Sunday, July 11, 2004

You lost your mind when you lost your grip, so say bye-bye

BoingBoing seems to be upset about the idea that the election might be delayed in event of a major terrorist attack on the day before, or the day thereof. I have just one question: Why? The United States is not a banana republic, no matter how loudly the paranoid crazies on the far left might scream. The majority of Americans, no matter what political stripe, would not tolerate anything beyond reasonable delays. The military would not follow a commander-in-chief acting illegally. There is no chance of a junta seizing power in a coup, as I infer from Mark Frauenfelder's slightly hysterical choice of words. If nothing else, I think a prelude to a coup would be a bit more subtle, not an open request from one government agency to another inquiring on the precise legality of their options. You can't play both the "evil" and "incompetent" cards at once and keep a coherent narrative. Conspiracies don't tend to be openly discussed by broadcast media, y'know? No, though it may not seem immediately evident, this is good for Democrats. Americans are not Spaniards. I suspect that in the immediate aftermath of an attack close to the election, the country would rally overwhelmingly to vote Republican. Delaying the vote for a few days or even a week, if anything, would likely make wobbly centrists tumble back down on the Kerry side of the fence. Moreover, an emergency situation might prevent hundreds, thousands or more from voting. How many people forgot about seemingly-unimportant daily minutiae on 9/11, instead glued to CNN? If it had been an election day, who, evacuating lower Manhattan, would have thought to go about voting? Waiting until the affected area could be calmed down a bit would certainly elevate turnout. The bottom line? This is a reasonable precaution, given the terrible precedent of Spain. It would be irresponsible to deny the possibility, and vigilance isn't foolproof. If something should happen, it's much better that there be an emergency plan in place than having to wing it while Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Los Angeles, is still aflame.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way-- it WAS an election day. In New York, they were supposed to be voting for the mayor on 9/11.

I don't know if the election was postponed, though.


7/11/2004 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You can't play both the "evil" and "incompetent" cards at once . . ."France?

7/11/2004 11:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The New York City primary of 9/11 was suspended by the New York Board of Elections and rescheduled for about a month later. However, there is no federal agency with the legal (constitutional) authority to postpone an election.

Re Spain: The Spanish did not kick their chief executive out of office because they were afraid of al Qaeda. They did it because their government had lied to them about al Qaeda. A terrorist attack just before an election might cause Americans to rally around Bush, but it's more likely IMO that such an attack would remind them what an ineffectual leader Bush really is and how he's botched *real* homeland security. Such an attack would probably cause people to switch from Bush to Kerry, if they hadn't already.

Further, unless al Qaeda managed to attack all fifty states at once, I don't see why elections *everywhere* would be suspended because of an attack. I was in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and saw the towers collapse with my own eyes. But I suspect life went on pretty much as usual outside of NYC and Washington DC.

The United States had presidential elections in 1864, during the Civil War, and we can have them AS SCHEDULED in 2004, no matter what.

7/12/2004 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Denton said...

I was unaware of the New York primary election connection. If anything, I think it goes to show how comparatively unimportant an election can be when overshadowed by major terrorist attack.

On the interpretation of the political ramifications of an election day attack, well, I disagree. I do not see in the profoundly unserious-on-terror Democratic platform any indications that a President Kerry would act or would have acted in a substantially more effective manner. I also think the Spanish acted rather foolishly; as Churchill said, appeasement is feeding the crocodile in hopes it'll eat you last. I have far more faith in American voters.

As to the notion of a delay itself, it seems to me that's why an inquiry is being made right now, to determine exactly what can be done just in case. Presumably contingency plans would be worked out on a regional or local basis. Otherwise, how many might you disenfranchise in the area of an attack?

Consider, perhaps, random bombings at polls, maybe a half dozen or a dozen spread across the country, early in the morning of election day. How fast would a panicky media spin a handful of attacked polling stations out of tens or hundreds of thousands into "Going out to vote today may be fatal! More after this?" I suspect it wouldn't be too hard to compromise the security of at least such a small number, particularly in rural areas.

I would also suggest that given the greatly expanded physical size and population of the country compared to during the Civil War, as well as the fact that most of the population away from the front lines was reasonably safe from Confederate attack, makes this situation different. Everywhere is on the front lines, and an attack as I've described would reinforce that concept. It doesn't hurt to draw up emergency plans for that contingency.

7/12/2004 04:50:00 PM  

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