Mailing It In

If it seems that the opposition to anything President Trump does or says is automatic, absolute and visceral, it is because it is. The sheer contrarianism of his enemies does have the virtue of preempting the occasional bad idea (although I suspect many of those are negotiating tactics, trial balloons or mere venting) but it usually results in the immediate repudiation of meritorious proposals or assertions. Take, for example, the President’s opposition to mail-in voting.

Somehow I suspect that if the President was all-in for mail-in voting, the Democrats would be averring, and vehemently so, that such is a dire threat to the Republic and a devious scheme by which Trump hopes to steal the presidency once again. There is an entire host of issues on which Trump is opposed simply because he is Trump, the Democrats’ demand for American troops to go to Syria and stay there semi-permanently heading that list. This from a party that has vociferously protested the dispatch of American military forces anywhere in the world for decades, and when they have supported it (2002 and 2003) shortly thereafter renounced it.

Of course mail-in voting is subject to fraud because the entire voting system in the United States is replete with the potential for fraud. One case in point will suffice.

For over a decade, eight Pruzanskys have appeared on the voter rolls in Teaneck, notwithstanding that half of them have not lived in Teaneck during that decade. None live there today, and I do not doubt that all eight will still be on the rolls this coming November. A nefarious Pruzansky (granted, an oxymoron if there ever were one) could vote several times and in several places – the old district and the new district, certainly where her last name has changed. Thumbing through the rolls when I sign in to vote, it is easy to notice dozens of names of people who no longer reside in Teaneck and some who have moved on to their eternal reward and yet, apparently, are still poised to perform their citizenly duty if called upon.

The simplest way to rectify this situation is to purge the rolls every five or ten years of people who have left the district either upright or standing sideways. But these attempts (think Georgia in 2018) are always met with cries of “racism,” as if everything related to voting efficiency is automatically an insidious effort to suppress the black vote. An even simpler way of avoiding the specter of multiple Pruzanskys voting where they no longer live is to require voters to produce legal identification when they appear to vote, as one must when withdrawing money from a bank or trying to board an airplane. As you might have guessed, the movement for voter ID laws is also and always shouted down with cries of “racism.”

All this ignores the irony that blacks vote today in higher numbers than ever before but it might help explain the bitter paradox that close to 95% of blacks vote for Democrats in each election even though Democrats have failed the black community in city after city and state after state. And it is true that purging the rolls and requiring identification would limit the number of Pruzanskys who can vote thereby reducing the influence of that endangered minority. Obviously voting multiple times is illegal – but it is rarely caught and even more rarely prosecuted because it is extremely difficult to prove. Three years ago a report indicated that the United States has 3.5 million more registered voters than live voters, and that is probably an underestimate.

Mail-in voting is an invitation to fraud, as much as is on-line voting and early voting. It is impossible to track who is voting, from where they are voting, if they are still eligible to vote, and even if they are still alive. Aside from the known inefficiencies of the post office, the variables are so enormous that it would be nearly impossible to certify a victory or accept a defeat. There is massive potential fraud in ballot-harvesting, in which party hacks go from town to town (or nursing home to nursing home) collecting ballots, “helping” the good citizens to vote (properly), discarding “offensive ballots” and preserving the “good” ones. That tactic is more a certainty than it is a possibility.

To augment this dangerous mix is the looming fear of foreign interference. Throughout the Russia hoax, amid repeated claims that Russian “interfered” in the 2016 elections (something that the US, and really all nations, have been known to do), there was one element that was always missing: what exactly did Russia do to “interfere” in that election? For that matter, amid repeated claims that Russia is again “interfering” in the 2020 elections, what exactly are they doing? It would be worthwhile to inform the public so it won’t be misled again, wouldn’t it? In 2016, apparently, they ran a handful of Facebook ads that were duplicitous, but it would be impossible to extract the needle of Russian propaganda from the haystack of falsehoods that emanate from both parties during any campaign. Besides, Obama’s FBI and CIA did an excellent job on their own of interfering, clumsily and criminally, in the 2016 election.

I don’t know what they did or if they did anything, but what is to prevent Russia, China or any sophisticated country with malicious intent from fabricating election ballots, completing them, and mailing them to the authorities? This can be simplified even more since the popular vote total does not matter at all; it is the individual state totals that matter. So what is to prevent a disreputable foreign government, or a malevolent domestic political group, from fabricating ballots in selected swing states –Pennsylvania, Michigan, et al – and holding those duly postmarked ballots in reserve and in sufficient numbers to swing a narrow election weeks after Election Day? The correct answer is nothing, and that is probably why this election will be dirtier than most, which is saying a lot, and more inconclusive than most. And given the pandemic and the economic crisis in the United States, the last thing that America needs is a dispute election and even more instability.

To be sure, it should be troubling to all moral people that many voters do not expect an honest election and many partisans prefer a dishonest one if the outcome is to their liking. And it need not be mentioned that looking for honesty and integrity in politics is generally a fool’s errand. But truth is a great value, as is peace; there can be no peace when the truth is trampled and dishonesty is privileged. It will exacerbate the breakdown of society in the US currently underway and render its healing – if it even can occur – that much more difficult to achieve.

And the ramifications of that for American Jews –and for all good Americans – are worth contemplating.

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