MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Isn't extortion illegal?
You wouldn't know it from a corporate media is that is so intent on cozying up to and normalizing the Trump transition that they have strayed from any moral moorings. As Bob Koehler observed in a commentary on our site yesterday, as far as the mass corporate media is concerned, "Once agreement congeals and the winner is declared, that's it. The election is over and it's time to move on."
Of course, as Koehler noted, there's an effort underway to have a recount spearheaded by Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein -- with some legal backing from the Hillary Clinton campaign -- but mainstream journalism isn't particularly enamored with the prospect. After all, as Koehler tartly reflected, "in mainstream media land, questioning the results of a presidential election has sort of an unpatriotic stench to it."
Furthermore, the voting process may seem simple to some people -- particularly white suburban voters whom the GOP counts on for victory margins -- but it is actually quite complicated. Greg Palast detailed some of the realities of widespread and varied suppression of the votes of people of color and other likely Democrats in an article this week in Truthout, "The No-BS Inside Guide to the Presidential Vote Recount."
How many ways can votes be annulled, and in how many ways can people who don't vote Republican be kept from voting? Palast details a multitude of possibilities, including voting machine software vulnerabilities, the generally uncounted "provisional ballot" (which Palast calls the "placebo ballot"), requirements involving voter ID cards, absentee ballots that are never counted, etc. Palast uncovers the names of millions of people who are not able to vote because of "caging" scams such as Operation Crosscheck and the denial of the rights of people previously incarcerated following felony convictions to vote in many states (including Florida, which also had a "caging" list that kept many people of color from voting in the 2000 election there).
"Caging lists" are illegal, by the way, because they target particular demographic groups. In almost all cases, Palast notes in his new film -- The Best Democracy Money Can Buy -- these "caging lists" focus on surnames associated with people of color. Why aren't the Republicans prosecuted? Because the Republicans get away with denying that any specific group of voters is being singled out for being denied voting rights -- a blatant lie. Trump's bogus claim that millions of people voted illegally is another bold GOP attempt to double down on a prevarication, in part to cover up the fact that Trump is currently losing the popular vote by more than 2.5 million ballots cast. The utterly groundless claim also provides cover for the systemic suppression of non-Republican voters in strategic fashion, including gerrymandering.
It's worth noting that the only two Republican presidents since 1992 have lost the popular vote. Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by 540,000 votes but lost the election by one Supreme Court vote. (In 2004, Bush won the popular vote for his second term, although some software analysts claimed vote tampering in Ohio that year.)
So where do the recount efforts fit into the themes of extortion and voter suppression? While Trump is trying to run out the clock by filing suit against a Michigan recount, his surrogates are extorting Clinton with threats that if she joins Stein's recount effort, Trump might change his mind yet again and decide to try and have her indicted. On November 29, The Week reported that "Trump allies are now threatening Hillary Clinton with prosecution over recount":
On Monday, Trump adviser and confidante Roger Stone said on The Steve Malzberg Show that by participating in the recount, "Hillary, I think, increases her chances of prosecution by acting this way." He alleged, without offering any proof, that Clinton or George Soros must be secretly financing Stein's recount. Trump, during the presidential campaign, had repeatedly said he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton's alleged "crimes," but has suggested since the election that he is not interested in hurting the Clintons.
The corporate media is very busy enabling Trump by normalizing his extremist views and appointments. Otherwise, it might consider the threat of prosecution by the Trump transition team -- if Clinton seeks a recount while leading Trump nationally by 2.5 million votes -- as a significant and unsettling story. However, as Bob Koehler noted, even if democracy is continually violated, election after election, the perspective of mass journalism amounts to "nothing to see here, move on."
As Greg Palast told BuzzFlash,
With these sophisticated Jim Crow tactics -- invalidating ballots, removing voters from voter rolls -- GOP operatives don’t need help from Russian hackers to block the few thousand votes needed to steal the election from the voters. Jill Stein’s chief re-count attorney, Bob Fitrakis, laid it out for me in my film. He said GOP secretaries of state are using Jim Crow accusations that Black people are committing voter fraud -- which has not been proven to be even remotely true -- as an excuse for mass purges and to create other obstacles to voting. They "are using bigotry to win this election the only way they know how, by taking away the votes of American citizens," Fitrakis told me.
That's the story the US commercial media keeps missing every election -- that and presidential transition teams engaging in illegal behaviors such as extortion.
In January of 2016, Trump infamously stated at a campaign rally, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose voters." With the merger of politics, entertainment and so-called journalism, he may have been right.