Longest – and Dirtiest? – Campaign Ever

Tired of all the US election news? (“Obama, McCain, Obama, Palin, William Ayers, Rashid Khalidi . . .” and on and on.) Well, today is the day before Election Day 2008: here at EuroSavant I just can’t stop now – and you can be quite sure that I’ll be monitoring foreign coverage of the results later this week as well. Just be patient, all of this will soon pass . . .

In the meantime, you have the occasional foreign article about the US elections that you rather wish did not have to be there, like what we see today in the main Czech daily Mladá fronta dnes: You’ll be arrested at the polls, leaflets mislead American voters. The lede:

In the last hours before the presidential elections American voters are being flooded with dirty tricks. Misleading e-mails go to Americans, disquieting telephone calls occur, and people find under their doors slanderous pamphlets. Their purpose is to dissuade people from voting, to mislead and confuse them. A part of these tricks this year have a racist flavor due to Barack Obama’s dark skin.

The article (no by-line given) proceeds to give a pretty good list of the various don’t-get-out-the-vote schemes that have been uncovered so far; some of them I hadn’t even heard of yet.

  • Leaflets which appeared in the predominantly-black Philadelphia suburbs warning people that they could be arrested when they showed up at the polls to vote if they had any outstanding local fines or judgments;
  • More leaflets, this time in Virginia and featuring an authentic-looking official stamp, informing voters that the anticipated congestion at the polls had led the authorities to hold the voting over two days; Republicans would vote on Tuesday, and Democrats on Wednesday;
  • A recently-broadcast e-mail in Pennsylvania, from the “Republican Federal Committee,” warning Jewish voters that a vote for Barack Obama could bring another Holocaust;
  • Back to Philadelphia (you can tell that Pennsylvania is the ultimate “swing state” this time around): in another suburb, this one mainly Jewish, leaflets claiming that Obama is more pro-Palestine than pro-Israel, and including a picture – as if that proved anything -of him speaking in Germany, presumably during his extensive foreign tour of late last July;
  • And over in Nevada, telephone calls plaguing Hispanic voters, coming from supposed Obama campaign staffers (so they are not robocalls), suggesting that they can just vote via telephone.

Readers should have no trouble discerning the one-way partisan direction of these fraudulent measures. The very way the electorate has changed for this election draws them out of the woodwork: the Obama campaign, in particular, has inspired a mass of what are probably millions of new voter-registrants, many of whom are young and/or black or Hispanic, most all of whom are first-time voters unfamiliar with the process. And these tricks are only what have been uncovered so far; presumably tomorrow, Election Day itself, will mark the climax of all these stratagems, whether discovered or not.

A Danish View – Mostly Correct!

Then we have a more comprehensive review of the almost-over American election process by Nils-Ole Heggland in the Christian Danish daily Kristeligt Dagblad: The world’s longest election campaign closes today. Heggland points out that this whole affair has not just run “only” for the ten months that have passed since the first primaries at the beginning of January; in actuality, the candidates had been gathering money and support – and visiting primary states, especially the early ones of Iowa and New Hampshire – for most of the previous year. (I know that both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama formally announced their candidacies for president in February, 2007; Heggland does not mention this.) But if it has been a long process, it has also been a crowded one; Heggland marvels that a full 60 million Americans were involved in the primary process for one of the two main American parties, or a full one-fifth of the population.

Otherwise, of course it’s fun to pick out the things that this foreigner has gotten wrong in the short history he tries to give his readers here of the campaigns leading up to tomorrow’s Election Day. He incorrectly gives the total number of members of the House of Representatives as 438 (it’s 435), and gives the mistaken impression that governors of all fifty states are also standing for re-election tomorrow. Of rather more interest is his characterization of the two political parties: “Republicans include both strong Christian conservatives and more moderate people from the east and west coasts. Democrats stretch from union members to minority representatives to very conservative Southerners.”

And of course Heggland has to warn us that tomorrow’s election could well turn out to be a much tighter race than we can now imagine. After all, McCain “is known for his comeback-ability,” and there is always the “Bradley effect,” which he correctly explains to us as voters telling (exit-)pollsters that they will vote black, but actually voting white. Well, we’ll soon see; in the meantime, he recommends Real Clear Politics as the best place to follow the returns.

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