Watching the objection to the Ohio Count:

1:20 Whatever the Times said, Dick Cheney sure doesn’t look happy about this.

1:30 Rep. Tubbs Jones (D-OH): “If they are willing to stand for countless hours in the rain, as many did in Ohio, then I should be willing to stand for them in the halls of Congress.”

1:35 Rep. Pryce (R-OH): Just be nice and take it like John Kerry. The election is like so 2004.

1:38 Rep. Pryce (R-OH) and Sen. DeWine (R-OH) simultaneously: Lots of newspapers agree with us. Why don’t you?

1:42 Rep. Conyers (D-MI): “Not a single election official in Ohio has given us an explanation for the massive and widespread irregularities across the state.”

1:45 Rep. Sanders (I-VT): “What today is about is to demand that the federal government begin to move forward to ensure that every voter is country can be confident that every vote is counted accurately and every voter is treated fairly.”

1:46 Rep. Blunt (R-MO): People who were elected shouldn’t attack elections. And if you attack the election process, you don’t support the electoral troops.

1:49 Sen. Durbin (D-IL): “We can and should do better…I will take [Jackson’s amendment] seriously.”

1:51 Rep. Watt (D-NC): “The eyes of the world will be watching how we handle this – we’ll not treat it as frivolous when people are denied the right to vote…If we pretend that this is frivolous, then we are not moving forward.”

1:55 Sen. Stabenow (D-MI): “In Ohio, the provisional ballot was rendered virtually worthless when Ohio’s Secretary of State ruled that the ballot was legitimate only when the ballot was cast in the precinct.”

1:57 Rep. Ney (R-OH): Your standards are too high. Anyway, Republicans get disenfranchised sometimes too.

2:00 Sen. Wyden (D-OR): Ohio has a lot to learn from Oregon. Why is the GOP more concerned about allegations that one dog got to vote than that hundreds of thousands couldn’t?

2:03 Rep. Pelosi (D-CA): “This is their only opportunity to have this debate while the country is listening, and it is appropriate for them to do so…This is not just about what happens in counting votes, but in all three phases: before, during, and after the election…lines of up to ten hours in some areas. You can deny it all you want, but it is a matter of public record that it happened, and that it is wrong.”

2:10 Rep. Reynolds (R-NY): Come on, we already passed a law about this. You guys are like a Japanese soldier who can’t surrender.

2:13 Sen. Clinton (D-NY): Can’t we at least get a hearing? Why do we get better paper trails on lottery tickets?

2:16 Sen. Reid (D-NV): “While the literacy tests and poll taxes of the past are gone, more insidious practices continue to taint our electoral system.”

2:22 Sen. Harkin (D-IA): “Standing in line hours to vote is like throwing acid in the face of democracy…There was an average of 4.9 machines in Bush districts, while there was an average of 3.9 machines in Kerry districts…What we saw was a concerted effort to suppress the right of Americans to cast a vote.”

2:25 Rep. Hayworth (R-AZ): Doesn’t Kerry’s concession speech sound better when you read it with em-pha-sis on every sin-gle sy-lla-ble?

2:27 Rep. Kucinich (D-OH): “They encouraged the use of provisional ballots to make it more difficult for minority voters to vote.”

2:30 Sen. Obama (D-IL): “This is something that we can fix…What we’ve lacked is the political will.”

2:34 Sen. Dodd (D-CT): “The real test will come in the next few days when we have the chance to introduce legislation on this.”

2:36 Sen. Voinovich (R-OH): We know how to count in Ohio. “I am proud of how the election went in Ohio.”

2: 39 Rep. Cummings (D-MD): “What we are addressing is the fundamental right to vote.”

2:40 Rep. McKinney (D-GA): “It is not only our right but our responsibility to demand full democracy at home…This is not about a recount. This is about a blackout.”

2:43 Rep. Dreier (R-CA): Democratic criticism of the functioning of the democratic process in the United States encourages terrorists. Why would anyone want to become a democracy when they see that there can be disputes?

2:47 Rep. Drake (R-VA): Either the President is an idiot, or he’s an evil genius. But not both.

