Ben Smith has a post at The Politico tonight dismissing the ACORN’s fraudulent voter registrations as “a marginal story that the GOP is trying to make central” and “a petty crime”.
Smith, in fact, entirely misses the point. Here’s how he explains what ACORN has been doing around the country.
The latter is putting the names of fake voters on the rolls, something that happens primarily when organizations, like Acorn, pay contractors for new voter registrations. That can be a crime, and it messes up the voter files, but there’s virtually no evidence these imaginary people then vote in November. The current stories about Acorn don’t even allege a plan to affect the November vote.
That the stories don’t make such an allegation does not mean that it won’t happen. The problem with Smith’s post is that he completely misses the purpose of ACORN’s fraud. The group does not intend for any imaginary people to vote in November. Their goal is much larger than that and it’s not, as Smith intimates, a coincidental effect of ACORN’s paying contractors. It is deliberate and not particularly well-hidden.
To find ACORN’s ultimate goal, you have to know a little bit about the players behind the group. This is likely to be a longish post, so stick with me.
ACORN was founded by Wade Rathke in 1970. Rathke was a protege of George Wiley, who was in turn the student of two Columbia University professors named Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven. The pair, inspired by radical guru Saul Alinsky, concocted something called the “Cloward-Piven Strategy”. This strategy was pretty simple. Cloward and Piven believed that by overloading various government systems, they could stress them to the point where they would experience failures. They could then tout the failures they caused as a systemic failure and claim a “crisis” which would then trigger widespread protest. James Simpson details the Cloward-Piven Strategy here and gives a quote from the pair in the article in The Nation that launched it as a viable tactic.
By crisis, we mean a publicly visible disruption in some institutional sphere. Crisis can occur spontaneously (e.g., riots) or as the intended result of tactics of demonstration and protest which either generate institutional disruption or bring unrecognized disruption to public attention.
The first test of the Cloward-Piven Strategy was by George Wiley’s National Welfare Reform Organization. The NWRO stormed New York City’s welfare offices and had a dramatic effect. According to Sol Stern,
From 1965 to 1974, the number of single-parent households on welfare soared from 4.3 million to 10.8 million, despite mostly flush economic times.
The strategy was so effective that New York City was a hair’s breadth away from going bankrupt in 1975.
ACORN was born directly from the NWRO. Rathke was sent by Wiley to start NWRO chapters down South. By that time, though, Wiley was catching heat from inside his own militant circle, so Rathke founded a group like NWRO, but with a wider set of goals than just crashing welfare systems.
Presently, ACORN’s primary focus is on Get Out the Vote (GOTV) drives through its Project Vote wing (which Illinois chapter Barack Obama chaired in 1992 and which efforts led to the election of Carol Mosely Braun to the US Senate). ACORN uses the very same strategy that NWRO used in the 1970s in New York, and why not? ACORN is rife with people who worked closely not only with Wiley but with Cloward and Piven.
Okay, so where does that get us? Well, with ACORN shoving so many new voter registrations into election offices, those offices are going to be swamped. Each office has a legal obligation to check the validity of each registration it gets before Election Day. Now, most election offices don’t have huge staffs. Mostly, they rely on volunteers. It doesn’t take much, as ACORN has learned, to push them harder than they can handle especially if they drop a lot of applications right at the registration deadline. Here’s a story from Pennsylvania outlining the problem.
[Director of Elections V. Kurt] Bellman said he also received a batch of registrations from Citizens for Consumer Justice in Allentown that contained several hundred forms, including ones that have been held since July and ones with fictitious names and addresses and even wrong counties.
Bellman said he believes it’s an attempt to overload the elections office.
“It’s election sabotage,” Scott added.
Citizens for Consumer Justice is part of a group called USAction, founded by Heather Booth. Booth’s husband was a founder of the terrorist group Students for a Democratic Society (the radical home of Bill Ayers and Bernadette Dohrn). Booth herself is mentioned as “a guiding force” for ACORN. The two groups are not exactly strangers.
Oh, and for an added twist, Booth was the Field Director for Mosely-Braun’s 1992 campaign where Barack Obama was a major GOTV player for Project Vote. You think the two of them have met a time or two?
It’s worth noting that Smith is correct. ACORN has no intention on anyone ever trying to vote with thee fraudulent registrations. That is not their purpose. The fraudulent registrations are there to gum up the works so that many valid registrations can not be verified in time for the election and some fraudulent registrations actually slip by the overloaded election offices.
It is not Election Day that ACORN is targeting. It’s the day after that. In Florida, an ACORN official let the strategy slip into the open.
“The fear here is, are they going to knock people out of the process so late in the game that they effectively have no recourse?” said Brian Kettenring, Florida organizer for ACORN, a liberal-leaning organization that claims to have registered 135,000 people to vote this year. “We want the secretary of state to know that all of Florida is watching.”
There is your manufactured crisis. ACORN hopes that some people will be disenfranchised because their voter registration wasn’t verified in time for them to vote normally and that a few bad registrations make it through. It can then swoop in and claim a voting crisis without ever mentioning that its rampant criminal acts caused the problem in the first place. In the attendant media circus that would follow, voters will lose confidence in the electoral system itself which I’m sure Smith would agree is “truly dangerous”.
That loss of confidence is ACORN’s real goal in this election. ACORN’s higher-ups aren’t necessarily trying to get Barack Obama elected, though that would be a nice consequence of their actions. ACORN is following the strategy given to it by its founder, learned at the feet of Cloward and Piven: to destroy the basic institutions of civil society by stressing them to their breaking point then ginning up a crisis of confidence sufficient to replace them with socialist substitutes.
That is why these voter registration fraud cases are important. It is vital that the Republican Party, and anyone else interested in keeping our election system sound and strong, get this story out. ACORN can not be allowed to pull off what its founder intended 38 years ago.
Critics of ACORN wonder: why are fraudulent applications submitted in the first place? It’s the system; you pay people to turn in as many voter registration cards as possible, you invite people who want more money to submit false forms. Critics also wonder: why aren’t more people — read the media — covering this? After all, incidences of fraud are rampant, with official investigations launched in 12 states. Now — “rampant” might not be the best adjective. Voter registration cards aren’t the property of ACORN or any other group, and ACORN is required by law to turn in every completed form — even if they’re obviously fraudulent.
Marc acts as if the system just leaped from the head of Zeus. It didn’t. ACORN’s system is the way it is so that it can produce the maximum number of registrations, regardless of the applications’ validity. If ACORN really wanted to clean up its system, it could easily do so. It could, for instance, screen the registrations before they are submitted to weed out the blatantly false ones (and not wait until the last minute to submit them) and pay out only for valid registrations.
Marc should ask himself why ACORN doesn’t put a screening system into place. After all, it’s not like the group hasn’t been in trouble before for submitting bogus applications.