Related Opinion
Related Topics
Polls

President Bush Job Approval

RCP Average
Approve:36.8%
Disapprove:58.0%
Spread:21.2%
Send to a Friend | Print Article


The Incredible Shrinking Credibility of RFK, Jr.

By Tom Bevan

If the current trend continues, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is going to end up being involved in the journalistic equivalent of the Bay of Pigs. His article in the latest issue of Rolling Stone claiming Republicans stole the 2004 election in Ohio is coming under a massive assault - and from the unlikeliest of places. Monday in Salon, Farhad Manjoo reduced RFK, Jr.'s seemingly authoritative argument to rubble. Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal followed suit later the same day by taking down Kennedy's claim that exit polling is an "exact science" and highlighting how he either misinterpreted or willfully distorted numerous aspects of exit poll analysis contained in the Edison-Mitofsky report.

Last Friday RFK, Jr. asserted on CNN, "There's no legitimate dispute that there was a massive, concerted, deliberate effort by high level-Republican Party officials to fix the election in Ohio. And the press has not covered this issue." This is a grotesque lie unsupported by even a shred of credible evidence, yet Kennedy is out on national cable television spewing it as gospel truth. As Manjoo points out in his Salon piece, the Democratic Party's own analysis, conducted by a team of handpicked experts, concluded that "the statistical study of precinct-level data does not suggest the occurrence of widespread fraud that systematically misallocated votes from Kerry to Bush." (Emphasis added). Repeat after me: there was no fraud in Ohio.

I take that back. There was one confirmed case of fraud in Ohio in 2004: a Democratic operative was paid in crack cocaine for submitting hundreds of registrations all in the same handwriting with names like "Mary Poppins" and "Michael Jackson."

The point, however, is that if you sift through the allegations of "irregularities" Democrats investigated in Ohio, what you find more than anything is a list of reasons why democracy up close is a fairly ugly thing: a combination of human error, machine malfunctions, and other assorted glitches. They happen all across the country every time we try and facilitate a process to allow millions of people to express their opinion within the space of a few hours. Remember also that many of the places where irregularities are alleged to have occurred in Ohio were in heavily Democratic precincts with Democratic poll workers.

I have a good friend who is a liberal activist working on the East Coast, and he was one of the thousands of volunteers who descended on Ohio in the final weeks of the election to help turn out the vote for Kerry. After the election I asked him what happened and he said that one of the factors that frustrated their efforts was that poll workers in heavily Democratic precincts were terribly disorganized. Their voting lists weren't being properly updated, and as the day wore on it became difficult to locate those who hadn't voted and go pick them up and get them to the polls. The disorganization accounted for some of the long lines in heavily Democratic areas as well.

Like most Americans, I'm in favor of continuing to take steps to try and improve our election systems to make the right to vote easy to exercise. And I'm also for taking whatever steps we can to wring fraud out of the election system. The casting of an illegal ballot is every bit as pernicious to our democracy as the disenfranchisement of a legitimate voter.

Ultimately, no matter what technology we employ or how many rules we have in place, our system is going to be plagued with a certain degree of error, fraud, and abuse because it relies on the responsibility of voters to properly cast their ballot and also on the responsibility of poll workers to make sure those ballots are properly counted.

If Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was a serious, credible person, he'd be working to try and improve the U.S. election system. Instead, he's out spinning falsehoods about the 2004 presidential election in Ohio that many members of his own party don't even believe.

Tom Bevan is the co-founder and Executive Editor of RealClearPolitics. Email: tom@realclearpolitics.com

© 2000-2006 RealClearPolitics.com All Rights Reserved


Email Friend | Print | RSS | Add to Del.icio.us | Add to Digg
Sponsored Links
 Tom Bevan
Tom Bevan
Author Archive