I admit I haven't paid much attention in past years to allegations of voter fraud or voter suppression. But this year's flap about ACORN has forced me to take another look (though no one has convinced me yet that ACORN has done anything wrong). And between what I'm seeing in the news and what I heard from Allen Raymond's appearance on Bill Maher's Real Time, I'm more than concerned, I'm terrified. Mr. Raymond went to prison for something that looked more like an adolescent prank, but was very effective in its purpose. He jammed phone calls in a certain area to stop action centers from encouraging people to vote. He and his cohorts just called the action center numbers over and over and over and essentially overloaded the lines, stopping calls from going out or coming in. As effective as that "prank"was, Mr. Raymond admits that it was just the smallest of tips on the largest of icebergs. His next assertion, that the vast majority of this kind of suppression, designed and implemented by the GOP, was aimed at minorities, specifically blacks, didn't really come as a surprise. African-American voters make up 90 percent of the Democratic vote.
Now, I'm not naïve enough to think that this stuff is all one-sided, but most of the fingers are pointing at the GOP. Mr. Raymond said, and I quote, "I was contracted by the RNC" to carry out this voter suppression. Contracted? Doesn't that imply conspiracy, and if so, where are the people that "contracted" him, and how long were their prison sentences? When asked why Karl Rove didn't share the next cell with him, Mr. Raymond replied, "Oh, he's smarter than me."
I will say on behalf of Mr. Raymond, who has paid his debt to society, that he is to be commended for stepping up when he got caught. He said he drew the line at lying because he had always told his kids not to lie and he wouldn't be a good dad if he didn't fess up.
Shifting gears here for a moment, some years ago I saw a movie where some of the characters were having a political discussion and one said, "You don't really think the vote has any bearing on social change, do you?" I had to admit that I was leaning toward that belief myself. A candidate says one thing to get in office and once he gets his foot in the door, does the opposite of what he said he would do. So did my vote do the good I thought it was going to?
But voter suppression... what the hell is going on? Is it that the GOP doesn't think it can win an election honestly? The Republicans are the first ones to stand up and wave a flag--so why are they essentially trashing the one thing that makes this country great, the vote?
We love to call ourselves the greatest country in the world. If that's the case, and I believe it is, then surely we can find a way to regulate, police and enforce the most important right of all citizens. Now, Mr. Raymond seems like a nice, personable fellow who made a mistake. But he served only five months in prison. It seems to me that if our right to vote is as sacred as we like to believe it is, there should be the stiffest of penalties for anyone or any group that tries, in any capacity, to block or discourage people from voting.
So between wondering if my vote actually does any good at all, and wondering, if I do vote, will it be counted, I must admit to being very discouraged. But my greatest concern is our young people. This stuff happens so much, it looks as if it's "business as usual" in politics. I don't know about you, but I don't want kids seeing people do this kind of thing and getting off with a five-month prison sentence. I want kids to see that if you attempt, in any way, to discourage or block our most sacred right in this country, you will pay a high price.