Thursday, July 01, 2004

Take the slap

(My apologies for the infrequent postings; my work with Campaign 101, grassroots campaign training for high school and college students, is demanding a huge time commitment right now. Life, leisure time, and blogging should all return to their normal schedule sometime after the training concludes July 11.)

The president of a Virginia-based Republican consulting group pleaded guilty yesterday to jamming Democratic phone lines in several New Hampshire cities during the 2002 general election.
...Raymond plotted with unidentified co-conspirators to jam Democratic Party telephone lines established so voters could call for rides to the polls in Manchester, Nashua, Rochester and Claremont. Manchester firefighters'’ union phone lines also were affected.

The jamming involved more than 800 calls and lasted for about 1 ½ hours on Nov. 5, 2002, the day New Hampshire voters went to the polls to decide many state and federal races, including the closely watched U.S. Senate race between outgoing Gov. Jeanne Shaheen and then Congressman John Sununu. Sununu, a Republican, won the race.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo was onto this story back in February 2003 and has the scoop on who the players are. also has a February story that follows the money.

And Besty Divine documents the GOP attempts at a cover-up.

. . .

The real story here is the fundamental difference between how Republicans and Democrats operate.

Democrats bend over backwards to operate within not just the letter but also the spirit of the law. We leave the gloves on, ask permission first, and when permission is denied we just stop dead in our tracks.

The Republicans dropped the spirit of the law ages ago. (Geneva Convention, anyone?) The push the boundaries of the letter of the law, and more than that, they throw the law books out the window if they think they can get away with it. And, as more and more of the governing bodies are dominated by Republicans, they know they can be outrageous because their own team is not going to call them to task. We see this on the local, state, and national level; and, with the Bush administration, we see a blatant disregard for law at the international level.

Democrats ask for permission; Republicans ask for forgiveness.

(At least, that's what I would have said a few years ago. When was the last time anyone heard a Republican ask for forgiveness?)

Republicans do whatever the hell they want, and they take the slap if they get caught.

Look at the New Hampshire story. Low-level operatives may get fined, or may go to jail, for jamming phone lines or setting the scam in motion. The real crime is that Republican John Sununu "beat" Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in a Senate race that was not a clean election--but we are stuck with the tainted election results. Who goes to jail for that crime? And who is going to make it right?

Let me be very clear. I do not advocate that Democrats adopt the Republican's dirty tactics. I do not advocate that Democrats break the law. I do not advocate election-tampering or voter suppression of any kind.

I do, however, applaud Raymond Buckley, and the other NeHampshirerDemocratscs, who fought for two years for this investigation.

And I do advocate, very strongly, with all my heart, that Democrats forget about BEING NICE. For gawd's sake, we have a war criminal in the White House who was not elected by the people, whose administration is looking for ways to cancel the next election. How much higher can the stakes get?

Faced with a choice between being "nice" and being "effective," it is high time to decide to be winners over gentlemen.

The Democrats need to take a page out of Buckley's book, and prosecute all GOP legal transgressions to the fullest extent of the law, hit them with the highest fines, put them out of business, saddle them with criminal records.

  • BTW, you can send a congratulations note to the New Hampshire Democrats by clicking here.

    Let's face it: we are practicing politics on an uneven playing field. We abide by the rule book, and they don't.

    So sometimes, when the rules are grey, and we have to decide between asking forgiveness or risking the slap, for gawd's sake take the slap.

    Rove Republicans vs Democrats look like Ghengis Khan vs. the Presbytarian Lady's Auxiliary.

    There is a certain righteousness in some Democratic circles, that we are nicer, more law-abiding, more genteel.

    Who cares?

    We can be gentlemen losers all the live long day, and feel quite pure and holy about it, but we aren't the people who pay the price. The real losers, the people who bear the cost for our inability to adapt to a changing political ecosystem, are the everyday Americans we are supposed to be fighting for: the kids who can't get jobs in closed factors so they ship out to die in Iraq for George Bush's folly; the people losing their cars and their family homes because in Bush's economic recover, their telecom middle management job has been replaced by three different jobs flipping burgers, washing cars, and cleaning schools at night; the schools facing funding crises and the students in leaky trailers with books older than they are; the veterans who fought in 1 or 2 or 3 wars and struggle to get by despite Bush's cuts to theiretirementnt benefits.

    These people don't have the luxury of losing any more. They are up against a wall of despair and poverty and indigence and disenfranchisement.

    We need to win, for them.

    And in a system where the opposition plays dirty, with unconstitutional recalls of legal elections, with unconstitutional redistricting, with a rigged Supreme Court, and with a standard playbook that includes vote suppression and election tampering, we need to play harder, meaner, more strategic.

    Maybe, one day, we can play again for the love of the game. But today, Democrats need to play to win.

    And sometimes, if that means taking the slap...let's's take the slap.
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