Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Being a Democrat

I like a lot of things about being a Democrat.

I like being right about the war; right about health care; right about the environment; right about maintaining a social safety net. I like the fact that Democrats don’t have to lie about what they really think and what their goals really are. We don’t hide behind phony constructs designed to conceal our true motives and intentions. I like the fact that we spend most of our time just trying to establish the truth; believing in science and in objective study; identifying problems and working honest solutions.

Sure, there are many reasons to like being a Democrat. But I love being a Democrat most because we believe in democracy.

Democracy should not be controversial. Regardless of the differences we have on issues and our frequent disdain for politicians who distort the issues and are politically and personally repulsive, at the end of the day, the votes are cast and the people decide. All the chatter, all the ads, all the polls are just so much blather, albeit often expertly informed. Ultimately, one man or woman has one vote out of thousands in a local community; millions in a state; a hundred million nationwide.

But there are those who don’t want to leave Election Day democracy to the whims of random, uncontrollable voters. And they are all Republicans.

I was thinking about this during the spectacular celebration of democracy called the Obama Voter Protection training on Saturday at a union hall in Milwaukee. All morning, myself and a couple hundred other lawyers were schooled on Wisconsin election law. On November 4th, we will fan out across the state as election observers with only one charge – to do our best to make sure every person eligible to vote who shows up at a polling place is allowed to do so, and to make sure their vote will be counted.

We were not instructed to protect only people we thought were Democratic voters. We were certainly not told to interfere in anyway with perceived Republican voters. In fact, we never discussed identifying anybody as anything. If someone appears to be an eligible Wisconsin voter – a citizen, 18 or older, who resides in the state – and is not precluded from voting because of felony supervision or some other legal impediment, they should be allowed to vote. It is very much the Wisconsin way, and we are to act as a resource to fulfill that promise.

I was in the Kerry Voter Protection operation in ‘04. I ended up going way up to Crandon, where the campaign had done some organizing in the Native American community. I spent the whole day in a small room with poll workers and a constant flow of voters. Late in the day, I protected the vote of a young woman who had no ID, but her residence was corroborated by a young man who knew she lived there and who could establish himself as an eligible voter through his own proof of residency. The well-meaning poll workers were going to make her do a provisional ballot. I gently asked them to review the law that allowed one voter to vouch for another, which, eventually, they did and the vote was counted. For all I knew, the woman could have been voting for Bush, but that was not the point. She was eligible, should have been allowed to vote and she did. It was the highlight of that very long and ultimately disappointing (to say the least) day.

For cynical, tactical reasons – because they know they would lose most fair elections – Republicans want to put roadblocks in the path of those who would dare to exercise the franchise of their citizenship. They want to require people to show a photo ID at the polls. They want to eliminate same-day registration in Wisconsin. They want to put police officers and other intimidating authority figures in polling places. They lie about voter fraud when none exists. They smear organizations with bipartisan support like ACORN who would dare to register the working-class and poor for mistakes made by over-anxious summer workers.

What does it say about a political party that is so afraid of eligible voters? You know what it says, and so do they. The difference is that they don’t care what you think about it. They believe only in achieving power by any means necessary. The outrage of Florida 2000 taught Republicans nationwide that they could get away with anything, right up to and including rigging voting machines or dumping them in the nearest river, if that's what it takes. With voter suppression at the front end and recount shut-downs in the back end, the Republicans have no shame. It puts the lie to all their phony flag-waving and red-white-and-blue posturing. They don't believe in American democracy. They believe only in power for themselves.

Democrats stand behind the honest vote in good times and bad. For us, Election Day is not just another opportunity for suppression tactics and manipulation; it is a celebration. That’s why I love being a Democrat.


Forward Our Motto said...

Good luck on Nov 4. I hope everything goes smoothly.

John C. Hyland said...

If you'd like a comment or two about dems/libs, see John Hylands letter to the editor in yesterdays Sunday Post Crescent. If that isn't convincing enough then buy my book at your favorite book store or on line (Amazon, etc.). "UNMASKING 100 LIBERAL MYTHS..."! HARD AND SOFT COVERS AND AN E-VERSION. jch

AnotherTosaVoter said...


While I plan to vote for Obama in protest of the Palin farce, you do understand that if the coming Dem majority and President Obama goverend as you'd like, we'd probably have GOP majorities in both houses of Congress in '10, right?

Mike Plaisted said...


I don't understand that at all. I think Democrats will take their responsibility very seriously and use this opportunity to show how well they can govern. I can't see them abusing their power, the way that the majority Republicans did after Bush took office.

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that the Dems actually believe in government as a force for good. They won't use their power to beat people over the head with their deferred petty agendas. The situation is too serious; things are too messed up -- and Obama won't let 'em.

After next Tuesday, the right-wing echo chamber will pivot back to where they were in the Clinton years. Everything they excused Bush for -- bad economy, stupid wars -- will suddenly be bad again. Obama will get no honeymoon.

The general public will have to decide whether they want to go down that road with those clowns again. If the wing-nuts get in the way of the progress that Americans will show that they want, they should pay a price. Otherwise, I expect they will continue to use their extraordinary access to the public airwaves to poison the political climate.

