As we watch the final vote count in the oh-so-close contest between Steve Cooley and Kamala Harris, watch for a California replay of Bush-Gore 2000. Already, Cooley consultant Kevin Spillane has promised to fight any supposed “manipulations of the ballot counting process by the Harris campaign.”
There is of course no evidence of such manipulations. Republicans are by far the most aggressive practitioners of ballot chicanery, up to and including the shameful intervention by the Supreme Court in 2000. And they are always first off the mark with charges of same against the other side. Kamala Harris received more votes on Election Day than Cooley did, so it’s predictable that Republicans would immediately launch their usual program of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.
The Democrats this time appear more prepared to protect the vote and more willing to recognize that they have a reason to take ownership in this race’s outcome. California Democratic Party Chair John Burton has put out an appeal to have election monitors present at all county vote counts, and Harris campaign officials have been actively fighting all Republican smears.
Unlike Republicans, Democrats have reason to be worried about dirty tricks. The Cooley campaign had major support from Karl Rove, who of course had a leading role in the 2000 travesty. Rove has made his career on dirty tricks since he won a bitter 1973 campaign for Executive Director of the College Republicans — in part by getting votes for his opponent disallowed. Although Rove was caught on tape counseling other young Republicans on how to cheat, then Republican National Committee chair George H.W. Bush chose Rove as the winner and later, fatefully, connected him with his son, George W.
As we have noted previously, Kamala Harris is a logical target for Rove and company. She has had an impressive rise on the way to her current post as District Attorney of San Francisco. She is California’s first African-American DA, and has scored big successes in that office, showing a combination of toughness and brains. She would be the state’s first female Attorney General. It seems obvious that Rove (and partner Ed Gillespie) should fear Harris’ potential to win higher office. Many former Attorneys General have been governors, members of congress, and presidential candidates.
Democrats need to stick to their guns and fight hard for a clean result, because it’s the right thing to do, because of what’s at stake politically, and — not least — because voters want to see that they have the gumption to do it.