Sunday, October 26, 2008

McCain's ACORN conspiracy theory

McCain: We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.
McCain made this serious accusation during the third presidential debate. It has also been propagated by television advertisements, and extensive editorializing by Obama's opponents. However, if we look into the specific accusations against ACORN (let alone the actual evidence), they do not add up into the grand conspiracy theory that McCain is promoting.

Others have addressed the vapidness of trying to link Obama to ACORN's alleged grand conspiracy, and also some of the facts behind the allegations. I'm going to limit myself to a critique of how the grand-conspiracy claim cannot be built up from the specific allegations, and how the alleged voter-registration fraud would not be a reasonable act of someone involved in this grand conspiracy.

Before I get into the details, I want to point out that the ACORN conspiracy theory (or scapegoating, perhaps) is even broader than these baseless accusations of voter fraud. McCain is even trying to blame ACORN for the fact that Wall-Street bankers failed to manage their risk properly (see the TV commercial)--as if this relatively tiny organization could pressure the banking industry into destroying its own foundations at a time that it was raking in hundreds of billions of dollars in profits each year (FWIW, Greenspan places much/most of the blame on investor demand for mortgage backed securities).

Let's look at the traits of this grand conspiracy theory being promoted by McCain and his campaign:
  1. It is national: McCain implies this during his debate tirade, by focusing on a national organization (ACORN) and emphasizing the vast scale of the conspiracy. His TV advertisement explicitly refers to a "nationwide voter fraud".
  2. It relies on ACORN's infrastructure.
  3. It begins with fraudulent voter registration, and will be consummated with actual fraudulent votes being cast in swing states.
Consider how many people must be involved in this. First, there are the people who actually filled out the fraudulent forms, then there are their supervisors (up to the national level), and finally there are the individuals who will actually cast false ballots (with some sort of false identification).

I'm guessing this would involve hundreds of people, and law-enforcement agencies have apparently caught tens of people from that first group (registration fraud)--yet not a single person is alleged to belong to either of the other two groups (national coordination, and vote fraud).

Look at the propaganda I linked to above, and any other source you know of. Please let me know if any person has been charged/accused of participating in national coordination of registration fraud, or any sort of vote fraud.

Aside from the fact that we have no evidence of the most important components of this grand conspiracy, there is also the problem that this conspiracy would be the most asinine, bumbling conspiracy that I've ever heard of. Look at the allegations from the NRO editorial:
  1. First, the foot-soldiers in this conspiracy are "lazy crackheads"--as if such people could be relied on to keep their mouths shut about a conspiracy.
  2. ACORN illegally employed felons on work-release--no allegation that they were involved in any fraud, or that they would be reliable participants in a conspiracy.
  3. They registered "the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys" and Mickey Mouse -- as if using celebrity names wouldn't obviously attract attention to their activities.
  4. "21 separate voter-registration applications were filed for a single voter in Miami"-- again, a pretty obvious red-flag.
  5. "attempted to register untold numbers of dead, underage, imprisoned, imaginary, or otherwise ineligible voters ...apparently pulled out of the phone book at random" -- this might actually be useful for voter fraud, but there'd be a major risk of getting caught when you actually try to impersonate someone who has already voted (or who should be in jail!).
  6. "registrations...filed from nonexistent addresses"--another red flag; and how would the importers get their voter-registration cards?
  7. "forged signatures"-- bad, but no indication of intention to commit registration fraud.
  8. "In July of 2007, five ACORN activists pleaded guilty to fraud in Washington State for submitting nearly 2,000 phony voter applications"--and yet they did not provide any evidence of a conspiracy to commit electoral fraud.
I'm thinking about this from the perspective of how this conspiracy would play out in Pennsylvania. We have pretty lax ID laws, but we are pretty stringent on absentee ballots. If I were to submit a fraudulent registration, I would not know of its success until I received my voter registration card at home. Furthermore, to vote absentee, I would need to have the ballot mailed to my home. This makes it worthless for me to register at other people's addresses, and it would be pretty obvious if a large number of "voters" registered from my house.

Finally, why would an electoral-fraud conspiracy submit it's fraudulent applications in a big package (i.e. the ACORN submissions). Knowing that many of their fraudulent registrations would get caught, they would want to avoid any indication that their registrations were connected to each other. The obvious way for them to submit their application would be as if they were regular individuals just registering to vote as a regular order of business--not part of a transparently fraudulent voter registration drive.

The only reasonable strategy I can think of for voter-side electoral fraud would be to register a large, ineligible population with a strong preference for one party or another -- yet I haven't heard any allegations of the type.

So overall, there is no basis for McCain's claims about a grand conspiracy within ACORN, and it really only takes a little common sense to see through his BS.

No comments: