Evil or Inept?

ACORN Ideas and Issues

Evil or Inept?
October 24, 2008
            Gulfport          This morning my companera forwarded something that must have run in the Living Section of the local newspaper (a section that I admittedly do not read) that she especially enjoyed and therefore was proselytizing on “10 things to do this week to lead a healthier life.”   First on the list was:  “monitor your intake of bad news.” 
Too late for that today, since I had started out my day very, very early as I am want to do by reading the New York Times on-line.  Scrolling through the front page offerings on “Today’s Paper,” to my surprise there was an item where ACORN was on the front page and in the headline in a piece entitled:  “ACORN Overstated Tally of Newly Registered Voters.”  The article was written by Michael Falcone and Michael Moss.
            Reading the piece through my bleary eyes, I gathered it must have been drawn from a press release put out by the Republican National Committee, so it was a little confusing.  Somehow they seem to have pried some comments out of Project Vote and ACORN spokespeople, but I assume there were thumbscrews involved, perhaps more documents or loose lying emails pilfered and sent to the Times, or some use of cold steel with a cocked trigger to someone’s head.  I’m not in the loop to know.
It was essentially from the headline and lead graph out a kind of “gotcha” piece.  If you made it to the very end of the article which three or four readers might do of the millions that might read the first couple of paragraphs, the message I could boil down from these stalwart Times-men was that ACORN and its partner, Project Vote, were perhaps not evil as alleged by the right, but at the least they were somewhere between inept and incompetent.  Small comfort that!
            I’ve been working on developing a Joe Cool, Obama type personality over recent months so that I can be existentially ready for the new administration.  Being unflappable was always part of my package, but this never showing any anger is harder to embrace in the face of such a concerted effort to “blame the victim” and, how might I say this with all respect and admiration for the great New York Times and its entire reportorial staff, “LIE!”
            Luckily, I’m the kind of fellow who never gets angry.  Ask my friends.  Perhaps you should email me directly though so I can tell you precisely which friend to ask.
            In blogs months ago I have approvingly cited Mike Slater of Project Vote when he was quoted in the Times last summer by Shaila Dewan (and, hey, big ups for some of the pieces you wrote on the post-Katrina aftermath here in New Orleans, sister!).  Then as ACORN has tried to haplessly remind, he was quoted IN THE TIMES saying, “…high numbers of incomplete applications were not unusual in such drives. He said as a rule of thumb, 35 percent of voter drive applications were new voters, 35 percent were change of address, and 30 percent were duplicates or incomplete."  But, hey, the campaign is at a fever pitch right now, so folks don’t have time to do any, what do they call it …oh, yeah, research, even in their own paper and even as recently as June 15th, because if the RNC says “boo!” and you have a chance to ride the waves of the maelstrom to the front page, then, “surfs up!” huh, guys? 
            The system is broken, as I pointed out yesterday and in my op-ed that has run in papers across the country.  We need to fix the system and do it now.  How about putting that on the list, President Obama?
            What is not going to work in the meantime is this disinformation campaign of blaming ACORN and anyone else trying to stand up and get the job done and assist voters in getting registered and getting straight with their paperwork so that they are not suppressed and disenfranchised. 
            It was one thing to put up with the jokes and the accusations that were so patently absurd that somehow ACORN — of all organizations — was trying to steal the election, especially with people who would not be able to even cast a vote.  It is another thing now to steel up to weather the next barrage of brickbats that essentially will either patronize all of the efforts as nothing more than misguided, messy affairs by “little” community groups or dog pile ACORN and other efforts as simply incompetent and inept work by a gang that can’t shoot straight.
            Too many are drawing the absolutely wrong lesson.  A paper this morning (sorry — more bad news that was bad for my health!) in Wyoming thought the point was passing a law that made it illegal for 3rd party efforts to register voters.  I was born in Wyoming.  I know Wyoming was the first state to allow women to vote.  I know that people in the real Wyoming believe in democracy.  Now, it seems in the current chaos all of this fear mongering about the election is going to be used by wrong-right-wingers to push people away from the right to vote. 
            Sooner or later somebody in the government and in press needs to take democracy seriously.  I would have thought the left and right and middle might agree on that, but the more I have to read all of this mess, it seems that real American democrats are few and far between. 
            Inept or evil, the real question is not what is wrong with ACORN, but seems to be what is wrong with America that we are not willing to make voting an automatic part of our democratic system.