Lyndon Johnson adopted as a motto: If you do everything, you win. He learned that political lesson the hard way when he slipped up a bit and lost a Senate race to W. Lee O’Daniel in a special election in 1941. A few years later, when he ran against the popular and principled Gov. Coke Stevens, LBJ won.
He did everything. LBJ cut his teeth politically speaking doing grass roots politics. He was the man who handed out $5 bills to poor Mexicans who were voting for the chosen candidate. There were county judges and particular parts of Texas where you had to curry favor to get the votes. And if the counting was running short on election night, a few extra boxes of ballots could be delivered.
Robert Caro’s four volumes, The Years of Lyndon Johnson should be a part of the canon for political theory, political science, and 20th century American history. (We still await the fifth and probably final volume of this set.) LBJ was talented, and he had his times where he was truly noble and admirable, but he was most often political, Machiavellian, scheming, cheating, lying, deceiving, and fraudulent to the core.
One of the setbacks in his political career was his rivalry and later subjection to the Kennedy’s of Massachusetts. By Joe Kennedy’s standards, even LBJ was a lightweight. Bribes, lies, payoffs, deceits, cover-ups, and Mafia connections were all used to get John F. Kennedy to the White House.
That story is told in several books about the Kennedy’s. In recent years, even those who fawned over the Camelot President have recognized that John Kennedy and company were pretty dog-gone devious when it came to politics (and women).
Among other books, I found The Dark Side of Camelot by Seymour Hersh to be outstanding, or disgusting, or shocking, or all three. Hersch was not a conservative conspiracy-seeking anti-Kennedy writer. The family was just plain corrupt. The last standing member of the original group, Senator Edward Kennedy, “The Lion of the Senate,” was honored and praised and nearly raised to political sainthood, but both before and after Chappaquiddick, he was cut out of the same cloth as his father and brothers.
Politics would be tolerable if fraud, lies, and deceit were something that was found in the past and among just a few scoundrels among an overwhelming group of statemen. But time would fail us to tell of Richard Nixon, whose greatest calamity was getting caught, and many others who have set out to do good and ended up doing well.
Money and power are connected in politics. People will lie, steal, deceive, and worse over the most minor of events. As the stakes rise in human actions, so does the willingness to do evil.
In some cases, like the classic novel All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren, the character Willie Starks, modeled closely after the Kingfish of Louisiana Huey Long, was a man who used ruthless means to actually do lots of things for the people. Granted, much of what was done was directed to helping the common people.
The story is so compelling that there have been two movie versions made from the book. A great companion volume to the novel is the biography of the actual Huey Long, titled Huey Long by T. Harry Williams.
Another fictional account of political “irregularities” is a short story by Kentucky author Jesse Stuart. I have loved Stuart’s writings since I was in high school, but it was only a few years ago that I read the title story in 32 Votes Before Breakfast. This short story is about a bunch of college boys who, as is typical, needed a few bucks, who are recruited to ride a bus from voting place to voting place throughout Kentucky and vote and vote and vote. And where did Stuart get the idea for this story? He actually was one of a group who did exactly that.
Time would fail me to recount all of the stories I have read about political shenanigans. And besides all of the accounts I have read about, I have been at least halfway around the block in real life.
From three different sources, none of whom were condemning the practice, I learned that in southern Arkansas politics, one should recruit the African American pastors to transport their congregations to the voting booths. A little gas money–a couple of Ben Franklins–could assure that the votes would be there.
Thank God for American civility. Most of history is the story of murder, exile, threats, and worse in the ups and downs of political power. Work for King Henry VIII and expect to see your political opponents sent to the tower and most likely to the chopping block. Then expect to finally be the one mounting the steps and eyeing the hooded man with the large axe.
Defeated Presidential candidates, even those who were Presidents, defeated governors and senators, disgraced political leaders, and even political people who had to serve jail time are free to travel, speak, write, and even try to regain their lost political fortunes.
So, we are better. But the WHOLE IDEA THAT VOTER FRAUD DOESN’T OCCUR IS RIDICULOUS.
Or else, voter fraud represents the one area of human action where a few laws have cured mankind of sinful and illegal propensities. If it doesn’t happen, then we could have reason to think than people are evolving into better beings. If people no longer labor to steal elections, we have finally hit upon the right combination of penalties and rewards.
Today, is November 15, less than two weeks after the Presidential election. On the one hand, I really don’t want to join the chorus of wailing and raging against President Trump’s presumed defeat in the election. There are so many issues that have been controversial in this election season.
But if one does not think that voter fraud never happens, I wonder what other failures to grasp reality they are suffering from. Typically, the guys behind the scenes become aware of how many votes are needed, and then they “find” what they need to cushion a win. With mail-in ballots, with lack of voter identification, with big cities that have lots of political operators, with the abundance of money, with the abiding fact of Original Sin, why would voter fraud not happen?
Derek Webb (God have mercy on his straying soul) has a great song titled “Everybody is Crooked Deep Down.” The New England Primer states, “In Adam’s Fall, We Sinned All.” Ishmael, in Melville’s novel Moby Dick, said, “Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
The daily newspaper attests to horrible and endless crimes that people do. Why should we suddenly become squeaky clean when it comes to the vast oceans of power and money connected to politics.
Finally, why should we be surprised when both media people and election officials proclaim with an air of infallibility, “Voter fraud is rare. Voter fraud did not happen. Reports of voter fraud are not proven. There is no voter fraud. There is not voter fraud. There is no voter fraud….”