Good Friday Morning! And happy trails are in order for the PAC 12. The college conference is already down to eight members, with USC and UCLA leaving for the Big10. ESPN reported late Thursday that Arizona is headed for the Big 12, and other teams are headed for the door. The SEC — the best conference — is watching everything with bemusement, according to 24/7. Florida State seems like they want to jump to the SEC, but there’s no reason for the conference to act. UVA and UNC might be better regional fits for the SEC by opening up new states for recruiting and viewership.
The Power Five conferences are consolidating to the Power Four. Josh Pate at Late Kick got it right when he observed that the expanded playoff guaranteed conference realignment. There’s no going back now. In any event, football is back, which means: Go Vols!
This week, I’m writing about voter fraud and its history in the United States — links to follow.
- A hat tip to Varad Mehta and Ben Domenech for flagging this piece. David Samuels has an extensive writeup and interview with historian David Garrow at Tablet Magazine. Garrow is a biographer of Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. The piece is titled: “The Obama Factor: A Q&A with Historian David Garrow.” It is the most extensive deep dive on Obama I’ve ever read. Garrow is a clear-eyed liberal who writes with precision and depth that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Samuels points out that most people missed his biography on Obama because it was released in 2017 when Trump dominated all aspects of the news. It’s an extremely long read, but I recommend it. The same is true of the Obama biography – which clocks in at 1,417 pages. Here’s one of the quotable sections of the Tablet Mag piece:
- When I start reading about Barack in early ’08, I read Dreams and thought, “This is a crock.” It’s not history. It’s all make-believe. Who knows what the real story is? And initially for some number of months, I thought I was only going to do a magazine article on Barack’s community-organizing years—nothing more than 8,000 words, or what have you. But it was clear from the campaign journalism that Barack had lived with a graduate student in Hyde Park during those years. But no journalist ever goes to try to locate this former graduate student he lived with, which was weird. Anyone who’s ever been in a university knows you can go find a student directory that’s going to have people’s addresses.
- On the GOP primaries, I remain unmoved by all the narrative spinning about DeSantis being up or down and the prospects for Donald Trump. If you look at the long-term RealClearPolitics average, DeSantis is roughly where he was pre-midterms, and Trump has mostly stayed the same. Everyone else is in a distant third place or beyond. GOP voters are just sticking with their answer until we get debates and start seeing voting. DeSantis has a straightforward path: do well in the debates, and win Iowa. If he does that, the race changes overnight. Trump wants to suck all the oxygen out of the room and prevent a stiff challenge.
- Also, on the primaries: Donald Trump’s main Super-PAC started the year with $105 million but currently only has $4 million left in its account. Rob Pyers has a solid breakdown of the numbers. Trump is shelling out almost all his campaign donations on legal defenses for himself and others. With the latest indictments and more to come, those legal costs will continue ticking up. In comparison, the DeSantis Super-PAC has nearly $100 million ready to go. Tim Scott is also well-funded, and Scott and DeSantis are running campaigns to defeat Biden. Trump doesn’t have the time or money to run a campaign against Biden.
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter.
Russia’s Food War: A Dark Turn in Ukraine – Conservative Institute
Biden, Trump, and the Corruption of the Presidency – Conservative Institute
Fitch Ratings Downgrade of US should be a Wake-Up Call – Conservative Institute
The Kennedy’s, LBJ, and other Election Frauds.
I’m going to start with a question, then an observation. When did it become “common sense” to assume election fraud no longer exists? Put another way: when did we stop believing elections are rigged? The United States not having any election fraud has become an article of faith on the left, with any question of that being an assault on democracy itself. Because of Trump’s influence, that’s not an article of faith on the right at the moment — but most people tend to start there.
I should say here: none of this question is about 2020 or Donald Trump. I don’t think that election was stolen because Trump’s own campaign didn’t believe that, nor has it ever brought forward any evidence that something nefarious happened (other than Trump running an abysmal campaign). You can read my column at the Conservative Institute regarding the current indictments against Trump on the election here.
This is a question I’ve pondered for a while, and it came back up this week when I started a new book. Back towards the start of the year, I found a used copy of Ronald Kessler’s 1996 book, “The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty he Founded.”
There’s been a certain irony in watching Robert F. Kennedy Jr. destroy the reputation of the Kennedy family. Camelot has become Spamalot. RFK Jr. has long been a known crackpot, with more conspiracy theories emanating from him than an episode of Coast to Coast AM.