2:50 Rep. Jackson (D-IL): “At present, voting in the United States is a state right, not a citizen’s right…All separate, all unequal…Our voting system is built on the sand of states’ rights…We need to build our democracy on the fundamental individual guarantee in the constitution of the right to vote.”

2:53 Rep. Lewis (D-GA): “Our electoral system is broken, and it must be fixed once for all…How can get over it when people died for the right to vote?”

2:54 Rep. Jindal (R-LA): I am really excited about getting elected, and you guys are ruining it. Next thing you know the Palestinians will sue when they lose elections.

2:57 Rep. Tiberi (R-OH): You’re hurting the feelings of election workers by criticizing things that happened during the election.

3:00 Rep. Woolsey (D-CA): “If we don’t [change], why would any American bother to vote?”

3:02 Rep. Owns (D-NY): “Our mission for democracy in Iraq would be totally shattered if we insisted that that country be split in thirty or fifty divisions, each with its own rules, each with its own standards.”

3:05 Rep. Kingston (R-GA): Dead people voting is a bigger problem than systematic disenfranchisement. If these Democrats loved America as much as my blind father, they wouldn’t mind waiting in lines.

3:07 Rep. Keller (R-FL): Michael Moore has used voodoo on Barbara Boxer.

3:13 Rep. Waters (D-CA): “There is no justification for denying the vote of someone voting in the right county but the wrong precinct. The voter’s intent is clear.”

3:16 Rep. Boehner (R-OH): You’ve disrupted my healing process. “If we really want to have a debate about how elections are run, that debate ought to happen in each of the fifty state legislatures.”

3:25 Rep. Portman (R-OH): If there was a conspiracy to disenfranchise people, I would have known about it.

3:31 Delegate Holmes Norton (D-DC): “If we are the democracy we say we are, we must show it today.”

3:41 Rep. DeLay (R-TX): The Democrats are blowing a great chance to declare support for all of Bush’s plans for the country. Me, I love the New Deal and Civil Rights. I would love to see more like that from them.


Watching the Gonzales Confirmation Hearing:

11:30: So far, the GOP Talking Points on the challenge to the vote count and the Gonzales nomination, respectively, seem to be “Don’t listen to them because they’re whining and you’ll just become confused,” and “He was just a lowly bureaucrat up against a Big Bad Justice Department.”

11:40 Gonzales: The abuses which we all object to, no one supports.

11:45 Gonzales: The Geneva Convention only works as a universal human rights standard if it only applies to some people.

11:54 Gonzales: At least we don’t cut people’s heads off. (Talk about defining deviancy down)

12:02 Gonzales: It’s not that I don’t offer my own opinions, it’s just that the Department of Justice is very persuasive.

12:07 Gonzales: If I didn’t mention in my memo to Bush on whether to execute this guy that his lawyer slept through the trial, it must be that we’d realized it was frivolous.

12:12: Senator Cornyn (R-TX): If people disagree with you on torture, it’s because they don’t want to win the war on terror as much as you.

12:13 Cornyn: They say you haven’t given you the documents you want, but they have given us these two file folders which seem to have lots of pages in them.

12:17 Gonzales: If there was a possibility of you all reading my candid advice, I might give different candid advice.

12:18 Senator Schumer (D-NY): Of course we need a little less liberty these days. Only, maybe not this much less. And could you at least talk to us about it?

12:27 Gonzales: The Executive Branch has no opinion on whether the Legislative Branch should be able to filibuster its nominees.

12:31 Senator Brownback (R-KS): We need to do more to lower recidivism rates by helping prisoners to function in society…with Jesus.

12:34 Brownback: Sure there’s a first amendment, but porn is really unpleasant. I’d like to recruit your wife to look into it.

12:37 Gonzales: I wasn’t calling my colleagues judicial activists for wanting to force minors to get parental permission for abortion, I was just saying their conclusions were judicial activism.

12:42 Gonzales: What do you mean did my redefinition of torture encourage abuse? The majority of prisoners have not been tortured.

12:44 Gonzales: I don’t think we’re ever allowed to commit war crimes, but I’ll keep you posted.

12:45 Gonzales: The President hasn’t used his authority to disobey the law, but he has it.

