by Timothy Dodson, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Oct. 23, 2005
What would it do to Americans' image of themselves, their country and their democracy if it turned out that a presidential election had been stolen?
Miller has done his homework, and his sources are numerous and scrupulously footnoted. He comes close to convincing an open-minded reader that the 2004 election was a gigantic fraud. His exhortation to Democrats "not to milk it for partisan advantage but to use it to promote, and realize, electoral reform" is the book's stated purpose, and Miller does make a strong case for reform.
Among other things, he recommends doing away with electronic voting, which he says "can never be entirely secure," and using standard paper ballots instead. He also would federalize the electoral system so as to replace "local bigots or politicos" with trained civil servants at the polls.
Miller makes it clear that there is much to dislike and distrust about a political movement -- evangelical conservatism -- that pretends to get its politics directly from God. Unfortunately, this is an unabashedly partisan book that is often as overwrought as its title. That tends to undermine Miller's credibility to a degree that can frustrate the reader.
Still, he provides considerable evidence to support his argument, and while it is mostly circumstantial, that kind of evidence isn't necessarily inferior, especially when there's a lot of it. And Miller doesn't scrimp.
Although some readers may discount his hard-to-prove charge of vote stealing via machine tampering, reports of touch-screen voting machines flipping votes from Kerry to Bush but never the other way around, are hard to ignore, as are reports that the many anomalies that occurred in Ohio all favored Bush, defying the law of averages if not common sense.
Miller offers compelling evidence of suppression of Democratic votes in a number of states, most notably and most effectively in Ohio and Florida. He also examines the discrepancies between both pre-election polls and Election Day exit polls and the actual outcome.
Post-election analysis found that Bush's "base" voted for him in about the same numbers as in 2000. But Democrats had been far more successful in registering new voters, particularly in Florida and Ohio. Both the polls and the registration numbers suggested a larger turnout for Kerry than for Bush, yet Bush won. It doesn't add up.
There were dirty tricks in South Florida and elsewhere, Miller tells us, although he overstates problems in Broward County.
In many states, especially Ohio and Florida, Republican poll-watchers bullied Democratic voters, Miller reports. Registered Democrats, especially blacks, also were given "disinformation as to the true date of Election Day, the true location of the polling places, the risks of going to vote without your Social Security card or if you had an unpaid parking ticket, and so on."
He tells of shortages of voting machines in many Democratic precincts, resulting in long lines that often caused tired or discouraged people to leave without voting, while Republican precincts had plenty of machines and voting went smoothly.
But Miller sometimes has a tendency to ignore possible alternative explanations for things he finds suspicious. For instance, he says Republicans before the election were openly admitting their plan to steal it, and offers this as evidence:
"In August of 2003, Wally O'Dell, the CEO of Diebold [maker of touch-screen voting machines] and a major donor to the Bush campaign, sent out an invitation to 100 wealthy fellow partisans, inviting them to a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser at his home in suburban Canton, Ohio: `I am committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year,' he promised his guests."
Miller offers this as a kind of smoking gun to explain the large-scale machine irregularities and anomalies in Ohio in 2004. And perhaps it is. But couldn't O'Dell have simply meant he wanted to raise as much money as he could?
Miller rightfully lambastes Florida officials' attempts to suppress Democratic votes by purging tens of thousands of Democrats from the voter rolls because they were "felons," even though they were not. After a series of missteps that exposed what they were up to, embarrassed state officials had to scrap the "scrub lists" entirely.
Miller is at his best when warning of what total political control by one party or one ideology can do to a country, especially when that ideology is theocratic in nature, like today's evangelical conservatism, and believes its ideological foes are "demonic." But, paradoxically, this is also where he most clearly reveals his most persistent weakness: he fails to see that he is likewise demonizing the right.
It's hard to read Fooled Again without becoming angry, for it presents considerable evidence of democracy gone haywire. But you're never quite sure whether to be angry at the right wing for stealing an election or at Miller for building a strong case that is nonetheless undermined by his own bias and partisanship.
The book is full of invective, innuendo and rancor. Disregarding his own advice, he milks it for partisan advantage. The book's tone is that of a polemic, which is fine in itself, but its posture is investigative. The two don't mix.
In the end, Fooled Again may accomplish little but to serve as raw meat for those who already hate and distrust President Bush and the right wing. That's too bad, because if even half of what this book alleges is true, then a serious offense has been committed against our system of government and the American way of life. And if so, then Miller's call for electoral reform becomes an urgent clarion call to all Americans, one that should not be ignored.
Timothy Dodson is a senior editorial writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
As originally published
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Excerpt: Mr Curtis, are there programs that can be used to secretly fix elections? Yes.
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