. Richard Nixon - Who can tell a story of dirty Republican election tactics without first mentioning the modern day grandfather of slimy politics; “Tricky” Dick Nixon?
While Watergate is the most famous of GOP election scandals, it’s arguably the least interesting. Some of Nixon’s operatives broke into the Democratic campaign headquarters. They got caught. Some went to jail. Nixon was forced to resign in shame. By today’s standards, it sounds downright pedestrian, but at the Presidential level, it’s the only such scandal that had real accountability.
Nixon didn’t manage to steal that election, but not for lack of trying. Oh, but not so fast. In 1968, during the height of the Vietnam war and predating Watergate, Nixon committed a small crime we call treason. The achilles heel of then President Lyndon Johnson was the war. Nixon negotiated with the South Vietnamese to stay out of peace talks, at least until Nixon was in charge. They succumbed to his pressure and the war went on longer than probably necessary.
For those of us who are Obama supporters and political junkies, it’s tempting to grab the popcorn and watch an implosion that could be the envy of Hollywood action directors, but as in Hollywood, it wouldn’t be drama if the hero (or villain) didn’t have a last-minute plan, and if Republicans are known for anything, it’s their 11th hour, 59th minute talent for electoral shenanigans.
Just in case you or your friends are thinking this election is in the bag and are tempted to stay home, allow me to regale you with a cautionary tale, one of theft, manipulation and even international intrigue and–dare I say–treason. Just because the GOP chose a yawner of a Presidential candidate doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining.
2. Ronald Reagan – The GOP’s poster boy for all that is good with America. He was charming, clean cut, handsome (all this according to my then swooning grandmother). He was full of optimism, hope, and boy, could he give a speech.
1980 was a tough year for Democrats. President Jimmy Carter was viewed as weak and ineffectual. The economy was suffering a double whammy of high unemployment and high inflation. By the time voters hit the polls, prices were rising at a rate of over 13% a year. Currently, our inflation rate is very low, at less than 2%.
Perhaps even more importantly, almost exactly a year before the election, the American Embassy in Iran was taken hostage by students.
3. George W. Bush – Bush 43 might be our most illegitimate President ever (and I’m including Gerald Ford, who was never elected to either Vice President or President). In 2000, the Supreme Court overrode the state of Florida to install Bush as President. Even if the five conservative justices hadn’t decided that Bush should become President, the Republican party was busy making sure that Democratic votes didn’t get counted.
You would think an incumbent wouldn’t feel the need to cheat, but if there was one thing that the Bush administration learned from the Nixon administration, it was that they should always buy insurance. In this case, it was Ohio in 2004. Before the election, Walden O’Dell, CEO of Diebold (one of the electronic voting machine companies) said he was, ”committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” O’Dell and Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State colluded to lock other voting machines out of the election. Exit polling showed that Bush’s competitor, John Kerry, should have won Ohio. Its 20 electoral votes would have given Kerry the election.
4. Barack Obama – No, he’s not a Republican and I’m not implying in any way that he stole the 2008 election, but there is absolutely no doubt that Republicans will be screaming “ACORN, ACORN – they registered Mickey Mouse!” Well, they did register Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and every other name that people outside of grocery stores pulled out of their smart asses, but Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck never got to vote. All organizations that registered voters are required by law to accept every registration. They are also required to report suspicious registrations, which ACORN did. The false registrations were quickly eliminated.
The real problem behind ACORN, of course, wasn’t about fictional characters who never made it to the polls, it was about the legitimate voters they were registering, African-Americans; people who vote Democratic. In the end, the GOP Mickey Mouse scheme worked. ACORN’s funding was pulled and they were forced to close their doors.
5. Mitt Romney – Obviously, we don’t know all the tricks up the GOP’s sleeve in this election, but they are numerous and undemocratic. Republicans are doing everything in their power to ensure that minorities, the poor, the elderly and the young are going to have a difficult time voting. Tactics range from requiring only certain photo IDs at the voting booths to restricting voting times and locations. The Brennan Center is reporting that the changes could affect up to five million people and up to 127 (out of a necessary 270) electoral votes. While some of the affected states will vote Republican, down ballot contests, like Congress and local legislatures, are at risk. Some of the states, like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, are considered swing states.
A quarter of a billion dollars have been spent so far in this election, the vast majority of it geared toward defeating Obama. Anti-Obama pockets are deep. The Koch brothers wouldn’t be throwing money at a candidate without at least a possibility he would win. At this point, all official polls, especially the all-important electoral polls, show that Romney has little to no chance. What do the Super PAC donors know that pollsters don’t?
As a last resort, there’s always treason. Was the release of the now infamous anti-Muslim movie trailer coincidental? Perhaps we’ll never know. Were the attacks on the US Consulate in Libya truly planned by Muslim terrorists? Again, we may never know. It might be far-fetched to pose the events in the Middle East as conspiracy theories, but Republicans have proven that they aren’t above sacrificing human lives and national security, all to win an election. As a game changer, if the unrest can be traced to a cynical ploy to try and sway an election, it has had little effect on Obama but Romney’s premature criticism of the Obama administration seems to have given him a lasting scar. With October just a few days away, it’s not difficult to imagine another pre-election surprise.