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Election 2000

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Time to Lawyer Up.

“Briefcase-to-briefcase, wingtip-to-wingtip, the legal emissaries of both Barack Obama and John McCain seem to be taking their cues from the 2000 election, which — according to some accounts — was either decided in a Florida skirmish known as the ‘Brooks Brothers Riot’ that ended the manual recount in Miami-Dade County, or — according to more mainstream accounts — in the august halls of the U.S. Supreme Court along crassly partisan lines. Ready or not, here they come.”

How can you tell when Election Day in America is right around the corner? Sadly, it’s when both the Dems and the GOP feel compelled to ready their respective battalions of lawyers. With that in mind, Slate‘s Dahlia Lithwick surveys the massing legal armies. “One can’t help but wonder what it says about public confidence in our voting systems, then, that despite our almost complete lack of faith in them, we will rely almost exclusively on lawyers to protect the integrity of this election.

Jeepers Veepers.

After Sen. Clinton gets toxic and ridiculous over Michigan and Florida — In a clear attempt to poison the well (and fire up the smoke machine), she compared the DNC’s decision to adhere to the rules she herself agreed to (when it suited her) to Election 2000, Zimbabwe, and the civil rights movement — her aides, fundraisers, and husband try to foist Sen. Clinton as Obama’s veep. But Rural Votes’ Al Giordano says hold up: “The Field can now confirm, based on multiple sources, something that both campaigns publicly deny: that Senator Clinton has directly told Senator Obama that she wants to be his vice presidential nominee, and that Senator Obama politely but straightforwardly and irrevocably said ‘no.’ Obama is going to pick his own running mate based on his own criteria and vetting process.

In the meantime, regarding delegates: Obama picked up two more Edwards delegates and supers Pilar Lujan (GU) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (CA) crossed paths switching (Lujan to Clinton, Cardoza to Obama.) Also for Obama since the last update: Rep. Jim Costa (CA), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT), and DNC members Scott Brennan (IA), Jenny Greenleaf (OR), and Wayne Dowdy (MS). (In the meantime, Clinton picked up 2 more UADs from Ohio and Massachusetts.) Thus, the most recent tally: Obama +7, Clinton +2. Sen. Obama is now 57 delegates away from the (current) magic number of 2025.

Bill gets frantic | About that poll…

Meanwhile, over in his corner of the campaign trail, Bill Clinton does what he can to poison the well further, saying — now that chances of a re-do have come and gone, of course — that the Obama campaign was “desperate to disenfranchise Florida and Michigan.” Sigh…at this point, you have to wonder about the man’s mental health. Well, since the former president insists on continually behaving like an asshat, with no regard whatsoever for the Democratic party or his historical legacy, it bears repeating once more:

  • Clinton supporters helped kill the Florida re-vote, as her campaign didn’t actually want another contest, just the illusory potential for one.

  • Once again, here’s Sen. Clinton on Michigan, last October, before she decided it’d be advantageous for her to count the state: “It’s clear: This election they’re having is not going to count for anything.

    And, if we really want to talk about disenfranchising voters, perhaps it’s time to revisit the Clinton team’s casino caucus lawsuit in Nevada, and Bill Clinton’s open shilling for it back in January.

    Honestly, it’s like they’re trying to beat us into submission through sheer, brazen, and unyielding idiocy. Mr. President, you will not be returning to the White House — deal with it.

    Update: Today’s poll about disgruntled Clinton and Obama supporters is getting a lot of run. Now, one one hand, this illustrates the problem with the Clintons’ “audacity of hopelessness.” Their continued spewing of often-ridiculous vitriol, even despite the fact that everyone from David Brooks to Obama Girl now knows its over, is only breeding more angry and aggrieved dead-enders among the Clinton ranks. (Then again, have the Clintons ever put the good of the party before themselves? Nope.)

    Still, to keep things in perspective, let’s look at the presumed defection rate in 2000: “In March of that year, the Pew Center for the People & the Press released a report titled ‘Bush Pays Price for Primary Victory.’ Following Bush’s victory in the 2000 primaries and McCain’s exit from the race, the Pew survey found that 51% of those who backed McCain during the primary campaign would vote for Gore in the general election. Only 44% of his supporters said that they would be casting their votes for Bush.” That purported 2000 defection rate is considerably higher than those causing consternation today. But, obviously that number didn’t hold up, or Gore would have been elected overwhelmingly in 2000.

