Kerry's "Disenfranchisement" Demagoguery
By Mark Landsbaum
January 21, 2005
So much for losing with dignity. Sen. John F. Kerry pandered to fringe elements and conspiracy nuts this week, while exploiting the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and charging that thousands of would-be voters were “suppressed” in the 2004 presidential election.
“We’re here to celebrate the life of a man who, if he were here today, would make it clear to us what our agenda is,” Kerry intoned to a Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast crowd of about 1,200 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Monday. “And nothing would he make more clear on that agenda than, in a nation that is willing to spend several hundred million dollars in Iraq to bring them democracy we cannot tolerate that, here in America, too many people are denied that democracy.”
“Thousands of people were suppressed in their efforts to vote,” claimed Kerry, who received a standing ovation. “Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans [went] through in 10 minutes. Same voting machines, same process, our America.”
What didn’t seem to occur to Kerry was that by his own admission, it was districts controlled by Democrats where the alleged “suppression” took place. The facts, however, are at odds with Kerry’s allegations of voter “suppression,” as was the case with similar allegations after the 2000 election.
Nevertheless, Kerry had primed the pump during the 2004 campaign for allegations of voter suppression to be made by continually and falsely repeating that millions of black votes were stolen in the 2000 election, something entirely disproved by post-election investigations.
This time under the eyes of legions of election lawyers and observers dispatched to Ohio, the pivotal state in 2004, Bush handily defeated Kerry there by 119,000 votes. As Peter Kirsanow, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, has noted, “The army of election lawyers and observers reported no major problems. The predicted calamities failed to materialize: no stolen votes; no harassment and intimidation; no widespread confusion.” Following the election, the commission’s staff reported nothing amiss. As Kirsanow observed, “When initial claims of disappearing votes, voter intimidation, and rigged ‘Republican’ election machines proved false, they tried to make the most of less-titillating claims that long lines, inadequate numbers of voting machines, and partisan election officials ‘disenfranchised’ voters.”
But Ohio voter turnout actually increased by 600,000 vote over the 2000 turnout, and the black vote rose by 25 percent. What may have irked conspiracy theorists even more is that President Bush’s percentage of the black vote in Ohio increased from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2004, and black votes cast for all presidential candidates increased more than 100 percent. Although there were long lines, they were not unique to Ohio or to black communities. And the allegations that Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had discarded, invalidated, and barred provisional ballots were baseless. Cleveland's liberal Plain Dealer newspaper reported that more than 75 percent of such ballots were deemed to be valid and counted, more than three times the percentage of provisional ballots counted in Kerry’s Massachusetts. Indeed, under Blackwell’s administration, Ohio had a higher percentage of provisional ballots than any other state.
Kerry previously had admitted in an e-mail message to supporters that not only had his own legal team found no evidence to alter the election outcome, but they also found no evidence of fraud.
Nevertheless, Kerry’s Martin Luther King Day speech was vintage Kerry, coming after others in his own party had fought – and lost – the battle over alleged voter irregularities. Only then did Kerry step forward to claim in effect that the losing side had been correct. Typically, Kerry let others make the argument, then he rushed in to declare victory despite their loss.
Even then the Kerry-come-lately blanket charges of voter “suppression” not only grossly overstated the evidence, but his own campaign had previously discounted the alleged irregularities’ effects on the election.
Less than two weeks earlier, Kerry’s Ohio legal counsel Dan Hoffheimer conceded that, “None of these problems (in Ohio) so far adds up to conspiracy or fraud or enough votes to change the outcome.”
True to his flip-flop reputation, it appears that Kerry was for making a big deal out of the baseless charges after he was against it.
Even Franklin County (Ohio) Democrat Party Chairman William Anthony characterized those alleging voter fraud as, “a band of conspiracy theorists.” Anthony, who is black, asked, “Why would I disenfranchise voters in my own community?”
As most Democrats had distanced themselves from charges of voter fraud, so too has the mainline press dismissed as nonsense the talk of conspiratorial voter manipulation.
“I have not seen any evidence that there was fraud,” Michigan Democrat Party Chair Mark Brewer said on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” The liberal Akron Beacon Journal editorialized, “The allegations being thrown around are of the flimsiest nature,” adding, “Not one shred of evidence has been presented to show that Ohio's strictly bipartisan system of running elections was manipulated. There isn’t any.” Similarly, The Plain Dealer editorialized, “Ohio’s effort was pretty close to the mark. The recount proved it.”
While the Democratic Party did not dispute the election results, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and a handful of Democratic representatives made a futile, symbolic challenge when Congress certified the election. But Kerry didn’t even bother to attend the session. At the time, Kerry was in Baghdad, speaking disparagingly about the Iraqi war effort at the very time U.S. troops were being killed while making it possible for Iraqis to freely vote.
Kerry, who campaigned on criticism of Bush Iraq policy, attacked what he termed the Bush administration’s “horrendous judgments” and “unbelievable blunders” in Iraq. Another chance at dignity drowned by small-minded partisanship.
Mark Landsbaum is a freelance writer, author and former award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter in Diamond Bar, California.