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Yes, Kerry really lost

By Alan Maass | November 19, 2004 | Page 9

MUCH OF the Anybody-But-Bust left responded to John Kerry's defeat with despair about America's "turn to the right." But a minority sounded a different note--clinging to the belief that their man actually won, but the Bush gang managed to steal the White House again.

The charges spread quickly in the days after the election--that voting machines were rigged, corrupt officials managed to fake results and so on. Journalist Greg Palast led the way with an article claiming that Republican fraud cost Kerry a victory in Ohio and New Mexico, which would have put him over the top in the Electoral College. Palast insisted that exit polls showing Kerry with a small, but solid lead in Ohio accurately reflected what voters thought they chose--but when spoiled ballots were thrown out from disproportionately Democratic areas, Bush came out on top.

There is certainly evidence of shady goings-on on Election Day. Even more persuasive are allegations of Republicans stopping people from casting a ballot in the first place--as in Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush helped out his big brother once again by ordering election officials to use a list of alleged former felons to be kept from voting that even its authors said was flawed.

This is all further proof that the U.S. election system--supposedly a "beacon of democracy" to the whole world--is a mess.

But even if the fraud was on such a scale in Ohio to cost Kerry that state--and thus, a majority in the Electoral College--the fact remains that George Bush won the popular vote by a 3.5 million vote margin, and no one is claiming Republicans stole that many votes. Claiming victory for Kerry on the basis of the undemocratic Electoral College--originally created to protect the interests of slaveowners, and perpetuated today to give sparsely populated, conservative states a bigger say in national politics--while admitting defeat in the popular vote, is a shady proposition for the left.

The focus on vote fraud conspiracies deflects attention from a reality that is harder for Democrats to face. The simple fact is that many of the conservative "swing voters" Kerry and the Democrats sought so avidly were convinced--rightly--that Kerry wasn't a clear and principled alternative to Bush.

However many votes the Republicans succeeded in stealing, John Kerry lost many times more by running a pathetic campaign that never seriously challenged the most beatable presidential incumbent in a generation.

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