Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy
Richard L. Hasen
Richard L. Hasen is an election genius. He is a legal scholar and knows more than most people about legislation, election law, and campaign finance and he is a professor at the University of California, Irvine. He has also served as a law clerk to an appeals court judge and has worked for a law firm before embarking on his academic career. In his first book, The Voting Wars: From Florida 2000 to the Next Election Meltdown, he dissects the Bush versus Gore election and lays out what it means for the future of American Democracy. His next book, Plutocrats United Hasen warns us about the future after the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision unleashed campaign money from the wealthy. He followed that up with a critique of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. His writing on elections and the threats to democracy have up to this point managed to piss off both the left and the right, with the left labeling him a Nazi and the right taking frequent pot shots at him for defending voter fraud. In Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy Hasen, like Dorothy's dog Toto in the Wizard of Oz, pulls back the curtain to reveal the weaknesses in our electoral system. The bottom line: if the system goes completely off the rails and neither candidate accepts the result, the Constitution provides little remedy. Hasen eviscerates the right wing charges of voter fraud, finding them a phantom smokescreen for right wing voter suppression efforts. Hasen then lays out a series of threats ranging from obsolete voting equipment, incompetent voting supervisors, partisan meddling, and inadequate funding for elections that distort the results but which should be no-brainer issues to resolve. His chapter on dirty tricks is chilling. He details previous Russian meddling and predicts that the types of meddling that the Russians perfected will increase with many more actors tossing their meddling hats into the ring. He notes that the Russians and other state actors have the ability to mess with registered voter lists and voting machines. More chilling, they also have the ability to mess with our electric grid and he explores what might happen if an outside state actor such as Russia shuts off the electric power to Detroit or Milwaukee on election day. He follows this up with a chapter cautioning people from charging that an election was stolen without proof. Charges of stolen elections from either the left or the right serve to deligitimize the election process and erode the public's acceptance of the outcome. Hasen finishes up with a chapter on what do we do now and proposes some very reasonable reforms and suggestions on what kinds of protests the public should wage. Although I find some of Hasen's remedies weak-kneed, his book is important for giving us a place to start the discussion. This well written book would be entertaining if it were not true. This is a must read for anyone concerned about our democracy.
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