This is an election we should have won. This is an election we could have won if the candidate had been working as hard, and as smart, as everybody else that was trying to get him elected. We almost won it anyway. It could be that we did. But given Kerry’s unwillingness to wait as long as folks did in line to vote for him before saying, in the name of national unity, that their votes needn’t be counted, we may never know.

I think the most striking find in the exit polls was that significant majorities said they supported Kerry on Iraq but Bush on the war on terror. Funny thing is, main thing Bush has done in the name of stopping terror is ignore Osama bin Laden and create a terrorist playground in Iraq, while refusing necessary funding for homeland security. This says to me that Bush succeeded in making terrorism a question of character rather than of policy. Kerry was certainly savaged by the media in the same way Gore was, while Bush too often got a free pass. But Kerry failed for months to put out a coherent, comprehensible message on Iraq (as on too many other issues), and while voters rightly prefered an alleged flip-flopper to an obvious belly-flopper on the issue, I think he shot a lot of his credibility as a strong leader and he may have lost the rhetorical battle for Commander-in-Chief. His unwillingness to aggressively defend himself, especially from the vile Swift Boat Vet attacks, can’t have helped. What’s tragic, of course, is that Bush has flip-flopped far more, even on whether we can win the war on terror, and that the extent his policy has been consistent, it’s been stubbornly, suicidely dangerous. On this issue, as on every issue, some will argue that Kerry was just too left-wing, which is anything but the truth (same goes for Dukakis, Mondale, Gore). A candidate who consistently opposed the war and articulated a clear vision of what to do once we got there could have fared much better.

Then there’s the cluster of issues the media, in an outrageous surrender to the religious right, insist on calling “moral values” (as if healthcare access isn’t a moral value). Here Kerry got painted as a left-winger while abjectly failing to expose the radical right agenda of his opponent. Most voters are opposed to a constitutional ban on all abortion, but Kerry went three debates without mentioning that it’s in the GOP platform. That, and a ban on gay adoption, which is similarly unpopular. And while he started trying towards the end to adopt values language in expressing his position on these issues and on others, it was too little, too late. An individual may be entitled to privacy about his faith and his convictions, religious or otherwise but a Presidential candidate shouldn’t expect to get too far without speaking convincingly about his beliefs and his feelings (I’m hoping to get a chance to read George Lakoff’s new book on this – maybe Kerry should as well).

This election will provide further few to those who argue that Republicans are a cadre of libertarians and the poor are all social conservatives who get convinced by the GOP to ignore class. The first problem with this argument when folks like Michael Lind articulate it is that it ignores the social liberalism of many in the working class. There are others – like the economic breakdown of voting patterns in 2000, which would make David Brooks’ head explode because the fact is Gore got the bottom three sixths and Bush got the top. But few can argue that a not insignificant number of working class voters in this country consistently vote against their economic interests, and that at least in this election, they have enough votes to swing the result. Here too some will argue the Democrats just have to sell out gay folks and feminists to win back the Reagan Democrats. I think Thomas Frank is much closer to the truth: People organize for control over their lives and their environments through the means that appear possible, and the Democrats’ ongoing retreat from an economic agenda which articulates class inequality has left the Republicans’ politics of class aesthetics (stick it to the wealthy liberals by putting prayer back in schools) as an alternative. For all the flack he got over wording, Howard Dean was speaking to an essential truth when he recognized that working-class southern whites don’t have much to show for decades of voting Republican, and Kerry didn’t make the case nearly well enough. He also seems to have bought into Republicans’ claims that Democrats always spend the last few weeks beating old folks over the head with claims that they’ll privatize social security and forgotten that Republicans, in fact, will privatize social security if they can. So he let too many of them get pulled away to the GOP. Part of the irony of the debate over the tension between the left economic agenda and their social agenda, and whether being labelled with the latter stymies the former, is that as far as public opinion goes, I see much more reason for confidence that we’ll have gained tremendous ground on gay marriage in a generation than that we will have on economic justice. As far as policy goes, the next four years are a terrifying prospect for both, and for most things we value in this country.

Don’t mourn. Organize.

