Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2004 / 20 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765
Thomas H. Lipscomb
Election violence must be stopped
The worst outbreak of election violence since the civil rights era of the early 1960s has been occurring all across the United States, and there has been far too little attention paid to it.
In one of the worst cases, an AFL-CIO goon squad leading 100 "protesters" ransacked the local Bush-Cheney Orlando headquarters in hotly contested Florida, injuring two of the workers.
A college professor in Gainesville, Fla., was arrested for allegedly punching a local Republican county official.
Shots have been fired at GOP campaign offices in Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida. "Protests" were also held at 20 other GOP offices around the country. JWR columnist Michelle Malkin pointed out that GOP offices have also been burglarized or vandalized or both in Spokane, Wash.; Canton, Ohio; Fairbanks, Alaska; Edwardsville, Ill., and twice in one week in Gallatin, Mont. And the list keeps growing.
For all the dire warnings by Democrats that the GOP has been running intimidation activities against minority voters, there have been no specific incidents cited. There are plenty of campaign signs being destroyed on both sides, but so far the criminal activity seems pretty one-sided.
Voter intimidation and outright attacks against campaign headquarters have been a feature of collapsing democracies like Weimar Germany and the short-lived Russian interim Kerensky democracy under assault by the Nazi and Communist parties. Even a relative democracy like Mexico, which only recently emerged from decades of one-party government by the PRI, regularly experienced violence and even assassination against opposition parties and their leaders.
The Kerry-Edwards Democratic Party seems to share with the PRI a belief that they are the only legitimate political party. The Democrats continually complain that the 2000 election was "stolen" by Bush and the Supreme Court. And there is a general sense that any means, fair or foul, should be used to "restore" the Democratic Party the majority of voters wanted in 2000.
Meanwhile all over the United States, thousands of campaign headquarters, staffed largely by volunteer unpaid workers remain vulnerable to this kind of intimidation. And according to The New York Times' John Broder, "The likelihood of trouble at the nation's 200,000 polling places may be greater in 2004 than in any year in memory."
Add tens of thousands of belligerent lawyers from both parties breathing down the necks of poorly trained poll workers at 200,000 polling places and the coming election is a witch's brew of potential opportunities to subvert the relatively honest election process Americans have come to rely on for over 227 years. Americans too easily forget they enjoy the longest continuing constitutional government in the world.
The federal government acted during the civil rights era, providing federal marshals and FBI agents throughout the South to investigate and prosecute cases of election intimidation violence, even though elections are under the jurisdiction of local and state authorities. But the Bush administration seems to have totally left this countrywide crisis to local police. Whatever the political risk to the slight GOP lead in the presidential polling at the present, President Bush has sworn an oath "to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." And it is the constitutional rights of all Americans that are under assault today.
There is no doubt that the Democratic Party suffered severely for its courageous enforcement of civil rights in the South. The "solid South" Democrats had relied upon for almost 100 years in elections stayed solid but today it is Republican.
Even one of the most partisan senior Democratic statesman, Warren Christopher, is concerned. Christopher was the architect of candidate Al Gore's challenge of the 2000 election. Nevertheless he reminds Americans, "For the political parties, 2004 could be one time when winning isn't everything."
Whatever the political risk to the Bush administration in this election, the President has no choice but to federally enforce the civil right of America's citizens to a just and fair election and the penalties for thwarting it. Under the current situation where the violence is targeting the GOP, one can expect a howl of protest from Democrats. And in the event of a Bush victory, there will be even more screams the 2004 election was "stolen." But that is just too bad. Warren Christopher is right. It is the price any administration in power has to pay for taking responsibility.
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JWR contributor Thomas H. Lipscomb, the founder of Times Books, is a contributing columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Sun, where a shorter version of this story first appeared. To comment, click here.
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© 2004, Thomas H. Lipscomb