McCain’s absurd claim in tonight’s debate that ACORN is “destroying the fabric of democracy” reflects other hate-filled cries from conservatives about the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people:
— Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL): “One organization in particular has developed a reputation for lawlessness in the electoral process.”
— Ken Blackwell (R-OH): “Election Day this year may bring the kind of chaos you expect from a category-five hurricane — with radical groups sending the nation into a protracted legal battle even worse than the mess back in 2000.”
— Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): “[B]ecause the violations of federal voting laws by ACORN employees appear to be so widespread, ACORN and its affiliates should be investigated as a criminal enterprise.”
As Lori Minnite, a professor of political science at Barnard College who investigated allegations of widespread voter fraud but found no evidence to support such claims, told Salon:
The fact is that ACORN has been smeared by [conservatives]. Some of their employees do seem to fake registrations, sure, but when Macy’s has some of their employees stealing from them, we would not call them a quasi-criminal organization — we still call them a department store. ACORN is trying to help underprivileged people vote.
The small number of staffers who have knowingly submitted fraudulent registration forms are violating ACORN’s mission. When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud. The same principle applies here.
Unfortunately, widespread voter suppression — unlike the myths of voter fraud and registration fraud — does exist. McCain has not raised any alarm about this troubling reality.