An aside on Kennedy: In one of my jobs, I was once tasked with staffing a group of attorneys on a lawsuit launched by RFK Jr. against a vaccine. Wherever RFK Jr. went, he pulled headlines and tended to help plaintiff groups get larger class action groups. I dutifully staffed some attorneys on the case and continued with my life. About six months later, I was in a staffing pinch on other projects and asked the higher-ups which cases could take a hit. Kennedy’s case was top of the list: “He’s certifiable, and this case was a mistake,” was the feedback I got.
I quietly moved resources around in response. That’s my RFK Jr. story.
Back to the book on Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of JFK, RFK, and Teddy Kennedy. I cracked it open the first time, and there was a handwritten note on the title page: “Page 388: Joe spent 4 million to buy the nomination plus 9 million more during that election year.”
Naturally, I turned to that page and learned that’s exactly what Kessler wrote, with a direct quote told to journalist Ben Bradlee. It referenced the 1960 election, where Joe Kennedy worked overtime to get his son elected President. Joe Kennedy shelled out to buy the press in favor of his son and against Nixon:
Joe sent expensive jewelry to female columnists, a confidant said, and gave cash to others. “He distributed a substantial amount to journalists, ” the confidant said. “He knew when to give them a full set of Tiffany sterling silver, and he knew when to say don’t **** around with me.” In addition, “Reporters took consulting assignments. Some of these guys were pretty amenable to consulting fees and gifts.” Columnists, especially, were “for sale” – not to mention politicians. For such purposes, Joe always kept large stashes of cash.
Dave Farrell, then managing editor of the Boston Herald, recalled having lunch in 1972 at Anthony’s Pier 4 restaurant in Boston with Frank Morrissey and Billy Sutton. Morrisey related that Joe had once called him to Hyannis Port to help him move $1 million in cash from the basement of his home. (p. 385).
I immediately recognized this story of Kennedy having cash to give out from the memoirs of former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. JFK ascended from the House to the Senate in 1953, and Tip O’Neill took over Kennedy’s House seat that same year.
In his 1987 memoirs, Tip O’Neill writes:
Although he lived in New York, Joe Kennedy was an ongoing factor in Massachusetts politics. Every time a Democrat ran for governor, he would go down to see Joe, who would always send him home with a briefcase full of cash. The word was that if Joe Kennedy liked you, he’d give you fifty thousand dollars. If he really liked you, he’d give you a hundred thousand.
In 1960, Joe Ward was our nominee for governor. When he went down to see the old man, Kennedy had only one question: “If my son Jack wins the presidency and you become governor, who would you appoint to fill his seat in the Senate” (p. 81).
According to O’Neill, Ward gave the wrong answer and left with “an empty briefcase.” Joe Kennedy wanted that Senate seat to go to one of his sons, “Bobby or Teddy.”
You may say these are great anecdotes of corruption, but what about voter fraud? And that’s a solid point; you’re correct this isn’t voter fraud. But that existed too. Joe Kennedy learned all these tricks from his father, Patrick Kennedy, an Irish politician in Boston. In Kessler’s book, he writes how Joe’s father, PJ, had a well-oiled political machine in Boston. Kessler writes:
In one of his earliest memories of his father’s political activities, Joe recalled a couple of ward heelers telling P.J. one day, “Pat, we voted 128 times today.” (p. 11).
Nor was election fraud the purview of only the Kennedy clan. While reading a biography on Sam Rayburn, arguably the most powerful Speaker of the House in US History and mentor to Lyndon B. Johnson, I came across ample accusations of election fraud involving LBJ in Texas politics.
Johnson started in the House, which is how he met Sam Rayburn. But his aim was the Senate, and he tried getting there in the 1941 special election. LBJ ran against then-Texas Governor Pappy O’Daniel, and narrowly lost a race that took a while to figure out the winner:
The counting of election returns went on for days as the lead shifted back and forth between Johnson and O’Daniel amid charges of vote stealing on both sides. Johnson had run a strong race and established his future claim on statewide office. But he lost this election – by a scant 1,300 votes – to an opponent more experienced in ballot-box manipulation. As one Johnson supporter put it, “He [O’Daniel] stole more votes than we did, that’s all.” (p. 286).
