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Friday, November 12, 2004

Mysteries of Ohio

Now, when I was just a little boy
Standing to my Daddy's knee
My poppa said, "Son, don't let the man get you
Do what he done to me."

'Cause he'll get you.

Tickets to see John Fogerty tonight. Some of my friends have mocked me for this, but they're clueless. Besides, my horoscope today says they're troubled, and I'm not. I quote from the Gemini forecast in today's Washington Post: "You know what you want and it is eternal inner peace."

Inner peace. Hey -- I'd like a tall soy latte, a scone and eternal inner peace. Yes, I'd like whipped cream on that. Thank you.

Charles Krauthammer weighs in on the values debate today and sees Dems going overboard. Today's cautionary tale goes to the left:

Ten years and another stunning Democratic defeat later, and liberals are at it again. The Angry White Male has been transmuted into the Bigoted Christian Redneck. ...

Whence comes this fable? With President Bush increasing his share of the vote among Hispanics, Jews, women (especially married women), Catholics, seniors and even African Americans, on what does this victory-of-the-homophobic-evangelical voter rest?

Krauthammer notes that this just plays into the "conservatives-are-bigots" trope that allows the left to feel good about itself after it loses elections. Salve for the soul, but not a political strategy.

But that's not what I want to talk about. Ever since the election, I've been getting e-mail after e-mail about voter fraud in Ohio, which has been chronicled by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and few others until the past couple days. His blog, here, is worth reading. Recounts are still possible, and while the odds of it reversing the election are about nil, the weird reports out of Ohio and media reaction to it both give pause.

I've never seen a good explanation of why new electronic voting machines don't/can't leave a paper trail, and I can't fathom why people who make them wouldn't want one, especially in today's political environment. I mean, conspiracy theories are inevitable -- if you were Diebold wouldn't you, if for no other reason, at least want something solid to point at and say, 'This is it. Now shut up."? You're inviting attacks on your credibility, which can muddy a clean election by even raising the possibility of a conspiracy.

Meanwhile, given that all this is out there, it does seem like there could be more attention to it, but once again, media mechanics get in the way. Once Kerry conceded, the "Troubled Election" story was ruled "over." The reporters got sent back to wherever they were, and everyone wanted the Who's Next piece on who's going to be in the cabinet, etc. Meanwhile, lots of people in Ohio, and to a lesser extent Florida, were saying, 'wait!'"

Here's the deal: U.S. media are overreliant on officials as news sources. There are reasons for this. An official is an official, and considered a respected authority by the fountains of democracy, the voters. Non-officials are seen as more partisan and less accountable. American press doesn't want to be partisan, and they want accountable people in their stories -- ergo a bias toward officials. So when all the officials say the same thing, the press doesn't have much to hang its hat on. A notorious example of how this goes wrong was the runup to the Iraq war, when Saddam Hussein's WMD programs were taken as an article of faith by all Republican and a majority of Democratic officials. The naysayers tended to get pushed to the fringe in news stories as a result.

Same thing's going on here. Republicans, and mainstream Democrats, have reasons to move on -- it's the third parties carrying the ball on this one. And the tone of press reaction is consistent with similar situations, akin to how "history is written by the victors." It ain't a conspiracy, it ain't exactly dereliction of duty. It's how the free U.S. press has worked for centuries. Sometimes it works for better (keeping political smear rumors at bay, for example), and sometimes it works for worse. In Ohio, it appears to be working for the worse. But as of now, this blog will be tracking reports.