What’s Left – Redefining Extremism

Christopher Nulty

??Thankfully, the people from the McCain-Palin campaign have volunteered to be the 2008 election cycle’s resident neologists. Conveniently, they’ve successfully redefined the American people’s understanding of “extremism” and “terrorism” through a series of wild allegations against Senator Obama.?

The politics of electoral politics never fail to remind us of what sets Democrats and Republicans apart from one another.? While the Democratic Party and its liberal allies, are attempting to register millions of new voters before November 4, the Republican Party is spending millions of dollars to delegitimize ballots before they have even been cast.? Let’s not be fooled – this is not a new game. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the lead player in the 2000 Florida election drama, tried in vain to pull people off the voter registration lists long before Election Day.

?At the center of this year’s controversy is ACORN [the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now], an organization that is attempting to register 1.3 million new voters for the 2008 election cycle.? ACORN’s registration efforts have focused primarily on young people, people of color and lower class Americans. Demographic trends suggest that this grouping is disproportionately likely to vote Democratic, giving the GOP every reason to be on the attack.

Senator McCain has suggested that ACORN’s activities are “destroying the fabric of our Democracy.”? If we take Senator McCain at his word — and I believe he is a sincere man — than are we to assume that providing every American a voice, regardless of their race, class or age, is detrimental to the ideals of democracy?? I am confident that Republicans and Democrats alike would be quick to agree that the right to vote is at the center of our democratic ideals, and it seems that divergence occurs when people begin to access this right.? Conservative pundits have echoed the Republican ticket’s suggestion that ACORN is an extremist organization.? Of course, these attacks would mean nothing if such “extremism” couldn’t be tied to Senator Obama, and thus the Obama-Biden campaign has been forced to focus a lot of energy on distancing themselves from ACORN in every possible way.

?Let’s begin with the facts. During the early 1990s, Senator Obama worked with ACORN, and a number of other community empowerment groups in his capacity as a community organizer.? A few years later, the law firm Mr. Obama worked for represented ACORN alongside a number of other voter’s rights organizations in a lawsuit.? While this is politically important, I believe the truth about ACORN is a more important topic to engage.? ACORN, which was founded in 1970, lists the following among it’s priorities on its website: affordable housing, health care, Gulf Coast recovery, immigration, living wages, better schooling and voter engagement.? The Republican Party would suggest, then, that the “real America” Governor Palin claims to know has no interest in better schools for their children, affordable housing, comprehensive healthcare or a living wage.

Voter fraud is certainly problematic.? Is there a possibility that falsified voter registration documents have been filled out and turned in at some point? Most certainly, if ACORN is responsible for deliberately breaking the law, then shame on them.? However, to date, almost every case of “voter fraud” that the GOP has claimed to uncover are the same instances that ACORN had previously reported being problematic.?

Recently, the McCain campaign has launched a series of attack advertisements that profile Senator Obama’s involvement with ACORN in Chicago and at one point stated: “What did acorn in Chicago engage in? Bullying banks, intimidation tactics, disruption of business.” Naturally, the McCain campaign failed to include some important details that may provide necessary clarity.? First, when a voter registration form is turned in, it is the responsibility of the local board of elections — and not the registering organization — to verify the identity and legitimacy of the voter.? Secondly, voting requires valid identification, especially among first time voters [the very group that ACORN was focused on]. Lastly, ACORN has made a conscious effort to report any concerns they have about the validity of specific registrations.? According to Nathan Henderson-James, one of the national directors of ACORN, the organization helped to file 28,000 new voter applications in North Carolina. Of those turned in, only four are currently being investigated by authorities, all of which were flagged by ACORN.

I am challenged to think of a tactic less democratic and less patriotic than a strategy to bar millions of Americans from voicing their opinions on November 4.? However, by convincing themselves that such “extremism” must be stopped, the GOP has given itself every reason for the crusade to continue. The Republican Party is now faced with two options. The first is to fight this battle of “voter fraud” in court, and attempt to disqualify a win for Obama/Biden long before Election Day.? The second option — perhaps more difficult, but I would argue more prudent — is to be sensible and talk about policies surrounding health care, education and the economy that engage young people, lower class Americans and people of color.?

Perhaps the GOP can learn something from playgrounds across America.? When we are young, we are taught to play with everyone, whether they will be our friend or not.? Winning is certainly important, but in the word’s of John McCain, “country first.”