Entries from December 2000

2000 Voter Fraud A Decidedly Nonpartisan Offense

David Frum December 7th, 2000 at 12:00 am Comments Off

If
it were up to the District of Columbia government, I’d be a registered D.C.
voter. That sounds reasonable, except for this: I’m a Canadian citizen.
Nevertheless, when I moved into the district and signed up for a D.C. driver’s
license, I was invited under the Clinton administration’s “motor
voter” law to register to vote. To get the license, I needed to produce
proof of residencyÊ–Êin my case, the deed to my house. To get the
vote, I wasn’t asked for anything at all. If I had not told the registrar
myself of my ineligibility, the permanent Democratic majority in the nation’s
capital would have been shaved by one.

Keep
that story in mind as Democratic lawyers argue that absentee ballots in
Seminole County should be discarded because Republican officials filled in
incomplete information by hand on their registered voters’ ballot applications.
(The Democrats had done the same thing by preprinting their voters’ applications
and then sending the application to the voters for them to mail in.)

According
to the Miami Herald, at least 445 disqualified felons cast ballots in Palm
Beach County. An unknown but substantial number of non-citizens appear to have
voted in Miami-Dade: The “motor voter” law that nearly enfranchised
me seems to have succeeded in enfranching many hundreds of thousands of other
non-naturalized aliens nationwide.

In
1996, Vice President Al Gore oversaw a hasty naturalization program that added
1 million aliens to the voter rolls before their criminal records could be
checked. After the election, it turned out that at least 18,000 of them had
been convicted of crimes that made them ineligible for citizenship.

Voting
by non-naturalized citizens appears to occur most often in California: In 1996
in Orange County, Democrat Loretta Sanchez upset Republican Bob Dornan in a
congressional race in which activist Hispanic organizations conducted
registration drives among non-citizens. But other kinds of fraud occur
nationwide. In northeastern cities, candidates pay “walking around”
money to precinct leaders to distribute to potential supporters. In St. Louis
only this year, municipal Democrats kept the polls open longer than permitted
by state law, helping the Democratic ticket to rack up the votes it needed to
offset Republican majorities in the rest of the state. And of course the last
Miami mayoral election was overturned in the courts because absentee ballot
fraud corrupted the results.

Now
of course it’s possible that some of these improperly registered people vote
Republican. But the vast preponderance support the Democrats: In fact, 80
percent of the 445 vote-casting Palm Beach County felons were registered as
Democrats.

For
the last month, Gore supporters have complained that the antiquated voting
machinery in the country’s most strongly Democratic counties and cities may
have cost their man the election. Quite possibly that’s true. But it’s also
true that this same antiquated machinery — and the lax procedures that govern
the use of that machineryÊ–Êaids the voter fraud that in years past
Democratic candidates have exploited.

This
election proves that America needs new voting machines. But the country also
needs a new voting ethic, one more intolerant of fraud, chicanery and
illegality. It should not be regarded as a civil rights offense — as it now is
— for voting officials to demand identification and proof of citizenship at
the polling place. Vote-buying should not be shrugged off as some romantic legacy
of the 19th century: It should be investigated and prosecuted. Local officials
who refuse to cooperate with state programs to purge the voter rolls of
ineligible votersÊ–Êas the Palm Beach County Democrats
refusedÊ–Êshould be liable for prosecution.

In
the meantime, every Democrat who appears on the cable chat shows to express
shock about the infractions of Seminole County should be asked to explain how
he managed to contain his outrage about voter fraud in years past.

Nobody
has alleged any fraud in Seminole. Nobody has alleged that the people who voted
were ineligible to vote or that they were paid to vote or that they did not
cast their ballots themselves. Compared with the Democratic counties of
FloridaÊ–Êand the nationÊ–ÊSeminole looks as clean as
Switzerland.

