Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


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Voter Fraud & Wisconsin

“You constantly hear about voter fraud… but you don’t see huge amounts of vote fraud out there.” –Eric Holder (who doesn’t see huge amounts of executive integrity, either)

Romney campaign misleads Wisconsin voters with American flags. We’re on to you!

One of my favorite parts about being a reasonably well-liked Ivy League alumnus is that among many of my friends I am something of a token ambassador from conservative America. Military brats are a rare species in the liberal academies of the Northeast—even more so than those of us who regard sequestration, liberal antipathy to drones, or the College serving fried chicken and fake cornbread for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with polite horror—and folks who say “y’all” or prefer sweet tea and chivalry without irony blend as naturally as Eric Cantor in Manhattan. (By the way, when snow accumulates in the Northeast, one is actually expected to venture outside and function with uninterrupted normalcy. Yes, their cruel efficiency never sleeps.)

One of the many duties of a token conservative is to apologize to indignant liberals for all the alleged craziness of my fellow travelers in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Put another way, I am encouraged to remain up to speed on the latest left-wing talking points, dog whistles, and accusations of perhaps criminal extremism. The latest incident deals, as does so much of the drama in this cycle, with Wisconsin. Specifically, perennial hack-that-cries-wolf social justice chronicle Think Progress found what it presented as evidence of the Romney campaign training poll watchers to mislead voters, the “story” commenced the rounds on leftist blogs, and I got called to give account. So here it is.

Progress Senior Reporter Scott Keyes of Ohio leads with the case of ex-felon voters:

CLAIM: Any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” isn’t eligible to vote. (Page 5)

FACT: Once a person who has been convicted of a felony completes his or her sentence, including probation and fines, that person is eligible to vote.

The “probation and fines” point is key here, as it means paroled convicts who are ineligible to vote might show up to polls claiming otherwise. But conveniently enough, Wisconsin law requires that ex-felons receive notice, in writing, of their restored franchise when such point arises. This written confirmation is perfectly presentable to any poll worker, and there is no evidence of the Romney campaign instructing observers to confiscate, ignore, or otherwise reject these letters.

After quibbling over the semantics of an exhaustive list of acceptable proofs of residency, Mr. Keyes continues his case with alleged conspiracy to curb curbside voting for the disabled:

CLAIM: “If a handicapped voter is unable to come into the polls to vote, an assistant can deliver the ballot to the voter if the CEI verifies the elector’s proof of residency.” (Page 10)

FACT: Under Wisconsin law, the CEI (Chief Election Inspector) does not have to verify proof of residency so long as the voter is registered.

A more accurate description of the actual policy is:

Curbside voting is available if a voter cannot enter the polling place due to disability on Election Day. Photo ID must be provided. Proof of residence must be provided if you are not registered. Two poll workers will bring a ballot to the individual needing assistance, and conduct voting at their vehicle, or at the polling place entrance.

As you can see, the point about the CEI is misleading. The identifying information must be verified, and then poll workers will assist.

This brings us to the last “fact-check” against the Romney operation:

CLAIM: “Election Observers should not assist [voters].” (Page 10)

FACT: A voter can ask for assistance from anyone, including a poll watcher, so long as the voter initiates the request and does not engage in electioneering.

I hope you’ll forgive the effrontery of noting that the campaign never says observers “cannot” assist voters, only that they should not do so. Given the whole do “not engage in electioneering” bit, it would follow that internal advice would aim to shield the campaign’s observers from charges of voter tampering. As the campaign notes, voting assistants must leave all their personal information alongside the assisted voter, and it is not unreasonable to expect that any kindness rendered by its affiliates would later be held against an interested campaign.

To be sure, politics is messy and sometimes people engage in dubiously scandalous or illegal behavior. Just recently, an Obama campaign staffer in Texas was caught trying to help someone vote twice. Elsewhere in the Old Confederacy, the Florida Democratic Party is under investigation for voter fraud and three Arkansas Democrats were arrested for it. Perhaps Keyes’s article is just another salvo in the eternal battle of accusations between pots and kettles.

At any rate, I wouldn’t extrapolate from any of this that the Obama campaign and allied Democrats are trying to steal the election (though I’m sure others will and are), unless I find really compelling evidence of a deliberate, systemic hostility to the integrity of the voting process.

Remember your ID at the polls!

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Bonfire of the Principles

“And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter.” –The New Yorker

The Left’s takeaway from the second presidential debate.

What are the signs of a campaign coming unhinged?

We’re nearing the home stretch, the last debate is tonight, and our collective nerves shriek at the yawning chasm of weeks between now and that first Tuesday of Standard Time. A song of desperation has reverberated through the partisan games since the waning days of summer. Back then, the prominent notes were “tax returns”, “Voter I.D.”, and, of course, “fear of a black president”. The tax returns served as a foil to the Buffet Rule fantasy in which the Left pretended that our fiscal problems can be solved by revenue. The voter I.D. reporting served as a coordinated exercise in willful miscarriage of reality—it takes obdurate aplomb to call racist a position favored by 65% of blacks and 64% of Hispanics. That discussion also conveniently fed into the tritely disingenuous narrative of conservative bigotry, which has fueled much sententious verbosity throughout the race.

Even beyond the predictable amalgamation of deceit and blame regarding the Obama record, the debate season has seen new heights—or lows—of rabid opposition as the Left circles the wagons. Mitt Romney details a methodology to alleviate a paucity of women in the workplace, and he is met with derision from the very people who presumably want more efforts to support women in the workplace. At the risk of stating the obvious, going out of your way to find qualified candidates from groups underrepresented in the work environment is the spirit of affirmative action. Since when were liberals opposed to that?