    The point being, this poll doesn’t tell us anything about the situation in November, only that tempers are running high here in March.

  • Guess who’s back?

    “‘If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form,’ Nader said. ‘You think the American people are going to vote for a pro-war John McCain who almost gives an indication he’s the candidate for perpetual war?’” And with that on Meet the Press, consumer advocate Ralph Nader is back in the hunt for 2008. (That being said, he did have some relatively kind words for Sen. Obama: “Senator Obama is a person of substance. He’s also the first liberal evangelist in a long time. He’s run a brilliant tactical campaign. But his better instincts and his knowledge have been censored by himself.“)

    Now, this is a year where I definitely support Sen. Obama over Ralph Nader, and I hope that those voters who are thinking about pulling the lever for Nader do give Obama a long, hard look first. To my mind, as with John McCain (who might’ve been a decent president in 2000, particularly compared to the ultimate GOP alternative), Nader is now a candidate whose time has come and gone. That being said, I don’t know why we have to keep going over this, but Nader has every right to run, and, if people decide to vote for him over Obama, so be it. Nader’s potential votes are not and never will be the Democratic Party’s votes by fiat. They must be earned.

    Dredging up a stale (and rather whiny) Election 2000 talking point, TPM’s Josh Marshall today calls Nader “Bush’s Chief Enabler,” and that’s not only wildly off the mark, but symptomatic of a type of narrow, scapegoating impulse that speaks poorly of Democrats in general. As I noted at the time, Al Gore lost the election of 2000 for many reasons, even notwithstanding the Supreme Court endgame: Gore lost his home state of Tennessee. He tried constantly to distance himself from the still very popular Bill Clinton — I’m looking at you, Joe Lieberman — and even refused to send Clinton to places where he could easily have made the difference for Gore, like Arkansas and West Virginia. He gave some thoroughly terrible debate performances. (Remember the sighing?) He asked for a targeted recount aimed at helping him, rather than a full statewide recount. And so on. So blaming Nader makes very little sense. (As Nader himself pointed out today, every single third-party candidate got more than the 537 votes Gore needed in Florida.) Here’s the question I’d put to Marshall, Chait, and anyone else who keeps up this sad Blame-Nader meme long past its sell date: Even notwithstanding all the people who voted Dubya in 2000, why would you blame the 2% of voters who followed the process enough to vote third-party in 2000, rather than the 40% of Americans who didn’t even bother to vote?

    Now, with all that in mind, it’s interesting to look at Obama and Clinton’s respective responses to the Nader candidacy. First, here’s Sen. Obama. “I think anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers. And I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference” Speaking of Nader specifically, Obama said: “You know, he had called me and I think reached out to my campaign — my sense is is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work. Now — and by the way, I have to say that, historically, he is a singular figure in American politics and has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers. So in many ways he is a heroic figure and I don’t mean to diminish him. But I do think there is a sense now that if somebody is not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda, then you must be lacking in some way.

    Notice how Sen. Obama respects Nader’s decision to enter the race, and agrees that all votes must be earned. Then, while calling Nader a “heroic figure” who “done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers,” he makes the case that Nader might just be missing the forest for the trees this time. This is in keeping with Obama’s usual argumentative method and the reason why his talk of bipartisanship is more than just a soundbite. Obama begins a conversation by respecting his ideological opponent, explaining what he sees as valuable in their view, and then goes on to argue his position. It’s a much more encompassing, inclusive rhetorical strategy, which respects differences and doesn’t accuse people of acting solely in bad faith.

    [Update: At a campaign stop today, Sen. Obama pushed back on a Nader candidacy a little harder, saying: “I think his view is, unless you’re Ralph Nader, you’re not tough enough on any of these issues. He thought there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later, I think it’s obvious that he didn’t know what he was talking about.” Saying Nader was wrong in this regard, however, is not the same as saying the Bush presidency is Nader’s fault.]

    Which brings us to Sen. Clinton. Now, her antipathy to Ralph Nader is well-documented. (There was her off-the-cuff remark in 2000 that killing Nader was actually worth contemplating, and just today a “senior adviser to the Clinton campaign” said of Nader, “‘Loathe’ isn’t a strong enough word.“) So, here’s her response to Nader’s announcement: “His being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we could have had, and I think that’s really unfortunate. I think we paid a big price for it. I’m pretty sad about that…Well that’s really unfortunate. I remember when he did this before. It did not turn out very well for anybody, most especially our country.

