In all the foofaraw surrounding the ACORN scandals, there is a huge important consequence of them understood – but not spoken – by everyone who follows politics as a blood sport. This story describing conditions in Michigan and tallying up some recent ACORN convictions for electoral fraud is an indicator. And, on top of Obama’s plummet in the polls, the attention now being focused on ACORN has got to have any thinking Democratic strategist deeply worried about the 2010 midterms.
No, I’m not talking about the mere aura of scandal, the prospect that some of the smell coming off of ACORN might cling to the general run of Democratic politicians. That’s not going to happen, not while most of the mainstream media seems ever more intent on operating as an unpaid auxiliary for the Democratic National Committee. No stench will be allowed to adhere, not even if the stalwart partisans of the Fourth Estate have to lick it off with their own tongues. No, the real problem is this: ACORN was the linchpin of the Democratic electoral-fraud machine. Without it, the party’s position going into the next round of elections may be seriously weakened.
Three years ago I wrote a mini-essay on Game Theory and Vote Fraud, explaining the psephological logic behind the observed fact that vote fraud is in recent U.S. history primarily a crime associated with urban Democratic political machines; simple risk-benefit analysis explains why a national minority party operating in densely populated districts should be the most likely to systematize the practice. What I didn’t write at the time (but could have, as the fact was quite well known to anyone who pays attention to retail politics) is that ACORN has long been the Democrats’ single most important source for legions of deniable fraudsters.
The “deniable” part is important. The Democratic party is (probably) not yet so corrupt an organization that most of its members want to know about the dirty-tricks side of winning elections — but those tactics are more important every year as the Democratic minority gets smaller, older, and more regionally concentrated. (Another dangerous corollary of this trend is that the Democrats depend more on wealthy individual donors than the Republicans do; objectively, the Democrats have been the “party of the rich” for more than fifteen years now.) Thus, the symbiosis between ACORN and the Democrats served both organizations well; the Democrats got a vote-fraud operation their more honest members could could avert their eyes from, while ACORN got funding and political top cover.
That’s probably over now. It seems unlikely that ACORN’s effectiveness as a vote-fraud engine can be saved even if its local affiliates reorganize under different names – too many LEOs, from ambitious local DAs up to the FBI, are smelling blood in the water now, and the few Democratic apparatchiks who have tried to defend the organization have gotten badly stung in the polls. Having former ACORN organizers on staff will be a political and possibly legal liability for some years to come, which is going to hinder any efforts to rebuild the network.
As bad as that is, the Democrats are going to be preoccupied with damage control against even worse possibilities. One is political: Barack Obama is not “the general run” of Democratic politician; as a former attorney and staff trainer for ACORN he was far more intimately involved with the organization. Republicans could yet succeed in using that association to damage him.
The other problem is that the legal disruptions to the Democrats’ street-level network may not stop with ACORN. It is becoming clear that SEIU (the Service Employees International Union, closely tied to ACORN by interlocking directorates), is just as corrupt and even more prone to public thuggery (this was the organization responsible for the brutal beating of an
elderly black protester at a town-hall meeting a few weeks back). If LEOs follow the money trails into and out of ACORN with any thoroughness, it is quite likely that SEIU’s brass will find itself under criminal investigation, with the Democrats obliged to cut ties with them as well. From there, who knows? Republican zealots think that ACORN is the street end of a criminal conspiracy subject to prosecution under the RICO statutes that extends all the way to DNC headquarters. They may not be wrong.
Anybody who thinks politics ought to at least be a game played cleanly should welcome having this whole swamp drained. But cheering for that cleanup won’t come easy for Democrats. In a society as relatively law-governed as the U.S.’s, electoral fraud is not a risk any political network can take lightly; the natural and logical suspicion is that if Democrats have been complicit in large-scale vote fraud through organizations like ACORN and SEIU it’s because without it they could not win national elections at all. Thirty years ago, when they were still the majority party, that would have been a fairly ridiculous charge. Today…it isn’t.
UPDATE: I had misremembered Ken Gladney’s age. “Elderly” struck.