This one's for the Republicans. Admittedly, it's a huge leap of faith to suppose there are any them who have enough sense left to reason with. But here's hopin'.
Be prepared, Republicans, I'll be asking you to use your imaginations. I know you have 'em, people. Hey, not so long ago, you were able to imagine weapons of mass destruction all over Iraq. You imagined that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11, and you imagined that the war was going to be a waltz. And the most remarkable thing of all is that you were capable of imagining all of this without a shred of evidence to support your convictions. So don't try to tell me you don't have imaginations, you Republican dreamers, you. Far as I'm concerned, you guys are better at living in a fantasy world than Willy Wonka and Michael Jackson combined.
Now relax. Just close your eyes and come with me for a brief cruise through the Land of "What If?" And I apologize for that crack about you not having enough sense left to reason with. Sometimes I can't stop myself from being a snot. But for the rest of the column, I'll try to behave myself.
Imagine ... what if it's November 2008, and Hillary Clinton has just won the presidential election? (Calm down there, Red. Remember, it's only make-believe.)
Yes, Clinton won, but only after another bruising, vicious campaign season that divided the country into screaming opposites, and only after a another squeaker at the polls. It was a close 'un, I tell you. And in one or two of those states with a pivotal role in the Electoral College, it could have gone either way, depending on ... say ... that ice storm in Cincinnati, or those lost ballots in Orlando.
But by midnight on the West Coast, the Republican candidate had graciously conceded defeat and Hillary was giving credit for her victory to a massive turnout of Unitarians and Scientologists. Tom Delay and Bill Frist issued a joint statement saying, "The American people have spoken, and it is now our duty to put the rancor behind us and cooperate with the new president." (I realize some of this may be hard to imagine. But look, it's easier to swallow than the notion we'll be done in Iraq anytime soon, isn't it?)
So the wheels were greased for a smooth transition of power. Only, in the days and weeks since the election, accounts have been pouring out of the suburbs of Cincinnati and Columbus, Toledo and Cleveland and Dayton, that indicate there was something fishy about the way the election was run. There are reports of persistent and unexplained voting machine malfunctions in dozens of Ohio precincts, and in several rural counties, warehouses full of the machines were not even deployed, leaving citizens in those areas to stand in line for hours to cast their ballots.
Bloggers glommed onto the incidents like plaque on teeth. PowerLine.com turned itself into a national registry of the irregularities, but it was Michelle Malkin who put the two and two together, pointing out that every county, every precinct, and every polling place with a suspicious story to tell were in areas known to be most heavily populated with Republicans. Very odd, don't you think?
Then there were those crazy exit polls, every one of which put President Clinton's opponent ahead by substantial margins early in the day, and every one of which proved wrong. Curiouser and curiouser. How could it be that every last darn thing that went wrong, went wrong in Clinton's favor?
Finally, the doubts accumulated to such a degree that Congressional Republicans demanded an investigation, and what they found was disturbing, indeed. Fraudulent and illegal pre-election maneuvering, a concentrated effort to disenfranchise voters in GOP neighborhoods, an insidious scheme to keep reporters and other observers away from polling stations ... to sum it up, the inquiry led the House committee to the conclusion there were "massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies." And most of these anomalies seemed to center on the Ohio secretary of state, who-what a surprise-also served as the co-chair for Ms. Clinton's Ohio campaign committee.
Trouble is, nobody but the most ardent Republicans paid any attention. Democrats ridiculed the whole thing, calling the findings "laughable, if it weren't so sad," and pundits dismissed it all as the ravings of the "looney right." The so-called "fair and balanced" media buried the affair, all except for CBS anchor Katy Couric, who joked about the complainers being "totally divorced from reality ... duh!"
A smattering of intrepid independent journalists continued to pursue the leads. Mark Crispin Miller, the author of several books on chicanery in American politics, laid it out succinctly in an article-"None Dare Call It Stolen"- published in the August 2009 Harper's Magazine, almost a year after the election. But for all purposes, the deed was done and the message was apparent to anyone who cared: Whether Clinton was aware of it or not, it has become clear that powerful figures in the Democratic Party set about systematically to steal the 2008 election. And it appears they got away with it.
That's it, Republicans. You can open your eyes now. Story's over. And please, feel free to tell me how you feel.
Outraged, perhaps? That such a thing is even conceivable? That after 230 years of America being the beacon on the hill, the bright and shining light to all those down-trodden fledgling democracies around the world, a cabal of self-serving criminals could so easily turn our election process into an unsolved crime scene?
I'll bet you're even thinking that if such a thing were to happen, it would be time to get those citizen militias kicked up another notch. That somebody-probably a lot of somebodies-should hang. If such a thing were to happen, I mean. That this foul betrayal is the highest treason a democracy can suffer, and that if justice is not served, maybe a little civil war is in order to set things right ... if such a thing were to happen.
By the way, if you truly give a damn about America like you pretend you do, Mark Miller's article is in this month's Harper's, so you don't have to wait until 2009 to get outraged. He ends with this: "This nation can survive a plot to hijack an election. What it cannot survive is our indifference to, or unawareness of, the evidence that such a plot has succeeded."
Oh, and the article is not about the future-and it's not about Hillary.