It was back to the House for Johnson. But he would run for Senate again, helped by Rayburn and other Democrats. The Rayburn biography cites Robert Caro’s biographies of LBJ on the election fraud claims when Johnson won the Senate race in 1948.
Lyndon Johnson’s bitterly contested win over Coke Stevenson in the Senate runoff a few weeks earlier rounded out the victory — a triumph that Johnson, despite his inevitable complaints about inadequate help from friends, owed in no small measure to Rayburn. Johnson’s critics claimed he owed even more to south Texas political boss George Parr, whose flagrant ballot-box stuffing gave Johnson his 87-vote margin of victory and the derisive nickname “Landslide Lyndon.”
While the counting happened, Johnson and his allies learned he was losing by 854 votes. County officials in George Parr’s county magically found more boxes of ballots where Johnson won them 110-1. That gave Johnson the 87-vote victory he needed; the rest, as they say, is history. Robert Caro wrote, “Ballot-stuffing, buying, and changing were par for the course. But no one had done it as brazenly as “‘Landslide Lyndon.'”
From the later parts of the 19th century through the mid-20th century, vote fraud was rampant, especially in areas controlled by political machines. All the big cities had them, with New York having the most famous being Tammany Hall in New York, with its infamous Boss Tweed. Democrats feasted off these associations, as did many Republicans.
Fun note for my Tennessee readers: in 1946, the “Battle of Athens” took place, where returning GIs from WWII clashed with the growing Crump Democratic political machine in the state out of Memphis.
My point here is this: voter fraud was a thing. It was frequently combined with bribes, intimidation, and more. What critics of this view will say is that recounts showed that nothing changed. But the problem with relying on recounts is that the people who controlled the machines in these areas also directed the recounts. Of course, nothing was changed. It’s smarter to rely on the accounts of people in these campaigns — who openly admitted fraud was an ongoing phenomenon.
This stuff went on well into the 1960s and 1970s. And then suddenly, it all just went away in media coverage. I do believe some of this got cleaned up. In Tennessee, I know the Crump machine eventually fell apart. Although, the corruption in places like Memphis continues, with DOJ investigations. But voter ID, as well as voter rolls, make fraud more difficult.
But watching the “common sense” on this issue shift in the last ten years has been weird. In college, I’d routinely see the campus leftists scrawl in chalk in common areas the links to various Youtube conspiracy videos on how the 2000 and 2004 elections were rigged. Some of those liberals I knew had intense knowledge of Diebold voting machines.
They intensified those conspiratorial beliefs after the 2016 election. And now we’ve seen an inversion of that after the 2020 election. But the inversion has been steep, with a shared belief now on the left that any claim of election irregularities is an attack on democracy itself.
That’s partially why the prosecutor in the Trump case will have a hard time proving a conspiracy in this case. There’s a long history of candidates challenging the results in American politics. The way this prosecutor is reading the law, theoretically, we could charge Al Gore, Stacey Abrams, and Hilary Clinton with similar “crimes.”
None of this is to excuse the conduct of Trump – it’s horrible for the long-term health of the Republic. But there’s a reason voter fraud is the default setting in American politics – because our politicians have admitted to it.
Links of the week
Indicting Trump for ‘knowingly false statements’ about election sets US on dangerous path: Prosecutors will seek to criminalize false political claims. To bag Trump, they will have to bulldoze through the First Amendment and a line of Supreme Court cases. – Jonathan Turley, USA Today
Crystal clear that Joe Biden was involved in Hunter’s business – Miranda Devine, NYPost
Biden Allies Spread Photoshopped Pictures of the President to ‘Prove’ He’s Fit for Second Term – John Hasson, Townhall
Bed Bath & Beyond comes back as an online retailer: Overstock.com bought the iconic home goods store’s branding, along with its famous name. All of Bed Bath & Beyond’s physical stores are permanently closed. – NBC News
Welcome to the MAGA Hamptons!: Every summer, the haute bourgeoisie of Middle America descend on Lake of the Ozarks to jet ski, barbecue ribs, and (until 2023) drink a ****-ton of Budweiser. – Max Meyer, The Free Press
VIDEO: Used Car Lots are Filling Up with Bad Cars – Car Edge
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Local Man Going Through Whole-Life Crisis – Waterford Whispers News
Thanks for reading!