This newspaper saw fit this month to airily dismiss allegations of voter fraud against the national community group ACORN as being nothing more than partisan posturing by Republicans. In a lead editorial under the headline "Crying wolf?" The Baltimore Sun said, "ACORN's critics across the country accuse the group's workers of voter fraud, but the claims have the taint of hardball politics."
"Real voter fraud - the intentional corruption of the electoral process by a voter - happens at the polls, not when new voters try to register," says The Sun. The implication, I suppose, is that those nasty Republicans and their spurious complaints shouldn't fool us, since the efforts to register new Democratic voters (because that's the real goal of ACORN's efforts, no matter that it's supposedly nonpartisan) is obviously God's work. No hardball politics here; I'm just among those objecting to multiple registrations of voters, some real and some fictive, actions that have led - at last - to an FBI investigation into ACORN's voter registration efforts.
But I've had quite the story told to me about some voter registration efforts right here. An inmate at the Baltimore City Detention Center, whom I'm not naming to protect him from potential retribution, sent me a letter saying, "Today, 10-06-08, all housing units of BCDC were flooded with correctional officers - on duty, I must add - who were going around soliciting inmates to register and vote for Obama." The inmate, who says he's awaiting trial, enclosed sample registration and absentee ballot applications, and asked, "Can you believe that Obama's people would stoop so low as to solicit the criminal vote? The vote of people who have no concept of the political and election processes?" He also said, "Some soliciting guards were even alluding to the idea that Obama's installation would make the criminal justice and prison situation better for them."
Detainees are eligible to vote if they haven't yet been convicted of a crime. Officials acknowledge there has been a voter registration drive at the jail, although they deny that correctional officers were involved. And one might be justified in thinking a letter from a jail inmate shouldn't be offered as credible evidence of such a voter registration effort being made by state employees on the taxpayers' clock. But the question is, does it ring true? Maybe The Baltimore Sun can investigate.
I'm not among those people who think the current presidential race is one between good and evil, having had such naivete hammered out of me through years of watching how politics really works. I do get spooked when politicians say they're world improvers, whether it's George W. Bush reportedly telling friends that God had assigned him the job of pacifying the world or Sen. Barack Obama's mantra, "We will change the country, we will change the world." Humans are deceptive creatures, and those who seek power by promising reform aren't really seeking justice for their adoring followers, but to grasp the power of injustice for themselves. If you think this unduly cynical, you're not paying attention.
If, like former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, one believes Barack Obama to be a needed "transformational" leader of our now multicultural America, perhaps one can excuse voter registration fraud as being no big deal compared with achieving the goal of electing the man. That seems to be the thinking of Democrats. But let me predict boldly that a President Obama is more likely to be changed by the world in which he finds himself than he is to change it. The world is what it is and stubbornly resists either pacification or "improvement" mandated by a powerful ruler. If we haven't learned this much from our ongoing, bloody, tragic and incredibly expensive occupation of Iraq, shame on us.
Whoever wins the election is also going to have to deal with the gathering economic crisis. It's unlikely the American Empire can be maintained in its current form. It's simply unaffordable. Retrenchment will be the task of the next president and Congress whether they like it or not.
Ron Smith can be heard weekdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., on 1090 WBAL-AM and WBAL.com. His column appears Wednesdays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.