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Paranoia rampant on both Right and Left

Posted: October 25, 2008 8:49 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2008 5:00 a.m.
One of the funniest lines ever in the "All in the Family" sitcom resided in a flashback episode that showed the first meeting of the left-wing Michael (portrayed by Rob Reiner) and Gloria, the daughter of right-wing Archie Bunker, during a blind date in late 1968.

Michael hesitates to go with his roommate on this double date because he's upset over the loss of his candidate in the recent presidential election.

Michael cannot understand "how the people of America could pick Richard Nixon over Eldridge Cleaver" (the Black Panther Party candidate).

Michael illustrates the mental problem of the "true believer." They just cannot wrap their heads around the fact that more people preferred the other candidate.

In last spring's Santa Clarita City Council election, many who could not believe the actual election of Laurie Ender attributed her victory to trickery, skullduggery and/or voter idiocy.

This made them feel better - in light of their loss. They could just not fathom that a whole slew of voters liked Laurie Ender better than Bob Spierer, and that she ran a true grassroots campaign motivating new voters to participate for the first time.

One can see the same thing on the national stage. Republicans stand convinced that ACORN engages in rampant voter registration fraud, sending Democratic-leaning voters to the polls multiple times.

Democrats stand convinced that Republicans actively suppress Democrat-leaning voters by sending out scary mailers, intimidating minorities at the polls, and making sure certain minority areas do not possess sufficient ballots or voting machines to accommodate high voter demand.

Never mind that no one can come up with statistically significant numbers of wrongdoing to actually question the result of an election.

With the ACORN controversy, no one can explain to me how "Mickey Mouse" ever actually cast a ballot in any election, or how the handful of individuals registered multiple times actually voted multiple times.

Similarly, reports of individuals who claim they got hard stares from law enforcement at polling places don't carry a lot of weight with me, since these witnesses obviously overcame their fear to actually cast ballots.

Still, the almost urban legend of massive voter fraud and suppression remains gospel to folks on both the left and right.

Who feeds these beliefs? Primarily, the folks who earn their livings from running political campaigns.

No one can possibly evaluate the specific performance of a professional campaigner other than whether their candidate won or lost because of a lack of data. (Elections happen too infrequently.)

Therefore, the successful campaigner (their candidate won) can claim that every move they made resulted in their candidate's success.

Consider the case of the New Jersey gubernatorial election in 1993. Republican Christine Todd Whitman narrowly defeated Democrat incumbent Jim Florio.

The campaign pitted Republican operative Ed Rollins, current CNN commentator, against Democratic operative and fellow CNN commentator James Carville.

A few months after the shocking result, in the public forum of the Sperling Breakfast, an event hosted regularly by the Christian Science Monitor, Rollins asserted the Whitman campaign used $500,000 in soft money to pay Democratic precinct workers to sit on their hands during the campaign.

Plane of the sane
Additionally, the campaign made contributions to black religious charities to keep black ministers mum on the qualifications of the incumbent.

When James Carville actually filed a complaint with election officials, Rollins admitted that he made the whole thing up to demoralize James Carville, causing great embarrassment to both.

Despite these discredited assertions, many still believe that West Palm Beach County voters mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan rather than Al Gore in the 2000 election due to a confusing ballot design, even though mathematical testing showed no significant increase in Buchanan votes in West Palm vs. Florida counties with a similar political and social demographic.

People wrote whole books on how George Bush "stole" the 2004 election by patterns of voter suppression and voting machine riggings in Ohio, despite the fact Bush won by more than 115,000 votes.

Similarly, those who cannot stomach a potential Obama victory already discuss the "millions" of fraudulent registrations cooked up by ACORN, brought up by John McCain in the final presidential debate, a true "inside baseball" assertion that left many undecided and independent voters scratching their heads.

For me, I prefer to inhabit the "plane of the sane" and not give credence to assertions not proven by valid and sensible evidence.

But that is the way in the "plane of the sane."

Tim Myers is executive vice president and chief financial officer of Landscape Development Inc. in Valencia. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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