Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sabotaging voters' rights

Express Staff Writer

When intelligent campaigning fails, what tool is dusted off at the 11th hour to defeat the winning candidate? Of course, dirty tricks aimed at depriving or discouraging the most important rite of citizens—voting.

The weasels are at work again, recycling old tricks, inaugurating a few new ones, most in one way or another based on the fear tactic used for the past eight years by the Bush political machine. No coincidence, either, that the targets usually are minorities.

Americans who hope better for their country should be disgusted.

At least 75,000 Jewish voters in Pennsylvania were deluged with e-mails comparing a vote for Obama to the "tragic mistake" of Jews who debunked dangers of the World War II Holocaust. Not very effective, though. A poll released Monday showed 70 percent of American Jews will vote for Obama.

Fliers saturated Philadelphia black neighborhoods warning voters they'd be arrested at the polls if they had unpaid parking tickets. In Virginia, fliers with an authentic-looking state seal informed voters two elections would be held—on Tuesday for Republicans, on Wednesday for Democrats, to avoid long lines.

Nevada Hispanics reported receiving calls from persons claiming to be Obama volunteers and asking them to vote over the telephone.

Perhaps the most unseemly of all came from President Bush's favorite evangelical, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family Action, who posted on the Internet a "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America," a speculative apocalypse of gun confiscation, nuclear annihilation of Israel, Boy Scouts disbanding because of court orders to hire gay scoutmasters and more—a document designed to terrify Christian conservatives away from voting for Obama.

What sort of Americans are these people who believe poisoning voters' attitudes with lies and dirty tricks is a responsibility to their country's democratic processes? Are they the "real Americans" the McCain campaign has so often hailed, versus undefined "others"?

The prospect of a black president is unthinkable to many white Americans because of atrocious myths and scurrilous legends propagated by racist politicians over the years. But Obama may be even scarier to the white supremacist mentality—an extraordinary student, lawyer and U.S. senator whose quick connection with average Americans has propelled him further and faster than any white public figure in generations, prompting comparisons to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Kennedy.

Obama's powerful influence on politics has ignited a historic surge of voter registrations, especially among Hispanics and African Americans, suggesting a rebuke to and defiance of scaremongers who in the past have successfully used muscle and deceit to keep minorities from voting.

Change, indeed.

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