After all the talk on FOX News about voter fraud ... the pre-emptive lawsuits Republicans filed against state elections officials ... John McCain warning that the community group ACORN was "destroying the fabric of democracy" ...
After all that, the only election-fraud allegation to make waves was leveled against -- Rick Santorum.
Yes, once again Santorum's residency was brought into question by Erin Vecchio, a local Democratic Party official who has claimed for years that Santorum really lives in Virginia, rather than the Penn Hills home Santorum claims as his address. Vecchio, who suspects Santorum may run for Governor in 2010, challenged his right to cast an absentee ballot. To tell the truth, even I'm sick of the Santorum-residency question. But what makes Vecchio's charge remarkable is it's the only one I've heard since Election Day.
Before the elections, the gasbags on FOX and talk radio howled about voter fraud. Paid signature-gatherers were forging names on voter-registration forms, we were told -- and on Election Day, these phantom Mickey Mouses and I.P. Freelys would materialize at the polls. Democracy would lie in ruin. The complaints were picked up by bloggers; e-mails bombarded newspaper editors every hour.
It was creepy how people who'd never heard of ACORN were so willing to denounce it. Even creepier, though, was how quickly they stopped. Just days ago, McCain was worried about the fabric of democracy. Now his aides mutter about how much Sarah Palin spent on designer clothes. Never mind the mainstream press -- I'm hard-pressed to find a single allegation of fraud even on conservative Web sites.
It wasn't for lack of trying, I'm sure.
In Allegheny County, Republicans -- the "family values" party -- challenged emergency ballots filed by several pregnant women who were in labor on Election Day. Unless their claims of pregnancy were notarized, Republican attorney Ron Wicks told WTAE-TV news, "We don't know if there's really an emergency."
Seeking notaries for an emergency-ballot request is proper procedure. But if Republicans were willing to go toe-to-toe with pregnant moms ("Oh, and thanks for choosing life, ladies!") you can be sure they'd have trumpeted any fraud they discovered. Their silence is telling.
The real fraud had already taken place. Conservatives love to boast about their love of country, their unshakable belief that we have the world's most powerful democracy. But at the drop of the hat, they were willing to pretend the whole thing could be ruined by a handful of $8-an-hour temps. Suddenly, ACORN was the greatest threat to democracy since ... since ... Saddam Hussein's WMD.
This time around, no one believed the hype. George Bush used baseless scare-tactics to lead us into a morass in Iraq. It's fitting that empty-headed alarmism led to an election fiasco for his would-be successor. In the end, GOP leaders only managed to delude themselves.
And they are still at it. A week before the election, Republicans were denouncing Barack Obama as a socialist. Today, they're insisting his triumph was really a victory for conservatives. Lowman Henry, a former state GOP official who now runs a statewide think tank, claims that the problem is McCain was too moderate: Obama's victory "vindicates conservativism," Henry writes in a blast e-mail, because it "provides conclusive proof of what happens to a party when it abandons its core values."
This is the sound of history passing someone by. Saint Santorum himself lost a 2006 statewide reelection by an even wider margin than McCain did. Was Santorum too moderate?
The GOP hasn't moved away from its principles; the rest of us have. A majority of voters have finally realized wised up to the Republican MO: Convince us to cheat ourselves by dividing us from each other. Save Terri Schiavo so we don't reflect on our own pitiful medical care. Denounce "community organizers" to prevent us from noticing how our own communities are hurting.
From Day 1, Obama consistently told voters he wanted to get beyond that divide-and-conquer approach. That's a big reason he won.
But it's no surprise Republicans still don't get it. That's what happens when a party is run by ideologues with tin ears and tin hats. And hey, if conservatives want to start campaigning on those principles of yore, let 'em. I hope they start by renewing their pledge to invest Social Security in the stock market. That should go over well.
And if they want to run Rick Santorum for governor, well ... be my guest.