Dry Rot, Fraud and Elections

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert surveys the state of democracy and the quality of elections in the US, and concludes,

These are not scenes from a flourishing democracy. If you're looking to put a positive spin on the current state of politics and government in the U.S., you've got your work cut out for you.

True, but a story in Sunday's New York Times Magazine can help. It's a long feature story on Ahmad Chalabi, the man the Bush administration once promoted as the George Washington of a new, democratic and pro-Western Iraq, despite the fact that Chalabi had been convicted of theft and embezzlement in Jordan and may well have been (and may still be) an agent of Iran's intelligence service. Leaving aside for moment the wisdom of relying on Chalabi's well demonstrated dishonesty and the question of whether the United States was manipulated into doing the bidding of the Iranians, and has spent thousands of lives and billions of dollars to rid the Islamic Republic of its greatest enemy (the freshly convicted S. Hussein, whose actual guilty verdict won't be announced until Thursday, despite that suspiciously timed verdict announcement yesterday), let's see what the Times story tells us about elections.

When the election came, Chalabi was wiped out. His Iraqi National Congress received slightly more than 30,000 votes, only one-quarter of 1 percent of the 12 million votes cast — not enough to put even one of them, not even Chalabi, in the new Iraqi Parliament. There was grumbling in the Chalabi camp. One of his associates said of the Shiite alliance: "We know they cheated. You know how we know? Because in one area we had 5,000 forged ballots, and when they were counted, we didn't even get that many." He shrugged.

Dishonest election officials cheating hardworking ballot forgers out the election they rightfully stole-- now that's a truly impressively corrupt election. So, while it's true that, as Herbert writes, "The aging system of American-style democracy is beset in too many places by dry rot, cynicism, chicanery and fraud", the domestic supply of American democracy certainly looks good when you compare it to the democracy we've exported. (See, there's always a positive spin to be found if you're willing to set the bar low enough.)


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