If the Democrats succeed in governing effectively in 2009, the result will be the opposite of what you suggest. If the Republicans continue following what will now be the Palin (hah!) wing of the party, it will simply cease to exist. The Republicans are in more danger than just getting creamed in this election -- they are in danger of extinction.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mike, let get observers out there to support the Democratic Party motto: "Vote Early and Vote Often!"

Mike Plaisted said...


I'm sorry, I don't follow...What are you talking about? Democratic party motto? Vote early and often? Whatever do you mean? It doesn't happen and never does. Never would. Please explain when this has ever happened. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I normally do not comment on your blog, but this post "intrigued" me...your shaping of the definition of democracy is at best contrived, and more than likely ignorant. All people, especially in a democracy, should be more than willing to accept the fact that their representatives are voted in by those random, uncontrollable voters. What we should not accept is the blatant and proven abuse of that system. That abuse my friend is more offensive and detrimental to a democracy than most other "issues" surrounding the foundation of our democracy.

The randomness and whims of people to vote is not hampered by the showing of an ID, it's just not. What does hamper elections and democracy are those that take the ability and ease of voting for granted and sully the very integrity of the process. Those that 1) either overtly or covertly support this behavior and 2) that do nothing to realize the problem and stop it, are hindrances to democracy, not advocates of it. Republicans are not afraid of ELIGBLE voters. It's the ineligible that are questioned. The problem is democrats in their unquenchable need for power conveniently ignore those voters under the guise of fairness. Why is it fair to those legal voters to allow someone that is ineligible or downright breaking the law when they vote? Why should we not make this process as fair as possible? The answer to those questions are easy. Without those voters Democrats have a harder time winning because in essence they are ideologically bankrupt. Talk about phony posturing and believing in one thing - Power...the Democrats have a virtual monopoly on that. The power structure of the Democratic party is just that - all about power.

Mike, you can love being a Democrat, you, in a democracy, have that right. But to say that your party or any political party for that matter are the beacons of democracy, borders on demagoguery (which the Democrats have also flourished in).

Anonymous said...

So Mike, what is stopping me and an evil republican friend of mine to go into a polling place and having him vouch for me saying that my name is Mike Plaisted? My vote would count and never get caught.

Mike Plaisted said...

Anony: the reason you won't do it is because, if you get caught, you will be prosecuted. It is not worth the risk to anyone.

Sean: What ineligible voters are you talking about? Where does this problem exist? In '04, there was one idiot (a Rebuplican) who voted in Wisconsin and Illinois. There were 13 felons on supervision who voted, and every last one has been prosecuted. In order to need a solution, there has to be a problem, and there isn't one.

Requiring photo ID will stop thousands from voting, and you know it. Putting big burly police in the polling place will intimidate people from voting and you know it. Ending same day registration will stop people from voting and you know it. The election law is designed to make it easy to vote and that is the way it should be. You know that, too.

And, yes, Democrats are morally superior to Republicans on this issue. We want as many people as posible to vote. You don't. It's called democracy. Deal with it.

Anonymous said...

If you are so concerned about voting and equal rights and access and all that crap you claim, why are you okay with Obama? Rather than promite access to the process, as he ran for the Senate he challenged the signatures of every democratic rival until he was alone on the ticket. Clearly, fairness, openess, and access are not issues for him. Or what about his lies regarding the 800k paid to the criminal and undemocratic Acorn?

Fringe grups with radical agendas are very likely to disrupt the election process either by registering false voters or by slashing tires to saboage republican grass roots efforts.

You are either willfully blind or complacent to think that voter fraud isn't an issue worthy of concern and action. The shrill whining of deomcrats on the issue merely speaks to their suspicion that their side is benefiting if not collaborating in voter fraud. At least the voters of Indiana can rest assured that nobody is stealing their vote. Considering yours is the party of hysterics regarding the patriot act, tapping the phones of terrorists, and bush's other "nazi" tactics, it seems strange that your party isn't more concerned about voter fraud. Why is that?

AnotherTosaVoter said...

I didn't figure you would.

The problem Mike is that despite the coming Dem tide, this is, at least economically, still a center-right country. We don't like a lot of unneccesary regulation and we don't like being overtaxed. We don't like seeing our money go to waste, whether it be the Iraq war or failing school systems or public employee benefits (as a public employee, I can tell you we waste a whole let of a lot of money on our benefits).

Anyway if the Dems stick to centrist, pragmatic policies (the kind you've shown no inclination to support), the pendulum will be on their side for quite some time.

If, on the other hand, the fringe gets its way, we're going to see economic mismanagement and cultural infringements that go way, way too far. If they start going after guns, or the fairness doctrine for instance, their reign will be short.

Anonymous said...

You think Donovan Riley is a Republican? Interesting that his website described himself as a Democrat that votes like a Democrat before it was taken down when he was caught voting in WI and IL in 2004, on the same day.

p.s. Here's a quote from A JS online article on voting often.
"Of course, Chicago has built a reputation for its sloppy and sometimes creative election record-keeping. This is the place, after all, where people vote early and vote often."


