Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

One thing I'm having trouble getting my mind around is the near-absence of right-wing braying about the Ohio recount, which appears ready to proceed and could definitely expose some extremely unsavory facts about the Ohio vote, even if the new results aren't nearly enough to erase Bush's large 113,000-vote margin there.

For example, google news searches on "Ohio recount" still don't turn up any significant number of right-wing news sources. I think there are two ways of interpreting this.

One is slightly disheartening, which is that Republicans know that the vote was fair and accurate and see no real reason to howl about it, since it's all just an exercise in futility anyway. That's disheartening because, I'm not afraid to admit, I would much rather believe that the Republicans somehow tampered with the results of the election than that they won fairly. This might strike some as nuts, but that's fine; I write a lot of things people think are nuts.

The other is somewhat encouraging, even intriguing. The right-wing media machine, despite being extraordinarily heirarchical in some respects, is also somewhat organic, in that the base-level howlers like Frontpagemag and Talon News just sort of intuit what to write about by reading the statements of Republican public figures, taking it as gospel, and expanding it to fill whatever space is necessary to form a position on whatever issue they are obsessing about that day. There's no top-down directive coming out that says "Here is the message." These pubs are conduits for a message that's drawn, in a certain sense, from the collective conservative unconscious. There is a general script that's crafted carefully at the top by people like Bill Kristol and Rupert Murdoch, but it's not disseminated in any overt way outside of the media empires that they control directly (which are themselves substantial, of course.)

On this issue, it would be extremely difficult to get out an anti-recount message that made much sense. You can't use the "people are tired of this" meme as right now, most people have no idea there even is a recount going on. Other arguments that have been used locally by Republicans in Ohio (chiefly "it's too expensive") simply aren't of concern to people who don't live in Ohio.

This I think was probably the point of the low simmer that was achieved shortly after the vote, kept up by ambiguous but non-inflammatory comments from Democrats including Kerry and Edwards. Clearly on the off chance that there was some sort of funny business in Ohio, Kerry and Edwards want to expose it. But they don't want to get clobbered for prolonging a divisive election.

One aspect of the 2000 recount battle that was never adequately discussed was the degree to which "popular" outrage, whipped up frantically by right-wing media outlets, led to a sort of default position against a hand count in Florida. It thus seemed very natural when the Supreme Court issued an objectively rather ridiculous stay of that count followed by a cowardly per curiam opinion declaring that the count could not proceed, in part because it was too late in the year.

I definitely want to caution anyone who's still holding out hope that the Ohio recount will lead to an actual reversal of the election. That's monstrously unlikely, even more unlikely than Bush's victory. But some good could definitely come of it, and the path we are on right now has a good feel. Keep an eye on the Ohio recount. If it turns out that Kerry really lost by, say, 70,000 votes, it won't seem like much of a story at first. But eventually someone might think to ask why, exactly, the official count was off by so much. And that could open a very interesting line of questioning. Very interesting indeed.

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