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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democrats: a very dangerous threat is coming into view – faked incidents of “voter intimidation” on Election Day. We have to be ready with a clear and effective strategy to respond.

This item by James Vega was first published on September 29, 2010.
Several weeks ago TDS predicted that the exposure of the deceptive editing of a videotape of a speech by Shirley Sherrod–and the resultant discrediting of right-wing propagandist Andrew Breitbart — would produce a trend toward even more extreme tactics by the media “action groups” now functioning on the right.
Yesterday, CNN reported on one such action — a plan by Andrew Breitbart’s most famous protégé, James O’Keefe, to trick a female CNN reporter into entering a phony “pleasure palace” filled with pornography, alcohol and sex toys and then to attempt to seduce her while secretly taping the encounter. The goal of the plan was either to embarrass and discredit CNN or else to essentially blackmail them into improving their treatment of right-wing activists in an upcoming documentary.
At first glance the plan seems utterly absurd and infantile – so much so as to be literally delusional (O’Keefe apparently believed that he actually had a realistic chance of succeeding in the planned seduction) and many in the media will be tempted to ignore it on these grounds.
But this is a tremendous mistake. Even a person who explodes in furious indignation at a vile set-up like this the very first instant they encounter it can be made to look like a participant by careful video editing and stage management (e.g. the con-man can say “But this is what you said you wanted yesterday on the phone” or “That’s not the impression you gave me when we had that hot phone call last night”. Carefully edited, a secretly taped video of something like this trap can easily be made to appear ambiguous or even incriminating simply by innuendo – e.g. “Why was she there in the first place?”, “Maybe she just got cold feet at the last minute”)
But the real danger for Democrats right now is not this particular trap – it’s the more sophisticated ones that can easily be sprung on Election Day.
Let’s face it. It is a trivially simple task to find one or two Black or Latino men in any city in America who, for a sufficient bribe, would be willing to show up at a polling place and suddenly begin shouting and brandishing wood canes or telescoping security batons of the kind that is now sold in any martial arts store. As little as 20 or 30 seconds of “amateur” video of such actions would be more than sufficient to create another national “scandal” like the New Black Panthers case that Fox has already elevated to mythic status. Three or four incidents like this in November would be sufficient to create a propaganda firestorm and delegitimize any elections Democrats happen to win.
The defensive strategy Democrats must employ is simple. Democratic poll-watchers and ordinary voters must immediately insist – in front of camera and witnesses — that any suspicious “intimidators” should be immediately arrested, booked and fingerprinted. If those “intimidators” then turn out to be paid agents of right-wing media action groups, the organizations that paid them should then be criminally prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and also sued in civil court for six or seven figure judgments. The Southern Poverty Law Center has successfully destroyed several white supremacist groups using this tactic and it is now past time to start deploying similar tactics against today’s right-wing media action groups.
To put it simply, the best Democratic strategy for preventing phony incidents of voter intimidation on Election Day is to make it very clear in advance that if the perpetrators are caught, the price will be so high that even totally cynical and immoral right-wing organizations will fear the consequences.
In contrast, the biggest mistake Democrats can make is to dismiss events like James O’Keefe’s attempted sexual blackmail of a CNN reporter as unimportant. On the contrary, O’Keefe’s aborted “black op” illustrates the profoundly dangerous extremist mind-set that many on the right now share. There are many right-wing activists who are just as cynical, dishonest and extreme as O’Keefe; Democrats cannot count on all of them being equally stupid.

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