Anonymous said...

I'll get prosecuted? Really? How will I get caught? Please do tell.

Anonymous said...

Amen Mike! I couldn't agree more. Democrats want as many people as possible to vote.

Republicans want as many people as possible to vote legally.

Mike Plaisted said...

Patrick: "the criminal and undemocratic Acorn"? Really? Like how? There is no indication that ACORN did anything but send out people to register voters and flagged their mistakes. No nonexistent people will be voting from ACORN registrations. Your problem Patrick, is not the small percentage (1%) of bad ACORN registrations, but the fact that they successfully registered over a million poor and working-class people.

We aren't concerned about voter fraud because there isn't any.

ATV: I'm fine with "centrist, pragmatic policies" - always have been. I was with Clinton every step of the way. It is silly to think that the Dems are going to go after guns, the Fairness Doctrine, or anything else that is going to distract from the enourmous task of picking up the pieces from the Bush Disaster.

Anony 9:59 - You get caught when they check the list and find I already voted absentee (today, in fact). Who would take a chance at criminal charges like that? If you think it is so easy, go ahead and try. Even Republicans aren't that stupid.

Anony 10:05 - And who exactly is voting illegally? And what proof do you have that those dozen or so deluded people out of 3 million in Wisconsin are part of some organized effort by Dems or anyone else? And to catch those dozen or so, you are going to make it harder and thereby deny the vote to how many tens of thousands? For what, again?

Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

I could site, state by state, the number of phony registrations, number of suspected voter fraud cases and the like, but why sully this wonderful blog with actual FACTS? Moral superiority is about integrity, which if you turn a blind eye to voter fraud, you are telling me and everyone else, you have none.

As for the risks of voting illegally, your contention is “if you get caught, you will be prosecuted. It is not worth the risk to anyone.”...The problem with that “logic” is you do not want to put anything in place to actually CATCH those that vote illegally. You’d rather believe, incorrectly, that it’s not a problem, that everyone who walks into a county clerk’s office or the polling station is an upstanding, honest citizen, who would NEVER dream of corrupting the system. Problem is that’s not the real world. If I was a “morally superior” democrat, I could easily and with absolutely no chance of getting caught, walk into my Milwaukee polling station (where I have been registered for years), vote, get in my car and go to my new polling station, with my new utility bill, register, and vote again – THAT EASY with NO CHANCE of getting caught. Think I’m the only one that can do that? If you or anyone does, there lies the problem.

Anonymous said...

Extending the voting period, as we're now trending toward, will alleviate nearly much of the concern harbored by these voter integrity apologists. If voting stretched from Oct. 17 to Nov. 4, and measures were available to new voters to help validate their right to vote, I wouldn't have a problem with the ID requirement.

Will the howling masses screaming for voter ID agree to a standard three-week voting window if ID is ultimately required? If they are genuine in saying they want all legitimate votes to count, it would seem they'd agree to a compromise of this type.

Mike Plaisted said...


There is a difference between submitting bad registration cards and someone actually trying to vote based on that registration. There are numerous checks in place in all juristictions such that, if someone shows up and tries to vote as Mickey Mouse, it would not be allowed. In other words, overanxious summer workers trying to pad their stats with phony names are not committing fraud unless they intend someone to show up and try to vote using that registration. There is no proof anywhere of that kind of intent, by ACORN or anyone else.

And, Sean, as an experiment, please do try to vote in two places on Election Day. The database is now statewide and you will be caught and prosecuted. And feel free to call me if you need a good lawyer after your arrest.

And while you're in all those multiple polling places on Election Day, take a look around you. You will find hundreds of honest people, casting honest votes. 100 percent. Drink in the democracy at work and think about you trying to shut it down for some of those people. Sometimes, a feeling of shame is a healthy thing.

Unknown said...

The history is clear: Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its ban of restrictive voting practices, the Republican Party, the party of Lincoln I might add, has been systematically trying in vain to keep millions of poor and minority folks from voting.
Nixon's southern, cynical strategy to win the 68 and 72 elections forever boxed your party in as the party that DOESN'T want maximum voter turnout. It also boxed you in to winning elections based on fear (of blacks, poor, terrorists (2004), or now socialists.
Reagan at least had a vision and a message of hope. The rest of your national party and thanks to Karl Rove/Lee Atwater, have kept your national campaigns in the gutter.
And finally, after all these nasty years, that strategy will be kicked to the curb. And hopefully, for your sake, the return of my father's Republican Party (Ike).

Anonymous said...

So having intimidating authority figures at polling places doesn't extend to left-wing nut job attorneys indoctrinated at something called the "Obama Voter Protection Training?" And while its nice that you claim that there were no partisan discussions at this training (which I think we all know is untrue), why then is it not simply called "Voter Protection Training?" Don't kid yourself, you are as phony and politically motivated as the Republicans/conservatives you despise.

Anonymous said...

Despise? I think you're being far too kind. Try hatred, pure hatred of Republicans/conservatives.