Friday, November 19, 2010

Joe Miller, American Weasel

Alaska wheedler Joe Miller may well become a verb and noun. Think, I got a bad case of Milleritis or I have to Joe you on that.

I should ignore the lout. Juneau, AK, is, after all, 4,013 miles from Boston as the buzzard flies. Yet, his obstreperousness and recalcitrance bring to mind a recently local election, as well as a common trait among wingers — both in my purview.
Familial note: My maternal grandmother, Mable Michael, reserved buzzard as her greatest insult and the closest to swearing she ever got. To her, a really immoral person was a buzzard.
Among the salient details are:
  • Miller beat incumbent senior U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for the GOP nomination for the office by 51% to 49%
  • She did not accept that as final and staged a write-in campaign against him and Dem. nominee Scott McAdams
  • Mirabile dictu! She won (in everyone's mind except Miller's)
  • Before starting her write-in campaign, she quickly conceded the primary
  • Miller has shown near total disregard for voters' rights, the numbers before him, and legal realities following his ego-tainting loss, and with the shameful artifact of his looking for housing and office furnishings in D.C. in advance
  • Despite his states-rights postures, he has filed suits in federal court and state ones, as well as challenging any ballot with the slightest misspelling or word order niggle on Lisa Murkowski, demanding a manual recount of all ballots cast, and a call for not certifying her as winner
The underlying significance is not that this pol waddles under the weight of his gigantic vanity. That is all too common among office seekers and holders. Instead, it is his extreme use of immoral or amoral tricks to try for what he failed at in the ballot booths of Alaska.

As the scruffy, Chuck Norris looking Tea Party sweetie, he bellowed the talk. In stump speeches, interviews and his website cant, he speaks of the will of the people, serving the voters, and the integrity of the vote. When it came to the actual election, he has appeared as a true American weasel.

The duplicity and hypocrisy is outrageous, even by Alaskan frontier standards. The worst is his refusal to concede after it became mathematically impossible for him to win with every trick he could try. She passed over 10,000 votes beyond him. Even if every single, seemingly arbitrarily challenged, vote he is fighting were to disappear, she still wins. Moreover, he promised repeatedly that he'd step back if it was clear she'd won. Weasel.

This is worthy of comment as it illustrates a phenomenon I have covered numerous times here and at Harrumph! We have a wide, perhaps unbridgeable divide in this country between those who turn to literalism over principle whenever it might be to their advantage. While not exclusively limited to right wingers, we see and hear it far more often from them, including winger talking heads, fundies, parents-rights sorts and anti-GLBT-rights types.

Consider what should have been Miller's last opportunity for an honorable exit — reliance on the letter of one phrase in Alaska Statute 15.15.360, Rules for Counting Ballots. He and his lawyer wave section (a)(11) and (b):
(11) A vote for a write-in candidate, other than a write-in vote for governor and lieutenant governor, shall be counted if the oval is filled in for that candidate and if the name, as it appears on the write-in declaration of candidacy, of the candidate or the last name of the candidate is written in the space provided.
(b) The rules set out in this section are mandatory and there are no exceptions to them. A ballot may not be counted unless marked in compliance with these rules.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, as the phrase for their logical fallacy goes, this supposedly proves that even slight variations on Lisa Murkowski or Murkowski would fail and should not count. That's ah ha! to the Miller camp and ho hum to the world.

Miller's claims have two insurmountable problems here though. First, even for all his literalism and victory fantasies, he has heard from the elections commission and courts that subsequent case law trumps the strictest interpretation of the statute. In at least two cases, the courts have made it clear the enfranchisement of voters (see Miller's own campaign) wins here. If the intent of the voter is apparent, the vote counts.

Second, even if all 8,000-plus votes he contested disappear, she still wins. (See Miller's promises to shut up and leave when the numbers declare his the squeaking loser.)

What can we learn from this? How about:
  • We still cannot expect even the most self-righteous and self-defined-constructionist candidates to keep their word
  • Weasel candidates will do anything possible to win
  • When they try tricks and deceit, they will try to twist that as either patriotism or respect for voters

East Coast Version

We saw variations on these themes, the same and different recently here in the Fifth District for the MA House race. In the low-turnout, heavily black and Latino, and immigrant oriented district, Carlos Henriquez won a narrow primary against Boston teacher Barry O. Lawton...or did he?

Let there be no suspense. Not only did the young populist top a four-way Democratic primary, he overwhelmed Lawton's write-in attempt in the general. Lawton refused to accept the results of the primary and apparently the final. His site and public statements do not acknowledge his drubbing, even in the form of spin. He is graceless in defeat.

A huge difference here is that the typical election action occurred. Lawton tried an end-run with a write-in and lost again. We should note that his district already has two much older perennial candidates, Roy Owens and Althea Garrison (who briefly held this seat a long time ago). They lost the primary and seemingly reflexively ran write-ins in the final. They always so and always lose badly, but hey, it seems to amuse them.

What Lawton seems to share with Miller are first a huge ego with overconfidence, next a refusal to admit the obvious to himself, and finally, a to-the-end-and-beyond competitive drive. Combined, these traits further lower the opinion of voters, party officials and others in their viability as candidates and their grip on reality.

To those who would say it's the American way to strive, I look at it another way. Most unfortunately, it is the American way for too many of us to sacrifice honor and reason for the slimmest chance at winning.

Think of criminals of all classes and ages. Even with the strongest evidence against them and facing certain loss in court, they take the low road. They plead not guilty and fairly shout that everyone is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. While that might be the most literal legal truth, honor would dictate that they take responsibility with "Yes, I stole the money," or "I did kill him." Remorse would also be appropriate, but admission of the obvious and provable should be sine qua non.

Instead, pols and crooks alike expect us each and all to admire their feisty, almost you'll-never-get-me-copper stance.

Sorry, Joe Miller and so many others, sneaking around, rattling every doorknob in the dark hall for an escape is not worthy of admiration.

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