Today Floridians vote in Democratic and Republican Senate primaries. Commissioner of Education Betty Castor, a strong progressive endorsed by MoveOn, DFA, and the UFCW – which represented the employees of the University she served as President – has a commanding lead over Congressman Peter Deutsch, who’s been painting her as soft on terror and bashing Emily’s List as sexist for endorsing her, and Mayor Alex Pinelas, who refused in 2000 to endorse Al Gore or object to his constituents disenfranchisement at the polls. Most importantly, Castor has the intrepid support of my friend Val Baron. On the Republican side, former Congressman Bill McCollum has a couple-point lead on former Bush HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, who’s been attacking McCollum from the far right on gay marriage for supporting hate crime legislation. I’m confident Castor can take on either one.

“They say it’s our fault and we don’t care about politics,” someone told me yesterday at the Unemployment Office, “but when you try to get involved, it seems like they’re trying to stop us from really being able to vote.”  Looks like the Civil Rights Commission <a href=”agrees’>”>agrees:

Florida faces another debacle in the upcoming presidential election on Nov. 2, with the possibility that thousands of people will be unjustly denied the right to vote, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights heard on Thursday.  In a hearing on the illegal disenfranchisement of alleged felons in Florida, commissioners accused state officials of “extraordinary negligence” in drawing up a list of 48,000 people to be purged from voter rolls, most of them because they may once have committed a crime.  “They have engaged in negligence at best and something worse at worst,” said Mary Frances Berry, chairperson of the commission, an independent bipartisan body whose members are appointed by the President and Congress.   She said the commission would ask the Justice Department to investigate the matter.  “It does seems to me there is a smoking gun here,” said commissioner Christopher Edley. “There has been extraordinary negligence in the way the felon purging process has been conducted. … If it was intentional, this could be a violation of the federal Civil Rights Act.”

Governor Jeb Bush yesterday restored the civil right of voting to only 22,000 previously disenfranchised felons out of 150,000 included in a suit against the state demanding restoration of rights. The ACLU estimates the number of disenfranchised felons in Florida at 600,000. So what happened yesterday was progress, but not nearly enough of it.

Deeply problematic arguments have always been marshaled and sold in defense of disenfranchising felons. The value to which Americans – explicitly or implicitly – appeal in staking out such a position, as the ninth circuit appeals court observed, is often a conception of “the purity of the ballot box” as a state interest worth defending – or otherwise, as Keyssar argues in The Right to Vote, “a general pronouncement that a state has an interest in preventing persons who have been convicted of serious crimes from participation…” Such reasoning describes Judge Friendly’s defense of states’ prerogative “that perpetrators of serious crimes shall not take part in electing the legislators who make the laws…the prosecutors who must try them…or the judges who are to consider their cases.” Friendly’s argument is immediately sympathetic, and seems eminently reasonable. It is, however, profoundly undemocratic.

For democracy to be “the worst system except for the all the other ones” demands a faith – a gamble – that more times than not, the decisions of a large group of human beings will be better for them than the decisions of any select group or individual chosen from among them without their consent. Democracy is, at best, a medium which brings the will of the people (however determined or constructed) into power as the policy which governs the people. If pure is a meaningful term in reference to democracy, it must refer to how representative we judge the process – not how desirable we find the result. Purity, as the 9th court references it, however, is a subversive undercurrent in the debate: the purity of the voters who take part in the process. Pure democracy, in these terms, is a democracy in which the morally pure cast the votes. This is – unless the impure have been expunged from society entirely – not democracy at all.

Friendly appeals to an intuitive sense that the views of criminals don’t belong in formation of policy on the criminal justice system. The assumption, presumably, is that criminals have vested interests in certain policy results. But our voting booths, unlike our juries, demand no assumption of neutrality. Rather, democracy is a struggle between interests. Friendly’s argument implies, clearly, that criminals have self-serving interests that would, if realized, be detrimental to society as a whole. This too, however, is not nor should be a barrier to voting in the American system. Klansmen are as free to vote against reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act as CEOs are to vote against overtime protections. Much as Franklin asked why going from the moment of having a donkey to the moment of not having a donkey should change the worth of someone’s vote, we must ask why going from possessing a burning desire to murder and being unable to follow through to successfully committing the act should have such an effect. Had Friendly argued in his opinion that American policy should be made by those who are pure, it would be much less frequently cited and much more intuitively off-putting. It would rightly raise the specter of campaigns for purity throughout American history, and the tremendous damage they wrought to the welfare of countless people and to the legitimacy of our democracy.

