Thursday, January 12, 2006

Isolated Incident vs. Systemic Problem

The trial of five men accused of slashing the tires on Republican get-out-the-vote vans on election day morning in November 2004 is heating up. A key state witness testified yesterday, and is set to do so again today, that the men--two of whom are sons of prominent Milwaukee Democratic politicians--bragged about the incident later in the day. Opel Simmons III's testimony is key because there is no other direct evidence linking the men to the crime.

I'm not sure if these men did the crime, although based upon the media coverage it seems they were at least involved in some way, but without question this misguided act was done to help the Democratic Party. Now, however, the ill-conceived incident is hurting the Party (to be sure, there is no way such a thing could've helped in the first place).

In addition, the argument the defense attorneys used in the opening statements earlier this week is not helping. By claiming it was an act perpetrated by "outsiders" it associates tactics such as tire-slashing with the larger Democratic Party as a whole, rather than keeping the incident an isolated event.

Whoever it was that committed and/or helped to plan the tire-slashing should come clean and show that tactics such as this are not part of the Democratic Party's bag of election tricks, but rather the troubling actions of a few misguided people caught-up in the competition of election day.

And I would be remiss not to mention that tactics such as this take place on behalf of Republicans, as well. Check out Josh Marshall's coverage of Republican phone-jamming activities in New Hampshire in 2002--and this is a case that can be connected to higher-ups in the GOP (indeed, it involves the state Republican Party hiring a telecommunications firm to jam phone lines of Democratic get-out-the-vote campaigns), suggesting more of a systemic problem than the case here in Milwaukee.

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