I feel better now. The 2004 presidential election was stolen. I thought this country had enough jerks to elect supporters of torture, illegal detention, warmongering, and profiteering. I thought there was no hope. But most people are neither evil nor crazy nor stupid. Democracy would have worked. The election was stolen.
The evidence summarized in Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Rolling Stone article overwhelmingly points to that conclusion. In the article, Ron Baiman, vice president of the National Election Data Archive and a public policy analyst at Loyola University in Chicago, is quoted as follows: ”’No rigorous statistical explanation” can explain the ”completely nonrandom” disparities that almost uniformly benefited Bush. The final results, he adds, are ”completely consistent with election fraud — specifically vote shifting.”’
The whole (long!) article is more than worth reading. It’s essential. As an example, I want to mention just one of an avalanche of facts presented. Exit polls these days err by less than one percent. Less than one half of one percent error is common. The pattern is consistent enough that exit polls are used to check for fraud in Third World countries. The difference between exit polls and actual results was 6.7% in Ohio, 6.5% in Pennsylvania, and 4.9% in Florida. All three discrepancies (among many more such discrepancies) favored Bush. The odds that all three of these states would have huge discrepancies, all on the same side, are one in 660,000, according to Steven Freeman, a lecturer in business methods and research methodology (i.e. including statistics) at the University of Pennsylvania.
Just for comparison, one in 660,000 is the same order of risk as that the only sizable asteroid being tracked (300 meter Apophis) which could hit Earth might do so over thirty years from now. You’re likelier to be hit by lightening. Expressed as percent, 1:660,000 is a 0.00015% chance. You can see why Baiman calls the result “completely nonrandom.”
The big question is how. How was the election stolen? Who did it? How were they coordinated? Surely, thousands of people would have had to participate. Surely, someone would have been caught by now. It seems so impossible that it’s hard to believe the facts shouting at us. I think this explains the media silence on the topic. It’s not some conscious cabal trying to throw the election to Bu$hCo (although there could be an element of that). It’s thousands of reporters and editors who don’t want to sound like they’re receiving instructions via the fillings in their teeth. Without proof, it’s just an accusation, and without any conceivable way of committing the crime, there’s no case. The media aren’t the only ones blinded by disbelief; so are (or were) most other citizens, including me. It can’t happen here, right? It just can’t.
So it’s worth thinking about how the election could have been stolen. Then we can take on board what has actually happened, and we can act against it in the future.
I think the hardest part about all this is how thousands, or at least hundreds, of people could work together without central instructions. In some cases there are clear indications of coordination, but there are also lots of cases where stuff just seemed to happen. Those are the ones that cause the disbelief problem.
But think about it. Thousands of people do the same things without central direction all the time. If they didn’t, advertising would be useless. If they didn’t, discrimination wouldn’t be a problem. All that’s needed for concerted action is a shared frame of reference.
Well, the Republican party recently has morphed into the party of winners. Winning is everything. Anything goes. Smear oppenents with hideous lies, invent wars at the right time for a “new brand” to pump up election year fervor, sell the whole government–not just measly individual congresscritters working on their own–to the highest bidder. The list goes on forever. From the top, we have an outlaw government. People take their tone from the folks at the top. So, if anything goes, and winning is everything, how hard is it to see that committed lineworkers might all bend the rules in the same direction?
They’d think that ballots needed to be “fixed” because they couldn’t have been filled out right. Or they needed to be disqualified because poor people, black people, college people, and smelly liberals are well-known hotbeds of dishonesty. Or those people needed to be checked very carefully, because they’re just the type to vote when they had no right to. And so on, across thousands of precincts. That could skew results. Without any problem.
What can be done about something so amorphous as a shared frame of reference? The U.S. was founded on the idea that if people had the facts, they’d vote intelligently, and the Founders seem to have gotten a lot of stuff right. The evidence–not just optimism, but events themselves–suggest that most people are neither evil nor crazy nor stupid. So, if they got good information, that could make a big dent in the problem. If not, there’s mounting evidence about just how effectively ignorance can be spread. Jamison Foser wrote an excellent article detailing media bias and how it shapes perception. Peter Daou has written several outstanding analyses of the problem. For instance Ignoring Colbert: A Small Taste of the Media’s Power to Choose the News, and Dynamic of a Bush Scandal.
That suggests three things to me. If we ever manage to get our government back, the first priority should be to change the media rules. There needs to be a truth in talk edict similar to truth in advertising. There needs to be a new and better way to implement the old requirement that one-sided coverage had to provide time for opposition response. And last, but not least, we need to put some muscle behind the prohibitions against hate speech. Demagogic talk shows, whether they happen in mosques or churches, television or radio, should not be given the huge bullhorn of taxpayer-financed airwaves, satellites, or fiberoptic cable. Yes, I’m aware that hate speech is so widespread that some of the most popular shows would be shut down. That’s exactly why they have to be shut down. Hate speech is a drug that democracy can’t afford.
Whatever the cure for the fix we’re in, finding and applying it is not optional. Without it, we’re not going to have government for the greatest good of the greatest number, but government for the greatest good of the greatest gangsters.
Update a couple of hours later: Wikipedia, “2004 U.S. presidential election controversy and irregularities”, as usual, is all over it. That article began right after the 2004 election, and has grown into something truly encyclopedic. The latest update was today.
Technorati tags: 2004 election stolen, Rolling Stone, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., election fraud