Sunday, November 07, 2010

Conspiracy Theory with Tony Sutton

Edward Abbey, the late environmentalist writer, once said, "Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul." Well, the comments by Minnesota GOP party chair Tony Sutton stirred up a lot of sentiment in me, and I knew I had to write about it. I even thought of calling this essay "F*** Tony Sutton," but I figured that would be in poor taste and could jeopardize whatever chance I have of becoming a political columnist.

If you're not aware of Mr. Sutton's remarks, I suggest you check them out on MPR, although you won't get the full flavor of his venom as I did when I listened to it live and uncut. He did everything but accuse Secretary of State Mark Ritchie of serving up the Senate seat to Al Franken on a silver platter. Nick Coleman called Sutton "Tony Baloney" in his Strib column today, which I encourage everyone to read and employ as the state Republican honcho's new nickname.

My first impulse was to launch a campaign to get Mr. Sutton fired, until I realized that leaving him in his current position would probably do the GOP more harm than anything else. It's scary to think that his opinions may be common among the Republican leadership in Minnesota. In the video the two guys standing at his sides seem to agree with him; they keep nodding their heads. What's even scarier is the possibility his conspiracy theory is widely held among Minnesotans who tend to vote Republican.

Are we really that full of paranoia? Must every political setback for our side be the result of a nefarious scheme by the Other Guys, a.k.a. the Bad Guys? It's a bit difficult for me to make the argument for sanity, a la Jon Stewart, since I still believe the Supreme Court contravened Florida law in stopping the 2000 presidential recount. And I still have my doubts about Bush's 2004 "reelection."

It's not what Republicans or sanity advocates want to hear, but the situations are different. The Supreme Court included in their Bush v. Gore opinion the proviso that the decision could not be used as precedent, casting doubt on its legal validity. The hijinks in Florida, from butterfly ballots to hanging chads to Miami's rent-a-riot, turned the election from high drama to tragic farce. In 2004, Ohio experienced many similar irregularities with the strategically positioned Kenneth Blackwell, honorary co-chair of the state's Bush campaign, overseeing the election as secretary of state.

By contrast, the Franken-Coleman recount was a model of propriety. Mark Ritchie, the DFL secretary of state, presided over an even-handed, thorough process to guarantee that every legal vote was counted correctly. Many Republican-appointed judges ruled on the recount before it was unanimously endorsed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The idea that our election bears any resemblance to the charade in Florida in 2000 or the question mark of Ohio in 2004 is absurd and insulting to the people who toiled to insure the legitimacy of our democracy.

There have been plenty of stolen elections in U.S. history. Besides what I consider to be dubious presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, there was JFK's narrow victory in 1960 that may have been assisted by LBJ's political machine in Texas and Mayor Daley's skulduggery in Chicago. But the only evidence Tony Sutton has that the Franken-Coleman election was fixed is his dissatisfaction with the outcome. Calling it a conspiracy theory would be an insult to the meticulously-constructed crackpot schemes Jesse Ventura showcases on his television program. Mr. Baloney is really just suffering from a severe case of sour grapes. Let's hope it's not contagious.

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