Democrats Undermining Democracy

Jonah Goldberg notes that Democratic Party leaders are already starting to claim the election was stolen:

On October 21, The Associated Press reported: “Sen. John Kerry, bracing for a potential fight over election results, will not hesitate to declare victory Nov. 2 and defend it, advisers say. He also will be prepared to name a national security team before knowing whether he’s secured the presidency.”

The prior Sunday, Eric Holder, a member of the Democrats’ “Election Task Force,” told Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday,” “If every vote is allowed to be cast, and if every vote is counted, John Kerry will be president within a day of that election.”

Paul Krugman echoes these comments in today’s NYT:

If the election were held today and the votes were counted fairly, Senator John Kerry would probably win. But the votes won’t be counted fairly, and the disenfranchisement of minority voters may determine the outcome.

Such outrageous charges threaten to delegitimate the election results days before the election is even held. Indeed, Holder apparently wants to do away with the Constitution entirely, skipping the Electoral College and transition period altogether to install Kerry in the White House.

Krugman’s analysis is simply bizarre. After a few paragraphs explaining why the race is a tie even though most of the polls show Bush ahead, he asserts: “A broad view of the polls, then, suggests that Mr. Bush is in trouble.” Then he goes off on his stolen election rant:

Florida polls suggest a tight race, which could be tipped by a failure to count all the votes. And votes for Mr. Kerry will be systematically undercounted. Last week I described Greg Palast’s work on the 2000 election, reported recently in Harper’s, which conclusively shows that Florida was thrown to Mr. Bush by a combination of factors that disenfranchised black voters. These included a defective felon list, which wrongly struck thousands of people from the voter rolls, and defective voting machines, which disproportionately failed to record votes in poor, black districts.

This is complete nonsense, as Goldberg explains:

John Fund, the author of the eminently comprehensive and thoughtful book “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud is Threatening Democracy,” has implored the NAACP, the ACLU and the Democratic Party to provide him with real life examples of blacks – or anybody else – who were specifically disenfranchised. Alas, like the “real killers” O.J. Simpson is still searching for, Fund’s quest has remained unfulfilled.

In 2000, Janet Reno – still the Attorney General – dispatched crack squads to highlight the crimes against democracy the Democrats had been touting. They came up empty, too. Indeed, even Al Gore’s lawyers – who saw nothing wrong with trying to squelch the votes of Americans serving in the military – failed to cite a single example of the allegedly “pervasive” disenfranchisement Democrats claimed had taken place. You always know something’s fishy when party hacks say one thing in front of cameras and another in front of judges.

Further, those who cite anomalies in the Florida 2000 vote that diminished the Gore count conveniently forget that the Gore camp worked tirelessly to ensure that overseas military ballots were excluded on the basis that they didn’t carry a postmark–even though overseas military ballots are never postmarked. Or that the television networks “called” Florida for Gore –incorrectly–an hour before the polls closed in the Florida Panhandle, which is on Central Time.

Goldberg argues that, while there has been hanky panky from partisans of both sides, there is a systematic difference in how it has been handled:

Now, obviously, the GOP is hardly pure on such matters. The reports that a firm in Nevada allegedly tore up the registration forms of Democrats and Independents is just one small example of how both sides play games with the rules. And, admittedly, in 2000, Florida Republicans did over-purge the rolls of felons. Yet during the same election, Democrats kept polling places in Missouri open late in Democratic precincts. And in South Dakota they probably stole the Senate election from the GOP by using the Indian vote “creatively.” Undeniably, both parties have played fast and loose.

But there’s a huge difference between the two sides’ tactics. The Republicans’ lawyers aren’t preemptively declaring the election is fraud if they don’t win. Simply put, they aren’t trying to undermine the legitimacy of the American political system. The Democrats – who constantly decry Bush’s “politics of fear” even as they warn of a draft and tell blacks they’ll be disenfranchised – have taken the position that a Bush victory is by its very nature proof of voter fraud. That is the Holder Doctrine. If all the votes are counted, Kerry wins. Period. If Bush wins, the votes must not have been counted.

Goldberg also calls our attention to a yesterday’s George Will column:

The campaign is culminating with reckless charges about the possibility — actually, the certainty; such is life — that there will be imperfections in recording perhaps 110 million votes. The charges are couched in the language of liberalism: much talk about voters’ rights, no talk about voters’ responsibilities and dark warnings of victimization — “disenfranchisement” and “intimidation.”


Punch cards, the Dispatch says, are “prone” to overvotes and undervotes “because so many things can go wrong.” For example, if “voters do not correctly insert the card into the voting device, the wrong holes can be punched.” But is it unreasonable to expect voters to perform those simple manipulations? Are they victims — disenfranchised — if they do not? Surely not in Ohio, where printed guides to punch-card voting are supplemented by instructional videos on the Internet and where instructions and instructors will be available at polling places.


In some Florida jurisdictions this year, electronic touch-screen voting machines will react irritably to undervotes. If a voter skips a choice on the ballot, a message — e.g., “You have not made a choice on this race” — appears on the screen three times. What more must be done to deal with the undervote problem — which often is not a problem but a sensible preference?

Should there be more severe prompts? The first might be: “I’m just a machine, but shouldn’t you be marking more boxes?” The second might be: “Hey, dolt — yes, you: The right to vote is precious, so even though you neither know nor care about a particular contest on the ballot, vote for someone — anyone — even if your vote is random.” Finally, the machine could threaten: “Cast more votes or you will wake up with a horse’s head in your bed.”


