January 16, 2008
Democrats and Conspiracy TheoriesBy Marc Sheppard
Anyone surprised by the rumors of New Hampshire Primary election-fixing flowing through the leftie blogosphere since last week doesn't fully appreciate the Moveon.org/Daily Kos mindset. But when Bill Maher suggested on Friday night's Real Time that Republicans had somehow hacked the voting machines in order to assure a Hillary win, I must admit to being quite shocked. Unleashing such an obvious smokescreen in an effort to obscure the recent backlash to Democrat-fueled "identity politics" seemed quite the desperate act, even for a notoriously partisan bore.
Granted, given the unexpected primary results relative to pollster projections, and the fact that 80% of the votes were cast on Dem-detested Diebold's Accuvote optical scan (OS) machines, conspiracy theories were all but inevitable. And whoever first noticed that Hillary received only 34.66%* of the hand-counted vote but 40.12% of those machine tabulated likely thought he had stumbled upon the voting-fraud equivalent of the Zapruder film. Particularly since Obama's numbers followed the opposite pattern - 38.84% of the hand-count but only 35.76% machine.
But, those reflexively crying foul play conveniently ignored a few immutable facts. For one thing, on the Republican side, the disparity in Romney's hand/machine numbers (25.54%/33.04%) was greater than either of the Democrats'. Are we to believe that both contests were fixed? Besides, Romney placed second! If his machine numbers were hacked, he should fire his dreadfully inept programmers immediately.
Then there's the fairly well-known fact that hand-counts tend to take place in smaller, poorer, more rural districts. So why is it so difficult for so many on the left - who are typically quick to categorize us -- to accept that people in small or poor places tend to think and vote differently than those in larger or wealthier ones?
Besides, if you look at the voting details for some of the largest districts, the entire theory falls apart. In Bedford, for instance, with 4,056 votes, computer-tallied percentages were a virtually even 40.19 to 39.79 for Clinton and Obama, respectively. And in Concord, with over 10,000 votes, Obama actually beat Clinton with 39.92% to her 35.63%.
But most of all, the allegations totally ignore the fact that ALL New Hampshire ballots are paper. In districts using the machines, a hand-filled ballot is fed through the optical reader for tallying and then retained as permanent backup. With not a single touch-screen machine deployed in the state, every last vote is documented. So, even if one were to somehow manage to compromise the computer data, the pure ease of recounts make their implementation all but assured when results are challenged. In fact, responding to the action and $2000 fee filed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, New Hampshire has agreed to begin such a recount of votes for both parties next week.
Bottom line: while not perfect, the system is sound and, more importantly, readily verifiable.
Okay, so some people are just wired to smell a conspiracy first and ask questions later.
But, as loony as most of his ideas are, Bill Maher should still know better. After all, around the time of last year's 9/11 anniversary, it was he who derided the growing legions of Bush conspiracy whackos:
He even threw a few heckling "Truthers" that had infiltrated his show out of the studio the following month. And yet, last Friday it was he who evoked deluded visions of a single hacker having controlled the vote results. And while some paranoids blame racism, and others finger the Clinton machine, Maher pointed to those he believes would most "profit from a Hillary victory." Of course, we all know who "they" are:
So, this man who actually defended Bush against the inane accusations of the 9/11 nutjobs now buys into a similarly nutty conspiracy theory just to bash Bush? Might he be completely ignorant of the fact that the flames ignited by the embers he's fanning are as likely -- if not more likely -- to engulf his own party?
Sure, Maher accused those rascally Republicans -- his liberal audience expects nothing less from one of their most rabid of political show-dogs. But when he speaks of who would most profit from a Hillary victory, surely he's aware of the other possible scenario that implies. As such, even if he manages to sell the idea that Hillary's win was fraudulent, he runs the perilous risk of leaving the identity of the offending party in doubt.
The level of mistrust this engenders this early in the season in this incendiary political atmosphere all but assures us of 10 months of both outfighting and infighting as unprecedented as they are unbridled. Such squabbling will only be further exacerbated by the fact that for each potential historic first this race offers (See Who's on First), liberal eyes see an associated victims' group. Unfortunately, with room for only 2 semi-finalists and 1 ultimate winner, fate can't possibly accommodate African-Americans, women, Italian-Americans, septuagenarians and Mormons simultaneously.
That's why the current intra-party racial and gender bickering being exchanged between the two Democratic frontrunners is likely just a battle in the group-identity-first war to come, notwithstanding the recent so-called "truce." Overreactions to words, "tones" and ill-perceived insinuations are one thing; just wait until Dem on Dem cries of "insensitivity" are aggravated by even louder cries of "disenfranchisement" or outright fraud following each state's primary.
Indeed, until all controversy over vulnerabilities in memory cards (see Hursti Hack) and central tabulator software is resolved to the satisfaction of voters, the optical scanner must be the electronic counting method of choice. Furthermore, states could likely eliminate a great deal of future malice by installing these confirmable OS machines exclusively and instituting mandatory random audits on election nights. It's actually quite easy -- just compare the paper ballot results of a few randomly selected districts with those of the machine reading them and publish the numbers.
On the other hand, with both women and blacks now tasting potential executive power in a system that once denied them even the vote, overcoming the disuniting effects of "identity politics" will not be so easy.
Particularly for Democrats.
* Note: Figures from CheckTheVotes.com have been subject to change as additional data become available. However, while the actual numbers have varied slightly, the trends have not.
Marc Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. He welcomes your feedback.