Monday, November 19, 2018


Writing for The New York Times, David Leonhardt makes a critical distinction between the two parties' complaints about electoral problems in the 2018 midterm elections:
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia, has refused to call her opponent’s victory legitimate. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey have gone further, using a version of “stolen” to describe the Georgia governor’s race.

Many conservatives are arguing that these statements are no different from the recent accusations of vote-counting fraud made by President Trump, Marco Rubio and others. I disagree. Trump, Rubio and others did something much worse: They alleged fraud where none existed and tried to discredit legitimate processes for counting votes.

Abrams, Brown and Booker, by contrast, criticized blatantly undemocratic behavior: the attempts by Republicans in Georgia (and elsewhere) to win elections by making it hard for many people, especially African-Americans, to vote. I’m glad that Abrams used her concession message this weekend to call out the undemocratic behavior of her opponent, Brian Kemp. It may well have been the difference between defeat and victory.
Good for Leonhardt -- but wait, there's an "on the other hand" coming:
And yet I also have a problem with the specific words that Brown, Booker and, to a lesser extent, Abrams used. I recognize many readers may disagree with me here, but I think that reaching for the most aggressive plausible rhetoric isn’t the ideal move after a close election. As Josh Douglas of the University of Kentucky tweeted, “We must fight back against voter suppression, but our democracy depends on loser recognizing legitimacy of winner.”

Ronald Klain, a former top aide to Al Gore, notes that he pointedly did not use such words to describe his 2000 loss.

In Slate, the legal scholar Richard Hasen lays out three objections: One, the approach of Abrams and others “feeds a growing cycle of mistrust and delegitimization of the election process;” two, it remains unproven whether voter suppression was the difference in the election; and three, it focuses attention on “the wrong question” — the magnitude of the effect of suppression, rather than the basic injustice of it.
So if I understand Leonhardt correctly, he's arguing that the electoral problems Democrats have complained about are much worse than what Republicans have cited (Republicans, in fact, are citing nonexistent acts of cheating) -- but he's also arguing that we should use less-charged language. Democracy was literally at stake in Georgia, and yet Leonhardt says that we should be quieter than the Republicans when they complain about nothing.

You know the old saying attributed to Robert Frost -- "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel"? Leonhardt is arguing that we should take our own side (and democracy's side) in this quarrel -- but we shouldn't do it in a way that gets anyone upset.

He goes on to write:
Regardless of your views on this issue, I encourage you to read Ari Berman’s documentation in Mother Jones of the many ways that Kemp tried to prevent his fellow Georgians from voting. It’s truly shameful behavior.
I agree that you should read what Berman wrote. While Berman isn't willing to use the word (he writes, "We don’t know yet—and might never know—how many people were disenfranchised or dissuaded from voting in the state"), the evidence he amasses makes it xseem obvious that, yes, Kemp stole the election. But don't say so, because you might upset people.

Also see Charlie Pierce on this subject.

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