paper trail for the new touch screen machines that will be used in Florida. Now, of course, the Democrats mocked the punch card ballot system in 2000, though they would have accepted the results had the re—counters invented enough votes to elect Gore. Krugman hints that Republican operatives will hack into the new touch screen voting machines and distort the results of the 2004 election in Florida.
In a previous article Krugman first informed us of the makings of the very diabolical plot to steal the 2004 election. He uncovered the fact that one of the executives at one of the companies that produces the touch screen machines is a Bush supporter. Imagine that. This is reason enough to assume that the secret hacking passwords will be sent to Jeb Bush on election night. As T. Bevans notes in a terrific article on realclearpolitics.com, the new machines work far better than the old punch card ballots, and have proven 100% accurate in recording the votes in independent tests. That is not good enough for Krugman, of course. Jeb Bush, after all, wants to get his brother re—elected and will stop at nothing to get this result.
Krugman's most vile argument is that if Bush wins Florida, that alone is reason for suspicion. After all, Kerry is now ahead in recent polls in the state. So Krugman concludes that a Bush win in November would be an upset, a surprise, an unnatural event. Kerry does hold a narrow lead if you average the recent polls in Florida, surveys conducted 12 weeks before the election, before the Republican Convention, and before the debates. Obviously the poll results from mid—August after the Democratic Convention are a reliable indicator of how Florida and the nation should be expected to vote in November. You probably remember Michael Dukakis sweeping to victory in November, 1988, after carrying a 17 point lead out of his Democratic Convention that year. So if Bush winds up winning Florida and the election, Krugman says it will be an upset. And an upset is suspicious.
Krugman's faith in polls over actual voting results becomes clearer when he argues that exit polling should be conducted on election day as test of the sanctity and honesty of the results in the state (maybe James Carville's firm can be retained). So a sample of a 1,000 voters with a margin of error of 4% ( 8% in the overall result, since it is plus or minus 4% for each candidate), should be a reliable measure of how 6 to 7 million voters actually voted that day. John Zogby, often considered the premier pollster, had a poll with Florida going for Gore by 13% a few weeks before Election Day in 2000. His poll was lousy. He was also way off in the 2002 Florida governors' race. You might remember that upset too. Terry McAulliffe assured the country that the Democrats' top target was Jeb Bush, who went on to win re—election by 13%. The fix must have been in big time in this race, at least on Planet Krugman.
Krugman never offers the possibility that if Kerry won a close victory in Florida or anywhere else, that the results might be suspect. There must be some people, aside from Republican partisans, with hacking skills. Only a Bush victory in Florida and nationally is suspect. And this provides the greatest insight into Krugman's "thinking." Krugman, an academic, doesn't meet many Bush voters. He can't imagine that Kerry could lose if all the votes were counted fairly,
Where are the Bush voters at the Princeton faculty club, or in the New York Times newsroom? And, of course, Krugman knows why voters, whatever their station in life, should support Kerry over Bush. He has already told us of the crisis looming for the Republic if the Republicans hold onto power.
The real truth behind Krugman's deepest fears is his lack of faith that his man will carry the ball across the goal line. Despite his purported faith in polls and Kerry's 2 to 4 point national lead today, Krugman must fear that some Bush "trick" (capturing Osama, or finding Iraq's WMD in Syria), or some mistake by Kerry, might sink the Democrats. So it is better to plant the election theft charge pre—emptively, and set the stage for the 2006 Congressional campaigns and 2008 Presidential campaigns with the allegation that Bush was "redefeated" but still serves. And it is also better for Krugman to sully Jeb Bush, a possible future Presidential candidate, with false charges of a second round of vote fraud.
There is one other possible effect of charging the Republicans with the intent of stealing the election: it predisposes their opponents to commit such fraud themselves, so as to 'balance out' the other side's supposed malfeasance. 'Everybody does it, so we have to do it too.' Committing vote fraud may be a felony. But in Krugman's Brave New Florida, one might be encouraged to do it. After all, felons in Krugman—world need not worry about ever losing the franchise.