The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, August 22, 2003

American Short Memory Syndrome again

While the GOP has lately been gripped by the fantasy of world domination, the Dems, it seems, have their own daydreams going, on the general theme, We wuz robbed.

The Party of Treason, let it not be forgotten, for the best part of a hundred years an unholy alliance between the Scots-Irish-led one-party states of the South and the machine-manipulated North under the thumb of their Catholic fellow ex-Hibernians. Democratic was just their little joke.

All of that, apparently, is to be forgotten. Choose your Year Zero: Dems, it seems, tend to make theirs the advent of the Great Fornicator, the only Dem president, after all, that most of us have very many clear recollections of having seen on the nightly news. (What images does the average voter retain of Jimmy Carter whilst president: apart from the one where he's jogging and about to pass out, that is...)

A piece in Slate works the sleight of hand. It considers
  1. the Clinton impeachment;
  2. Bush-Gore in Florida;
  3. redistricting in Colorado and Texas; and
  4. the California recall.

The common factor, of course, is that the GOP in all of these have been exploiting the rules of the game. (Just as, in Texas, the state Dem legislators have, with their skipping the state every time the matter comes up.) I haven't looked; but I'd be very surprised if a good half of the rules of those four games were put in place by Dem majorities, or - as with the impeachment rules - before Honest Abe was a twinkle in his father's eye.

And considering that, in the glory days of the 20th century national Democratic Party - from 1932 to 1968 - most of Dem power was acquired illegally - or by operation of Jim Crow voting laws - I'd say that represents something of an improvement in the quality of political cleanliness!

(The piece refers to the 1960 election, in which Mayor Daley - father of Al Gore's mascot during his Florida travails (love the bird-flipping symbolism!) - swung the Illinois electoral college votes to Saint JFK with his crooked Cook County stuffed boxes. But strangely doesn't mention the fact! Not many (as I recall) popular votes in key states needed to have switched to Nixon for JFK to have needed those crooked Illinois EC votes.)

Now, as has often been pointed out in connection with the Davis affair, the recall, initiative and the like were introduced by Western insurgents (most of them Republicans!) in reaction to the cosy machine-led setup in the East (where GOP upstate politics were as compromised as the downstate Dem machines). (Perhaps Hiram Johnson and friends would have managed their coup against the Southern Pacific without the example of Wisconsin and the other insurgent states - more research needed!)

The zeal with which the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law has been circumvented - and that's not all GOP! - makes it clear that few practitioners take this sort of bleating seriously. The trickier the rules, the more scope for smart operators to make a killing - why else are the rules for Federal elections still governed (mostly) by state law?

Of course, the goat-getting sanctimony is part of the game, too. American politics are fun for all the family - and big bucks, too. Who's not loving that?

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