There are severe negative consequences to disenfranchising felons – removing those most affected by criminal justice policy from the political discourse denies them the primary avenue available to reform it. This creates a vicious cycle in which bad policy can systematically disenfranchise communities while denying them the vote and the voice with which to reverse it. Considering which Americans are in fact losing the franchise for felonies, for felony convictions, or for false records – as Greg Palast documents in the case of Florida – of felonies, suggests that this is more than an idle prospect. Overwhelmingly, such policy is denying the vote not to the theoretical cold-blooded murderer of the hypothetical, but to legions of working-class people of color, most for drug-possession, reinforcing the stratification of wealth and power which distinguishes the modern United States.

Registering voters in low-income neighborhoods here in Tampa has provided me a powerful reminder of just how many people are forced out of the process by felonies for which they’ve already served time, and just how how unrepresentative a sample of America these disenfranchised voters are. No one we talk to here is more adamant about the urgency of voting than the ex-felons who can’t, or more critical of those who insist that there’s no point in voting. It’s frustrating to be able to offer little more than a form to apply for executive clemency – a process which, as we saw yesterday, leaves much to be desired – and demanded.

(Cross-posted at Undernews)

The Center for Voting and Democracy reports back from the Take Back America Conference, at which it advocated the advantages of instant run-off voting (IRV) and offered participants a chance to take part in a simulated IRV election to determine the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, with Edwards winning and McCain and Dean in second and third places respectively. Don’t think they’ll be getting offered tickets to the Democratic Convention though. Which is a shame, because a political party which really put a premium on democracy would put IRV front and center in its platform (more of my thoughts on IRV are in the archive here.

This is good news for Kerry, of course, who goes into February 2 two for two. Also for Clark, who seized that third metaphorical ticket out of New Hampshire that pundits at least seem to think is important, and more importantly avoided that fifth-place standing that looked like a real possibility given reports about his machine on the ground. Good news also, I’d argue, for Dean, the only candidate to run in both Iowa and New Hampshire and rank higher this time, and faces two candidates sharing the top three with him in New Hampshire – Kerry and Clark – who are struggling for the same electable-veteran niche.

My predictions for tomorrow:

Kerry comes in first, simply because Dean hasn’t had enough time to catch up after recovering from whatever combination of his combative stance in Iowa/ his overly-apologetic response to his combative stance in Iowa/ his insufficiently apologetic response to his combative stance in Iowa/ media harping on an imagined combative stance in Iowa/ some combination of the above one may choose to blame for the beating he took in the polls in the past week. Dean comes in second and he and Kerry both pitch themselves as comeback kids; Kerry as usual finds the media more credulous than Dean. Dean comes in closer to Kerry than to the Edwards, who comes in third behind him, lacking the committed and organized constituencies Kerry and Dean have mobilized. Clark does not much, if any, better than he’s been expected to the past few days, and likely even worse – in any case drastically worse than he was expected to a few weeks ago before Kerry stole his part as the anointed “Anti-Dean” and his campaign fumbled and failed to advance a coherent vision or take advantage of what could have been a real head start to build a machine in New Hampshire. If Clark does particularly badly, he strikes me as more likely than any of the other candidates to drop out shortly after, thus ending further embarassment and leaving his Presidential run as a whimsical coda on what many see as an accomplished career as a military public servant. Lieberman does worse than Clark, claims that he exceeded expectations, and argues that Kerry and Dean are both soft on defense and that only he represents a real choice between extremists. Kucinich does much better than Sharpton.