Back To The 1880s

David Frum December 4th, 2000 at 12:00 am Comments Off

"Their
gravely vacant and bewhiskered faces mixed, melted, swam together. Which had
the whiskers, which had the burnsides: which was which?"– Thomas Wolfe >

George
W. Bush wants to reinvigorate American education, and he has already partly
succeeded. Over the past three weeks, the country has been treated to a
non-stop television seminar on the elections of 1876 and 1888. The bearded men
who presided over the United States in the late 19th century once seemed as
indistinguishable as the Smith Brothers on the cough drops. Suddenly their
names are being bandied about with easy fluency on MSNBC and CNN.

Those
old elections are interesting, though, not just because they offer curious
coincidences to fill the long cable hours between actual news events. They
provide real insight into the workings of the American two-party system — and
some clues about the meaning of the 2000 election.

In
the century from 1896 to 1992, one or the other party held a clear advantage in
presidential politics: first the Republicans, then the Democrats, then the
Republicans again. In 1992, the long spell of Republican dominance that began
in 1968 came at last to an end. This is a painful fact to admit, and many of us
refused for a long time to admit it: We shrugged off Bill Clinton’s 1992 win as
the lucky side effect of a split in the natural Republican presidential
majority and explained away 1996 as a referendum on peace and prosperity. The
real news, we told ourselves, was the big congressional sweep of 1994 — a
sweep that portended, or so we imagined, a new era of conservative governance.
All they needed was a decent presidential candidate, and for the first time
since the Eisenhower administration, Republicans could look forward to control
of both houses of Congress and the presidency at the same time.

So
much for that. But if Republicans have lost their grip on the presidency,
Democrats have not regained theirs. In 1980, 1984, and 1988, Ronald Reagan and
George Bush won a combined average of 54.3 percent of the vote. In 1992, 1996,
and 2000, Bill Clinton and Al Gore won an average of only 47 percent. If the
Republicans have lost their old governing majority, the Democrats have failed
to build a new one.

It’s
this lack that makes the 1990s look so much like the 1880s.

Elections
with clouded outcomes — those that are very close (with the two parties within
one percentage point of each other’s share of the popular vote), those whose
winner fails to clear 50 percent, and those in which the winner of the popular
vote cannot muster a majority of the Electoral College — are rare events in
American politics. Between 1876 and 1892, there were five such elections in a
row:

These
are the two longest strings of inconclusive elections in American history. The
elections were close because the country was so divided: in the 1880s by the
memory of civil war, in the 1990s by the aftereffects of culture war.

In
the 1880s, the Republicans were from 1896 to 1930? Each party is hunting
desperately for it: the Democrats with their New Democratic Third Way, the
Republicans with "compassionate conservatism." The verdict of 2000 is
that neither has yet found it.

And
it may be that the two parties are hindered in finding it by the very
historical parallels that set them looking for a McKinley synthesis in the
first place. The lesson of the stalemate of the 1880s is not that economic
issues trump cultural issues. History does not repeat itself so neatly. The
lesson is, rather, that cultural animosities linger until something new arises
to dispel or displace them. The advent of industrialism was that something in
the 1890s, and with it the Great Immigration: Between 1880 and 1920, some 24
million people untouched by the Civil War arrived in the United States. Their
children and grandchildren gravitated toward the Democratic party, but they
also transformed it, erasing its Confederate taint, propelling it instead
toward European-style social democracy.

Perhaps
the advent of the Information Age will have a similar effect on American
politics, creating a new class of "wired workers" with their own
distinctive interests and values. Al Gore apparently expected this, and while
it didn’t happen in 2000, it may yet transpire in some future election.
Alternatively, Peter Brimelow and Ed Rubinstein argued three years ago in National
Review that the second Great Immigration of
the 1980s and 1990s is decisively tilting the political balance to the
Democrats. That didn’t happen this year either, although it is true that Bush
would have beaten Gore by one percentage point in the popular vote if only
blacks and whites, and no Asians or Hispanics, had voted in 2000.

More
probably, though, the something that will jolt the country out of its
eight-year stalemate remains as yet unseen: some new crisis, some new leader,
some new generational experience. And if the twenty years of deadlock that followed
Reconstruction are any guide, it may not arrive anytime soon.