Knock on wood

by John Holbo on July 13, 2004

There has been some discussion – by Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum, for example – of the issue of rescheduling elections in the event of a terrorist attack. On the one hand, concern about the administration’s motives in making this proposal; on the other hand, something to be said for laying out clear procedures beforehand. A quick point. The only good such a measure could possibly aim at would be ensuring public confidence and faith in the fairness of an election conducted under extraordinary circumstances. The only thing that could undermine that faith would be concern that extraordinary measures were being taken for partisan political gain. Partisan political appointees can hardly restore faith by fiat. So it isn’t just that a broad bi-partisan commission would be safer for democracy, as Kevin and Matt and others have reasonably remarked. Rather, it’s the case that no other arrangement would hold out any conceivable benefit. You would do just as well muddling through with no procedures in place. So even if you assume Bush and co. will act with the best of wills – an assumption made for argumentative purposes only – there is simply no point to the proposed measure as it stands.



bob mcmanus 07.13.04 at 8:09 pm

Perhaps it is distraction. There will some reason to postpone the election, which they will do by fiat. Meanwhile, the Repubs will steal Ohio and Florida via Diebold.
Since television can only handle one story at a time, Ohio and Florida will not make the news in all the controversy over the postponement.

It is all kinda silly. Bush is getting another four years, and he is not, never has been, or ever will be, the legitimate President.
When you are oppressed by a tyrant, you do not argue the fine points of the law.


yabonn 07.13.04 at 8:59 pm

I don’t get it.

Grant the terrorists control over the date of the elections? And even more, this proposition coming from the tough-talking bush team?

An election with people scared from a recent attack is worse than an election held a few month after, with people just as scared, waiting for another one?

It’s not that the bushies consider that hypothesis that suprises me, it’s the fact that no one on the left seems to be jumping all over the place at the very idea. Must be missing something.


asg 07.13.04 at 9:29 pm

It is all kinda silly.

Indeed, although “it” ain’t what you think.


tom 47 07.13.04 at 9:54 pm

The point is just to keep people off-balance through fear. Period. Rule by fear.


bull 07.13.04 at 10:00 pm

I’m no psychologist, but I suspect that the average paranoid doesn’t realize he’s a nut.


peter ramus 07.13.04 at 10:09 pm

“Today, because America has acted and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat, and America and the world are safer,” Mr. Bush said.

Except for the part about elections?


vernaculo 07.13.04 at 10:24 pm

Threat, not the creation of vague generalized fear. Direct threat. It’s kind of exciting.
Yabonn, the second and third sentences in your post have the same subject.
This is apocalyptic foreplay.
The traditional uniforms are no longer in use. The dark forces wear white hats and sing the praise of the sweet hereafter. When they aren’t otherwise orally occupied.


christopher ball 07.14.04 at 2:44 am

It is worth considering the procedures and obstacles to re-scheduling. If a terrorist attack took place in a toss-up state, the loser would likely wonder, Did the attack deter voters who would have voted for me? Presumably, the attack would deter voters for both major-party candidates, but the losing party is unlikely to see it that way.

As others have pointed out, any terrorist attack is likely to be localized, so the question would be whether to re-schedule elections for a specific city or even a state, not the whole country. A contigency plan is worth considering, but it seems that this authority could be delegated to the state in which the event occurred. This might also be useful if severely disruptive weather occured during an election.



Mr. Obvious 07.14.04 at 7:14 pm

The Bush plan is not to hope for a terrorist attack and cancel the election. They have no specific intelligence of an attack. The Bush plan is to scare people with the threat of an attack on election day in order to lower turnout, so that only the Bush die-hards/crazies show up at the polls.


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