Romney goes on to implicate communal dysfunction in trends of social decay, including gun violence, and suggest that mitigating these evils would reduce that violence and dysfunction:

“What I believe is we have to do as the president mentioned towards the end of his remarks there, which is to make enormous efforts to enforce the gun laws that we have and to change the culture of violence we have. And you ask, how are we going to do that? And there are a number of things. He mentioned good schools. I totally agree…and I believe if we do a better job in education, we’ll — we’ll give people the — the hope and opportunity they deserve, and perhaps less violence from that.

But let me mention another thing, and that is parents. We need moms and dads helping raise kids. Wherever possible, the — the benefit of having two parents in the home — and that’s not always possible. A lot of great single moms, single dads. But gosh, to tell our kids that before they have babies, they ought to think about getting married to someone — that’s a great idea because if there’s a two-parent family, the prospect of living in poverty goes down dramatically. The opportunities that the child will — will be able to achieve increase dramatically.”

Liberals pounced. A firestorm of commentary accused the governor of going off the rails for blaming gun violence on “sluts” and single parents (they even threw in parenthetical racism for good measure). What seemed to be lost in most of this fury—beyond the proven correlation between broken homes and crime—was the substance of President Obama’s own comments, which immediately preceded Romney’s:

“But I also share your belief that weapons that were designed for soldiers in war theaters don’t belong on our streets. And so what I’m trying to do is to get a broader conversation about how do we reduce the violence generally. Part of it is seeing if we can get an assault weapons ban reintroduced, but part of it is also looking at other sources of the violence…And so what can we do to intervene to make sure that young people have opportunity, that our schools are working, that if there’s violence on the streets, that working with faith groups and law enforcement, we can catch it before it gets out of control?

And so what I want is a — is a comprehensive strategy. Part of it is seeing if we can get automatic weapons that kill folks in amazing numbers out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But part of it is also going deeper and seeing if we can get into these communities and making sure we catch violent impulses before they occur.”

In other words, the president has the same kind of general communal prescriptions for reducing gun violence as Governor Romney. Obama even wants faith groups involved! Moreover, then-Senator Obama made a variation of this same pitch to the NAACP back in July 2008. So what’s the principled objection to any of this from the Left?

That’s actually a question. I haven’t a clue.

It would seem the allies of Obama are running on the last sputtering fumes of Hope, throwing every stick, stone, and word they can find at a rising opposition. From embarrassing Big Bird to ridiculing affirmative action to pretending they’re not enabling the perpetuation of Bush-era security policy, to imagining the economy isn’t a liability, the Left is flailing for a lifeline, and Candy Crawley is nowhere in sight. After this last debate, will Team Obama cling to comically ancillary disputes and awkward wording, or will they have answers for why we should entrust the president with another four years of American time?

I guess we’ll see.


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Identify the Vote

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” ―Oscar Wilde

I got my first card from the U.S. Department of Defense in 1999. I was far too young for whiskey or cigars, but it came in handy for occasional trips to the Commissary, the Post Exchange, my school, or even to get home. In 2001, the Department of State issued me a passport ahead of my family’s relocation to Germany. I used it to cross the English Channel and for a few international flights. By the time I got to Yale, which gave me yet another ID card, I had a driver’s license from the State of Florida (since traded for one from Virginia). Four IDs, one man. Guess I was popular with the bureaucrats.

In more than 30 states, new voting laws are stirring partisan rancor. Current and proposed requirements range from none—including some vetoed (e.g. N.C. & Minn.) or ruled unconstitutional (Wisc.)—to photo-optional to particularly strict photo standards in five states. The GOP claims to be preventing fraud it can hardly find; Democrats argue 750,000 voters will be unable to vote in Pennsylvania alone. Throughout the South—where Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina are courting federal preclearance (as is New Hampshire)—the laws are being compared to Jim Crow, as many critics see a concerted effort to disenfranchise minorities and the poor. Nevertheless, most people favor voter ID laws. What ought a reasonable person to make of all this?

While I was growing up in the Army, the cards were free and ubiquitous, and they did what they were supposed to do. I doubt it’s feasible to standardize voting laws across the states, but two lessons from the military community seem broadly applicable:

1) It is reasonable to require reliable identification to access restricted activity.

1a) Voting is (supposed to be) a restricted activity and a fundamental right.

2) Reliable identification ought to be provided to anyone entitled access to some restricted activity.

Put simply, we should require IDs at the polls, and state governments should make sure all registered voters can attain IDs with reasonable ease or avoid the requirement. As it happens, many states, including Georgia and Virginia (both already precleared), already do this. I suppose some on the Left will nonetheless maintain that these laws persecute the poor and the brown among us. But while some concerns are reasonable and noted, the audacious claim that these common-sense checks are everywhere malignant strains credulity even more than Hank Johnson’s continued presence in Congress.

The expectation that registered voters acquire proper identification is no more cumbersome than requiring that they leave their houses in order to vote. If the response is that certain demographics will not read their mail or otherwise notice new laws—and thus be disproportionately harmed—then I wonder how we expect these people to know where to vote, let alone for what. After all, voting locations change and redistricting happens. Are we actually to believe a sizeable portion of the electorate is impervious to information? If so, to what end are we to move heaven and earth—and their unidentified souls—to drag such ignorance to the polls? And how are we to do so?

Then again, I don’t know anybody—young, old, black, white, poor, brown, or other—who completely lacks identification. I’m just a middle-class guy from the suburbs. What do I know?