Both parties have a right–maybe even a duty–to take steps necessary to ensure that the votes of their supporters who are entitled to vote count. Monitoring ballots to ensure that they aren’t confusing, printing voter guides to inform their supporters, stationing poll watchers to ensure fairness, and similar measures are healthy for our Republic and quite welcome. The scorched earth tactics adopted by Democrats in the aftermath of the 2000 race, however, threaten to undermine our system.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Democracy, Political Theory, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    This is simply the Democrats knowing their boy’s gonna flub it, and knowing that, they react like true Democrats. Instead of finding the cause of the problem… like a lack of a viable candidate, good ideas, etc, they simply lok around for somewhere ELSE to place the blame.

  2. M. Murcek says:

    This is all very troubling. The potential long term or even permanent damage to the health of the republic is getting virtually no notice in the so-called mainstream press. It’s being treated as some sort of childish playground game, when in fact it’s the very soul of what has made out nation so successful for so long. I suspect the Founders would be very P.O.ed about all of this.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Oddly, there appears to be an unstated assumption that positively every single Republican vote has been counted accurately and that only Democratic votes have been miscounted, lost, or stolen. Folks, I live in Chicago. That just ain’t true.

  4. David R. Block says:

    Of course they want to count every vote. Especially the fraudulent ones. Most of the voter registration fraud stories that I have seen involve Democrats registering fraudulent voters.

  5. Bill says:

    Give it a break. Bush DID steal the election. It is a travesty of democracy that he was selected president while losing the popular vote. The electoral college should be abolished.

    After being in power for three years, do you really think he has not been figuring out the ins and outs of ways to manipulate the system. These guys fight a election like a war, but they have some success at elections.

    It will take an act of God for Kerry to win.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Bill: Bush DID steal the election. It is a travesty of democracy that he was selected president while losing the popular vote. The electoral college should be abolished.

    This is a non sequitur. It may be the case that the electoral system is a bad idea. It’s certainly undemocratic–although no more so than the U.S. Senate, which gives Alaska the same two votes as California. But Bush won by the rules as established in 1789 and followed in every subsequent election.

  7. Rodney Dill says:

    What did happen in 2000 was an attempted Coup of the legally elected administration by the Supreme Court of Florida (SCOFLA). It took the intervention of the United States Supreme Court to uphold the legal certified Florida elections (i.e. making sure that all the legally valid votes were counted).

  8. bryan says:


  9. Bithead says:

    It’s certainly undemocratic

    Should it be pointed out here that we are a representitive REPUBLIC?

  10. Rick DeMent says:

    …those who cite anomalies in the Florida 2000 vote that diminished the Gore count conveniently forget that the Gore camp worked tirelessly to ensure that overseas military ballots were excluded on the basis that they didn’t carry a postmark–even though overseas military ballots are never postmarked

    Of all the memes in regarding the Fla. Election this one really bothers me. Look, this is true, overseas military ballots are never postmarked. I concede that point, but Florida explicitly forbid counting absentee ballots without out a postmark. There was no provision or exception for overseas military ballots.

    Now whine all you want about this but trying to make the case that they should have been counted is changing the law after the ballots were cast. There is now way around that fact and arguing that it’s unfair or other such non-sense is monumentally hypocritical when that is what you all were accusing Gore of doing.

    Also the meme that Gore was cherry picking counties, again Florida law explicitly stated that the candidates could ask for recounts for any individual counties they wanted. Bush Filed suit to stop Gore from doing what Florida law explicitly allowed him to do. Again it was Bush, not Gore, who was trying to change the law after the ballots had been cast by preventing Gore from following state law. Ironically had Bush allowed Gore to count the votes in those three counties, Bush would have won despite Gores efforts.

    I’m not one of these who talk about a stolen election, there was no way Bush would have lost Florida’s EC votes for a number of reasons none of which were illegal but let’s just get the facts straight and cut out the spin will you.

  11. ken says:

    Bush is indeed our first illegitimate president. He was put into office by his party members on the US Supreme Court. That my friends is history.

  12. zz says:

    Sorry, but the popular vote is irrelevent given that we have an electoral college. And I guarantee you that the 2000 vote would have looked differently if we had a popular election for president, since voters for a party in states where the other party is dominant have less incentive to come out and vote knowing that all the electoral votes are going to go for another candidate anyway.

    Frankly, I think the electoral system is preferable to a pure popular vote. We conduct elections over a large geographic area. Weather conditions can vary with location and can effect turnout. The electoral system normalizes a state’s vote to their population. Another reason is that the presidential election is not the only item for vote on a ballot. Other elections or ballot measures in a given state can effect the turnout for that state. The electoral system normalizes the vote to eliminate the issue of turn out variation.

  13. skh says:

    “In 2000, Janet Reno – still the Attorney General – dispatched crack squads…”


    It is appalling that those with a paucity of knowledge in the areas of law and politics can assert as factual that:

    Bush is indeed our first illegitimate president. He was put into office by his party members on the US Supreme Court. That my friends is history.
    Posted by ken at October 23, 2004 02:28

    ken, it is all too easy to pull something out of your anal orifice and act professorial about it. Your partisan shillmanship is laughable.

  14. LJD says:

    It truly boggles the mind that Dems are still crying about 2000… and to date have done nothing about the electoral college they so loathe… Of course, if the electoral votes were in the favor of the Dems, I’m sure they would be all for it.

    The truth so easily ignored is that Gore attempted to steal the election, but was caught.

    Get ready to hear all of this again, in November. The Dems are incapable of loosing graciously. They claim to want democracy, but will do anything for their guy to win.