Ben Ginsberg No Fan of Democracy

Ben GinsbergRick Hasen over at Election Law Blog asks, Will the Bauer-Ginsberg Election Reform Commission Improve Our Dismal Election System? He concludes that it is all very good in theory, but that the commission has such limited goals that in the end it will probably be of no practical value. You see, the commission is not looking toward any federal laws. The assumption is that the Republicans would never go for that because they know (as we all do) that the easier it is to vote, the worse they do. So the commission will instead come up with a list of “best practices” that Republicans in red states will ignore because, you know, scary black voter fraud.

My biggest problem is that the Republican half of the head of this commission is Ben Ginsberg. People keep describing Ginsberg as “Romney’s campaign lawyer.” Okay, he is that. But I know him from Recount. The movie paints a picture of him as a win by any means necessary conservative. You know: a Reasonable Republican. What I think is very telling is that there is an interview on the DVD with the real Ben Ginsberg and he is thrilled with his portrayal.

Hasen has what is probably a more objective view of Ginsberg, but it isn’t exactly positive:

Ginsberg is an adult who has never bought into the hyperbolic rhetoric by some on the Republican side about an epidemic of voter fraud requiring all kinds of steps to make it harder to vote. Yet Ginsberg is not like Trevor Potter (McCain’s campaign lawyer), who is a campaign reformer and is regarded by some Republicans with suspicion. Ginsberg is a strong conservative, very smart, and not likely to give away the store to Democrats.

That last sentence is critical and it is why I feel so cynical about the whole process. Republican policy is not popular. The more people who vote, the worse they do. In a country that required voting, the Republicans would have to moderate their ideology back several decades. So their only incentive is look like they care about democracy and perhaps make voting marginally more fair.

And I don’t blame them. If my policy ideas were unpopular, I would still try to get them enacted. I would rail against democracy. And I would do it because I would firmly believe that my ideas would be good for everyone, even those idiots who disagreed with me. (Of course, I think a lot of conservatives know very well that their policies are not good for everyone. They know that their policies are really only good for the elite. You can see this in their embrace of social Darwinism. See Corey Robin’s excellent The Reactionary Mind for more about conservative thinking.)

There is a catch-22 kind of thing going on here. By allowing the Republican Party to radicalize itself, it becomes very difficult to bring the country back from the edge of the abyss. This is very clear in our current attempt to keep America a democracy. When the most reasonable Republican we can choose for our election administration commission is a win-at-any-cost ideologue like Ben Ginsberg, we are in real trouble.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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