As soon as I saw that Paul Hackett had lost his Ohio Congressional race to Bushist apparatchik Jean Schmidt by a razor-thin margin, my first thought was, "Here we go again." When I read on and learned that Schmidt's "victory" came from a last-minute surge of late-counted votes after "technical problems" with the voting machines in a county that had been one of the focal points for the brazen Bushist vote-fixing in the 2004 election -- that gut feeling grew into a dead certainty.
As usual, Billmon at the Whisky Bar was way ahead of me, and he has the disturbing details here: Too Close For Comfort.
Now I certainly don't believe that every time a Democrat loses an election it's solely because the Republicans cheated. And Hackett was fighting an uphill battle in a district that historically votes heavily Republican. It would have been a stunning upset if he had won, and perhaps at any time, against any opponent in that district, the Democrat would have lost the race fair and square. But I also believe there is overwhelming evidence that no Democrat in America loses a key election "fair and square" anymore. I think that all such elections are being gamed by an increasingly sophisticated system that uses a variety of methods to manipulate the final tally in favor of the Bush-backed candidate.
At present, this can only be done in elections where it's obvious that the final result in a straightforward contest would be close in any case. For example, they wouldn't try to pretend that some Republican no-hoper had suddenly closed a 15-point gap to oust a safe-seat Democrat like Ted Kennedy. But I do believe that as this vote-fixing methodology gets more sophisticated -- and as the Bush Faction gets more and more desperate to hold onto power at all costs (to avoid prosecution for its manifold crimes, if nothing else) -- then we will start to see more "stunning upsets" on the Republican side of the equation.
Of course it's good that Hackett came so close. And in ordinary circumstances, one could launch into a lot of vigorous analysis of what his near-victory might portend for national political trends, the 2006 elections, etc. But these are not ordinary circumstances. The "trends and implications" of this result will not be allowed to work themselves out in any natural fashion; they will be subject to the manipulation of the Bush Faction's ruthless suppression of the democratic process.
That's why, to me, there is an element of farce -- grim, tragic farce -- to all the furious speculation and commentary on who will get the Democratic nomination for 2008, and how the Democrats could frame their campaign to attract this or that group of voters, and so on and so forth. Because, deep down, I believe that no Democrat -- no matter who it is -- will be allowed to win the presidency in 2008. I just don't believe that the Bush Faction has built up this monstrous machinery of unrestricted state power and authoritarian rule -- only to turn it over to someone else who might use it against them or their cronies. And I think the Bush gang has proven that it is ruthless enough and bloody-minded enough to "do whatever it takes" to hold on to power. I hope I'm wrong, I really do. But at this point, all the evidence points to the darker scenario.