    Notice there’s that nothing nice said about Nader’s 40-year-career as a consumer advocate here, or anything other than “shame” offered to those who might be drawn to his candidacy. Rather, Clinton just perpetuates the weak-sauce, scapegoating contention that Nader caused Gore to lose. Frankly, her answer — pass around the Nader-Haterade! — reeks of the same sense of entitlement that seems to propel her candidacy, based as it is on the notion that Gore deserved Nader’s votes just because he was the Democratic candidate. Besides being a rather undemocratic way of looking at elections, this is emphatically NOT the way to rally possible Nader voters to your standard.

    Fortunately, Sen. Clinton will be long out of the race before this really becomes an issue.

    Fair and Balanced in Florida.

    Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its audience to shift its voting behavior towards the Republican Party, a sizable media persuasion effect,’ said Stefano DellaVigna of the University of California at Berkeley and Ethan Kaplan of Stockholm University.” Also in the same vein, the Post‘s Richard Morin summarizes a new academic study on the “Fox News Effect”, which, according to its authors, may have “produced more than 10,000 additional votes for Bush” in Florida in 2000.

    Crossing Pombo’s Palm.

    The continuing probe into the Abramoff morass yields up more possible quid pro quo corruption, this time between mining firm lobbyist Duane Gibson and GOP Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA). “Last fall, Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy), chairman of the House Resources Committee, attached an amendment to a budget bill — without hearings or floor debate — that would have opened national forest and other public land to mining…Three months before Pombo inserted the amendment, Gibson and his lobbying firm had a $1,000-a-head fundraiser for the congressman.” As for Gibson, he — as you might expect — is a real class act: “In 2000, he was part of the so-called Brooks Brothers Riot in which young Republicans descended on the Miami-Dade County polling headquarters in Florida during the presidential recount, chanting ‘Stop the fraud!’

    A Righteous Wrath?

    Via Webgoddess, The paths of Charley, Francis, and Ivan cross-checked against Election 2000. Coincidence? Well, as Pat Robertson constantly reminds us, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

    Iowa Stubborn.

    Oh, there’s nothing halfway about the Iowa way to treat you when they treat you which they may not do at all. Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman plan to skip the Iowa caucus in 2004…I’d say that’s a smart call for Clark (my thoughts on Lieberman are below), given how Iowa treated Bradley and McCain respectively last time around — Bradley came in second after Gore’s debate lie (actually penned by my roommate at the time), while McCain had the sense to stay out in the first place.

    Resurgent Left Flank.

    The Washington Post surveys the revival of the Left. No new ground is broken in this article, and as I’ve said numerous times before, progressives and liberals are not the same creature (Pt. II), but it’s nice to see lefties back in the Democratic equation for the time being…let’s hope it lasts beyond the primaries. The protective camouflage Republican-lite strategy of the DLC may seem like a good battle plan at first, until one realizes that, by embracing the tenets of the right — even as diluted Third Way “centrism” — the Democratic party will be forever fighting on the GOP’s turf.

    Moreover, what the DLC consistently fails to understand is that swing voters care more about vision and integrity than they do about the left-right axis…hence McCain’s “Straight Talk” popularity last Presidential cycle. Many voters perceived in 2000 that Gore didn’t stand for much of anything (particularly after his schizophrenic debate performances), and soured on him – Thus, what should have been a Democratic cakewalk instead became close enough to create the conditions for the Bush-Harris-Scalia junta’s coup.

    Many people aren’t flocking to Howard Dean right now because he’s a hardcore lefty, because by his own admission, he’s not. They’re flocking to him because, unlike most other Dems right now, he has a clear, consistent vision, and without vision, the people – and the Democratic Party – perish. Whether it be progressive, liberal, libertarian, communitarian, what have you — the vision animating the Democratic party should come from the left, not from the poisoned well of the bigoted, money-gluttonous right.

    In sum, the left should not be browbeaten into right-lite submission by pandering DLC political careerists constantly invoking the spectre of George McGovern and 1972 – it’s time to be the party of Franklin Roosevelt and Robert Kennedy again.

    Update: Not two hours after I wrote this post, John Judis compares Dean to McGovern in Salon. I agree that Dean’s got some serious problems in the South, but, c’mon, y’all. It’s getting so that George McGovern has become the new Godwin’s Law among Democratic circles.

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