Back on November 2, the gubernatorial election was far from my major concern.
I spent much of election day following the exit poll leaks, buoyed by what appeared to be record voter turnout nationwide and stronger than expected support for John Kerry in several key states. But as the polls started closing, reality set it — Ohio, which seemed certain to break Bush’s back, inexplicably broke Kerry’s instead. I never went downtown to the big Democratic “victory” party, instead choosing to watch the defeat unfold at home. That night, alone in my despair I blogged:
I never accepted the legitimacy of W’s first administration and I will never accept the legitimacy of his second. At this moment, I cannot imagine being convinced that this was a free and fair election. Quite simply, I fear for our democracy.
To which HA received its first mention from the kind folks over at (un)Sound Politics; a short, smug, snide, and perhaps deserved dig: “Yeah, whatever, aluminum hat boy.”
We had no history at that point, and I thought Stefan could have shown a bit more empathy, allowing me a brief moment to sit political shiva. But I recognized his comment as the kind of sarcastic cut I might make, and so I took it in stride, and replied in a self-deprecating manner in Stefan’s comment thread. (At that point, I still believed him to be a reasonable person with whom one could have a reasonable and lively — if somewhat insulting — debate.)
As to Ohio? Well, I’ve barely followed it, and have hardly mentioned it here since… partly because I prefer to make accusations of election fraud based on hard facts, and partly because I got sucked into covering events back home.
Ironically, it turned out to be Stefan who sported a chronic case of helmut-hair from his mind-control-ray-blocking headwear.
Even before the election, the (u)SP folks were steeling themselves for defeat, bandying about the reassuring notion that the Washington state GOP’s dismal history at the polls was more a result of “distributed vote fraud” than actual rejection by the electorate. And from the very first prolonged vote count, Stefan and his fellow travelers quickly established themselves as the gubernatorial election’s leading conspiracy theorists.
From the 10,000 “mystery” absentee ballots that screwed up Stefan’s spreadsheet during the first count, to the military ballot hoo-hah, to enhanced ballots, to provisionals, dead people and felons, die-hard Rossi supporters have been snapping up (u)SP’s conspiracies like they were iPods. Meanwhile, I confidently sat back and waited for each new theory to be debunked — as they all have been — secure in the knowledge that most conspiracy theories remain just that.
See, the main problem with your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory is that it proposes an actual conspiracy… an exercise that typically proves to be considerably less daunting in theory than in practice. Conspiracies tend to be logistical nightmares. They require opportunity, planning, execution, and absolute secrecy. And above all, they require motive.
I’m not talking about the institutional motive of one party wanting to win an election over another… I’m talking about the individual conspirators, whose motives must be strong enough to balance the inevitable consequences of getting caught. For example, why would Dean Logan, a career civil servant, risk a lengthy prison sentence on behalf of Christine Gregoire? All ethical and moral considerations aside, we can assume that Logan would not participate in such a conspiracy unless the risk was small, the benefit large, and the objective achievable.
It is on that last point that I laugh off any suggestion that the improperly scanned provisional ballots are evidence of some organized vote fraud conspiracy, because it overwhelmingly fails the “why the fuck?” test, as in: “Why the fuck would you only stuff 660 ballots?”
Nobody expected this election to be anywhere near this close. If Gregoire had won by only 30,000 votes, surprised political pundits would have painted this a moral victory for Rossi and the Republicans, instantly marking Gregoire as vulnerable in 2008. But 129 votes? Get real.
Why bother risking the scandal of stuffing 400 or 600 or even 900 ballots when such numbers would have no reasonable expectation of impacting the election? Such a piddling conspiracy would be absolutely pointless without the hindsight we now have as to the extraordinary closeness of the actual results. And if anything, the Democrats were overconfident about the governor’s race.
Elections simply aren’t this close. Thus any conspiracy at the polls on election day would have to be massive to have any hope of impacting the outcome of a statewide election. Anything less would be just plain silly. I’m not absolutely precluding the possibility that somebody might be stupid enough to risk going to jail for stuffing a couple hundred votes in an election Gregoire expected to win by over 100,000… but it just doesn’t seem likely, does it?
So if you’re looking for corruption, it’s going to have to be of the official variety, and it would have had to occur post-election, during the recounts, by canvassing workers, election officials, even the canvassing board itself. And in the context of the recounts, people were looking for official corruption… and very carefully. Say what you want about the hand recount, but there is no arguing that it was an extraordinarily transparent operation, with bipartisan observers watching and participating in every detail. If Dean Logan managed to steal this election during the hand recount, without getting caught, then you’ve got to wonder what a fucking genius like Dean is doing in such a shit-ass job like his? A criminal mastermind like that should be selling tanker planes for Boeing… or working for Karl Rove… not sitting before the King County Council subjecting himself to misleading grandstanding from the likes of
Raymond Shaw Reagan Dunn.
The point is, conspiracies are a helluva lot easier to theorize than they are to execute (or disprove;) to borrow a phrase from President Bush, they’re “hard work.” And that’s ignoring the fact that most people — even Democrats — are basically honest… and that even the most dishonest folk are reluctant to so blatantly break the law knowing that each and every one of their actions would be subjected to such microscopic scrutiny.
So my confidence that official corruption is the least likely explanation for the outcome of this election is not based on a naive trust in public officials, but rather on the simple logic that anybody who would be stupid enough to have engaged in such a conspiracy under these circumstances would have to be too stupid to have gotten away with it. If fraud occurred, the evidence is there, and you can be damn sure Rossi’s attorneys and the BIAW would have discovered it by now.
Were mistakes made during this election? Absolutely! Were election officials sometimes not as forthright as they could have been? Perhaps… but then, if I was in their shoes I might have been just as cautious.
If Rossi can prove that irregularities and illegal votes cost him the election, then the results will be set aside. But he has absolutely no evidence of organized fraud or corruption, and for people like EFF President Bob Williams to be squawking on talk radio that Dean Logan is a “crook” who should be jailed, is downright inexcusable.
The scary part is, that despite all the logical inconsistencies, and despite the months of sleuthing that has failed to turn up a single shred of evidence of official corruption, there are still people that are absolutely convinced that Democrats, actively, intentionally, and illegally stole this election. And to them I say: “Yeah, whatever, aluminum hat boy.”