Another chime in the death knell of the Republic

The end of a democracy comes when participants start gaming the rules to ensure particular outcomes, rather than following the rules and allowing voters an honest chance to influence government. We have reached and, I would say, starting wading across that Rubicon.

Today, another madness has been added to the sad litany of rules-gaming and partisan manipulation.

The Bush Justice Department argued in federal court that the power to create a statewide voter registry should be stripped from the (Democratic) secretary of state of Alabama and handed to the (Republican) governor. Voter registries are, of course, historically a function of the secretary of state in many, if not all, states. The federal judge (Keith Watkins) sided with the Justice Department and appointed the Republican governor (Bob Wiley) as “special master”, taking the power away from secretary of state Nancy Worley. Now, who appointed Judge Watkins? Do you even have to ask? It was of course President George W. Bush, whose Justice Department pushed the case.

In the court hearing, when the Justice Department attacked the State of Alabama, it had a surprising ally: The (Republican) Attorney-General, Troy King. Instead of defending the state and the law, as is his job, Mr. King joined the Justice Department in its attack. Moreover, when Ms. Worley realized that the state wouldn’t defend her position, she asked permission to hire an independent lawyer to do the job — and was denied. Furthermore, in this Republican mutual admiration hearing, the Democratic party was explicitly cut out. Apparently, the Justice Department lawyer said, with a straight face, “There is no partisan way to implement a database.” and the judge pretended to believe him. Perhaps, had the judge allowed the Democrats a chance to speak, they could have pointed to the voter rolls fiasco in Florida (which affected the 2000 election) or the one in Ohio (which altered the 2004 results). But then again, this judge owes his job to the President who benefitted from both those “errors”, so he probably wasn’t in a position to hear anyway.

In a final twist to send this sailing over the line into the absurd, Gov. Riley has vowed to meet the court date by appointing a seasoned veteran — Jim Bennett, the two-term secretary of state whom Worley bested in 2002. In other words, to “fix” this problem, the governor has turned to the person whom the voters explicitly rejected as being fit to exercise this power!

Is there any doubt that we’re on the precipice? When the habit of democracy and faith in fair play are replaced by the habit of manipulation and a certainty of corruption — then a free nation cannot stand. External enemies can damage only the physical infrastructure of this country. But one party — the party in power — seems dead-set on destroying its soul.