A couple thoughts on the Iowa caucuses, a topic on which much ink (real and virtual) has and no doubt and will be spilled:

As someone who, despite significant reservations, believes Dean would be the best of the leading contenders for the Democratic nomination, I was disappointed to see him come in third. As someone who believes with great conviction in the organizing model that Dean has employed, I was disappointed to see that it was not enough to win him the Caucus. That does little to take away from the tremendous progress the Dean campaign has made and the ways it which it’s destabilized some of the unfortunate Clintonian paradigms of building power in the Democratic party. I’d also argue that losing Iowa does less than many think to hurt Dean’s chances of seizing the endorsement. One of the ways the press has hurt Dean over the past months, besides applying a level of cynicism and scrutiny to him denied in coverage of, say, the sitting President, is by raising the bar for his importance impossibly high. It’ll be interesting to see whether Dean is as effective as Clinton at seizing on and drawing momentum from underdog status. Some have argued that losing Iowa is better for Dean because it leaves several “anti-Dean” candidates in the running going into New Hampshire and stymies efforts to coalesce behind one Dean alternative – I guess we’ll see how that plays out as well.

It’ll be interesting to see what Kerry makes of the new attention and the new media narrative offered to him. Specifically, I wonder to what he and his staff attribute his late surge. The role he takes over the next weeks may hint at who it is they he thinks is propelling his rebirth as a candidate.

Looks like the zenith of Dick Gephardt’s political career has passed. The interesting story here may be his failure to marshall stronger support from the labor movement – instead of garnering the endorsement by the AFL-CIO as a body some expected, he saw the two largest unions in the body go to Dean. I think the Cold War AFL-CIO (there’s a reason they used to call it the AFL-CIA) model suggested to some by his support for the war in Iraq, and the tension it created, speaks to shifts in the American labor movement.

As DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton recently observed:

Not content with denying D.C. residents congressional voting rights, Congress has gone out of its way to silence us by placing a rider in the D.C. appropriation that keeps residents from lobbying Congress or country for their rights,” she wrote. This insult added to injury should be enough to send residents to the polls to vote on Tuesday in a primary whose purpose is to tell the country what most Americans do not know, according to opinion polls: that Congress denies voting rights to the citizens of its own capital.

The New York Times is more dismissive of the primary:

This is, alas, a nonbinding beauty contest.

But it relates the case for representation in simple and inarguable terms:

While Wyoming, population 494,000, has one representative and two senators, Washington, population 571,000, has none.

One wonders whether those half a million people would have gone without a vote for so many years if more of them were White.

FirstPrimaryBlog has the latest on tomorrow’s primary, including guest statements from Kucinich, Lieberman, and Sharpton in support of, respectively, statehood, congressional representation, and one or the other.

Five of the candidates – including Lieberman – made the shameful decision to withdraw from D.C.’s primary, leaving Dean, Sharpton, Kucinich, and Mosely-Braun. My prediction is Dean comes in first, Sharpton second.

One of the more interesting moments I caught in the Iowa Debate was the Kucinich-Dean exchange on single-payer universal healthcare. Dean, to his credit, was up front in stating that voters whose primary issue was single-payer should vote for Kucinich, and then touted the virtues of his plan which, Kucinich rightly argued, would maintain the strangehold of the insurance industry on the practice and policy of healthcare. What perhaps was most surprising about Dean’s defense of his plan, however, was its central argument that it was simply the best the Democrats could get away with – that his plan “was written to pass Congress.” Dean cited the failures of the Carter and Clinton healthcare plans to buttress his claim.

I think Michael Tomasky, in Left for Dead, offers a more convincing reading of the Clinton healthcare failure:

…the A.M.A. and the insurance lobbies fought the Clinton proposal with the same intensity they’d have have brought to a fight against single-payer. A political calculation to trim the sails is useful and defensible if, without sacrificing too much in the way of principle, it gets you more votes. The Clinton calculation did not do that. And in this instance, given the number of co-sponsors single-payeralready had in the House of Representatives and the appeal of the plan’s salient features, it may actually have been the case that a single-payer system could have been sold to the public. The seller, though, had to be willing to confront one of Washington’s most powerful lobbies – something the Clintons weren’t up to; but this, too, is something people clearly say they want their leaders to do more of.

Among the people calling on their leaders to do more of that? Howard Dean. Kucinich was right to ask him who, if not the President of the United States, would be in a position to stand up to the insurance industry. Dean, unfortunately for those of us drawn by the strength of his organizing and the clarity of his alternative vision, was left looking not for the first time like what he’s referred to rightly as “the Republican wing of the Democratic party.”