When Karl Rove slithered through New Jersey a few months back, he must have made a big impression on the state’s Republican Party reptiles. In particular, he must have coached them on the party’s formula for democracy, post-2000 style: If you can’t win the vote, keep people from counting the ballots, raise a big cloud of dust and send in your lawyers. It worked for Dubya. And with every poll in the state showing GOP gubernatorial candidate Douglas “I’m a Businessman” Forrester well to the rear of Democratic pick Jon Corzine, the state’s Republicans look like they’re ready once again to certify their status as the flop-sweat annex of the GOP.
So this week the state GOP claims it has found evidence of widespread voter fraud that it has submitted to the state attorney general, Pete Harvey. The GOP claims it has evidence that dead people have voted, and living people have voted multiple times. If Harvey doesn’t do something, they say, the party will file a lawsuit:
“I know this is going to be a close election and I’m deeply concerned about the integrity of the process,” said Tom Wilson, chairman of the Republican State Committee. “It astounds me that with all that happened in Florida and Ohio and Washington, that we’ve not been more aggressive.”
“With all that happened in Florida and Ohio . . . ” — that’s rich! Among the many things that happened in Florida and Ohio was a concerted effort to harass, intimidate and confuse voters in majority-Democrat districts. A Republican claiming concern that voter fraud might happen in New Jersey is about as convincing as Al Capone warning against the dangers of bootleg liquor.
But this con ain’t gonna fly. What gives the game away is the party’s refusal to release its findings to the press. With the election only about a month and a half away, it could only work to the GOP’s advantage to have the state’s newspapers beavering away at evidence of fraud and malfeasance. These things take time to verify, and if the Republicans had anything real to offer beyond bureaucratic slip-ups and paperwork glitches, the scandal would be coming to a boil right about Nov. 1. But they don’t have anything — just another squawk-point for the parrots at New Jersey 101.5.
I’m an admirer of David Mamet, the writer who has made grifters and con men a recurring theme in his work. As anyone who’s seen his movie House of Games can attest, somebody who bungles a con is said to have crumbed the play. I suggest Tom Wilson show House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner at the next Republican kafeeklatsch, and see how these things are done.
Originally published in