Oh man, how I hate experts. At least I hate experts who get swallowed by their own expertise.
They know things the rest of us just guess at. They perform important studies. They increase the sum of human knowledge. They could be useful advocates for Truth – with a capital T – Justice and everything that’s right.
But so many simply do not know how to talk understandably.
I get especially irritated by experts who are on my side.
Four years ago, I got to an unusual meeting.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was just being organized to keep the little folks from being ripped off by the big folks.
Pretty much everyone had been nickeled or dimed or dollared out of some amount by some obscure sub-clause that nobody but lawyers knew about.
Anyone who has ever seen the insurance ad about turning to page five and finding that it says blah blah blah blah knows that we live in an asymmetrical world of legal language brokering.
Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was about to become one of the big folks that would be on the side of the little folks that most of us are.
Well it was about time.
Someone at the new agency decided to get democratic – with a small ‘d’. So they held informational hearings around the country. That was so they could tell ordinary everyday people, the little folks they wanted to protect, about the new agency. And they wanted to hear from folks around the country.
At the St. Louis meeting, the nice folks from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began by carefully explaining to us that REO considerations in lending had to be taken into account. Uh huh. REO.
As the evening wore on, they got to interest differentials. One of the more conservative experts used big words to get around the actual low down.
What the conservative was trying hard not to say was that if life was more fair, then people couldn’t be cheated, then return would go down, then corporate risk would increase, then rates would go up, then life would be unfair.
You see, we have to be cautious about unanticipated consequence. More fair leads to unfair. So maybe we should just leave ill enough alone. Cheating ordinary people means more profits which will lead to lower rates.
Got all that? Such was his interest differential concern.
Most of those on the panel who disagreed were just as obscure.
A lot of verbiage had to get to the cutting room floor before their arguments got through the film. And only one of the experts seemed capable of pushing back in clear, standard, non-jargonized English.
Earning an honest buck was a better way to increase profits than squeezing consumers by cheating them. And, by God, the new agency would draw blood from large corporations if they tried to make unsuspecting consumers bleed.
I’ve been thinking of those blah blah blah experts as I listened to a television discussion of election rigging.
Donald Trump, and the more delusional of his supporters, believe that elections are stolen by a combination of illegal immigrants who sneak into the United States to steal jobs, and come out of hiding to vote illegally, and legal voters who sneak around voting multiple times.
Republicans have been making that argument since the dawn of the new century. They have used it as a reason to make voting harder for those who don’t drive cars: low wage workers who ride the bus to their jobs, retirees who don’t drive anymore, students who walk to class. Eligible voters who do not drive tend to vote more for Democrats. So there you have it.
So… voter suppression gets kind of easy. Demand photo IDs, make it as inconvenient as possible to get a non-driving photo ID, then, in case some folks get photo IDs anyway, make voting places in some areas very hard to get to by bus.
You can justify voter suppression by telling folks that we need to prevent voting fraud.
There are two short answers to the voter fraud argument.
- It doesn’t happen. Elections do not get stolen that way.
- It can’t happen. Elections can’t get stolen that way.
How do we know it doesn’t happen? Well, people have looked.
A major 5 year study by the George W. Bush administration was intended to document voter fraud. In every election in every local, state, and federal jurisdiction, they found just a few cases of in-person fraud. And, in those very few cases, it was always for some other reason than to steal an election. A candidate wanted to establish a residency requirement in order to run, a battered wife on the run wanted to keep her identity from any public record. That sort of thing.
That result was recently replicated by an intense study by Loyola College. Out of more than a billion votes – that’s billon with a ‘B’ – in years of elections around the country, there were only 31 cases of anyone voting when it was not legal. 31 out of a B-b-b-billion.
That’s how we know it doesn’t happen.
How do we know it can’t happen? By reading the law.
Stealing an election through in-person fraud involves a massive conspiracy with lots and lots of participants. Penalties are very high. Long prison terms along with very high fines. It will only take one person to crack under that sort of pressure and expose the entire foolish operation.
So elections are stolen through ballot stuffing, jiggling the totals. You know: backroom manipulation. Nothing that a voter ID will affect. Nothing that Donald Trump is interested in.
Nothing that can be accomplished to steal much of anything nationwide.
So, CNN brought in a couple of experts. Two experts who read their words from page six. Blah blah blah blah.
Julian Zelizer takes a swing at why we’re safe from the voter fraud that Donald Trump tells us should terrify us deep into our timid souls.
There’s been controversies when elections were contested and decided in Congress, which was in 1824. But it’s virtually impossible in 2016 to rig an entire election. It’s decentralized. It’s fragmented. And there’s very little evidence that this could happen.
Well isn’t that convincing!
What the hell does that mean?
Very little evidence.
So what? Do we wait for it to happen?
So Douglas Brinkley takes a shot.
Well, you know, calling a whole election rigged is very extreme. That’s saying democracy utterly doesn’t work.
Convinced yet? If you didn’t already think rigging an election is extreme, and if it hadn’t occurred to you that rigged elections pretty much would make democracy not work, utterly not work, you really shouldn’t be voting, or driving, or feeding yourself without a bib.
Poor Julian bravely digs downward. He goes to 1960, where Democrats in Illinois were accused of stealing the election for John F. Kennedy. What does he say about that?
In 1960 in Illinois, there’s a lot of evidence that Republicans stole tickets — stole votes downstate, so in some ways it would balance out.
So everybody in Illinois was voting lots of times? And both sides did it? And that’s supposed to convince us that voter fraud doesn’t happen? It’s enough to make baby Jesus cry.
Listen up. Nobody accused anyone in 1960 of voting twice. Folks in Illinois and Texas were accused of behind the scenes changing of totals. No voters were involved. And investigations in 1960 didn’t find enough of that to make a difference.
Trump and company aren’t accusing election officials of changing totals.
Today, even those behind the scenes changing of totals are almost impossible. Those opportunities don’t exist anymore. The first vote counts are by purely non-human means. We have electronic checking and cross checking, later verified by human ballot counting. That last human part is done by bi-partisan teams. All sides are in on the watching, and the tabulating, and the totaling, and the verifying.
- Decentralized – Fragmented
- Calling a whole election rigged is very extreme
- Very little evidence
- That’s saying democracy utterly doesn’t work
- Republicans stole votes … it would balance out
- Oh for the love of our Living God.
Why can’t they talk Americanized English? It isn’t that hard.
- Stealing elections through voter fraud doesn’t happen.
- Stealing elections through voter fraud can’t happen.
Can we please, please, be clear on that?
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