In 2000, Janet Reno - still the Attorney General - dispatched crack squads to highlight the crimes against democracy the Democrats had been touting. They came up empty, too. Indeed, even Al Gore's lawyers - who saw nothing wrong with trying to squelch the votes of Americans serving in the military - failed to cite a single example of the allegedly "pervasive" disenfranchisement Democrats claimed had taken place. You always know something's fishy when party hacks say one thing in front of cameras and another in front of judges.
Now, obviously, the GOP is hardly pure on such matters. The reports that a firm in Nevada allegedly tore up the registration forms of Democrats and Independents is just one small example of how both sides play games with the rules. And, admittedly, in 2000, Florida Republicans did over-purge the rolls of felons. Yet during the same election, Democrats kept polling places in Missouri open late in Democratic precincts. And in South Dakota they probably stole the Senate election from the GOP by using the Indian vote "creatively." Undeniably, both parties have played fast and loose.
But there's a huge difference between the two sides' tactics. The Republicans' lawyers aren't preemptively declaring the election is fraud if they don't win. Simply put, they aren't trying to undermine the legitimacy of the American political system. The Democrats - who constantly decry Bush's "politics of fear" even as they warn of a draft and tell blacks they'll be disenfranchised - have taken the position that a Bush victory is by its very nature proof of voter fraud. That is the Holder Doctrine. If all the votes are counted, Kerry wins. Period. If Bush wins, the votes must not have been counted.
Already, in state after state, the Democrats have said that voter confusion over how to vote constitutes voter disenfranchisement. But, as George Will recently noted, disenfranchisement is something the government does to you. It's not something you do to yourself. If you can't figure out how to fill in the ovals or punch the chads - and some minority of voters will always botch it - that doesn't mean your right to vote was rescinded. It means that you didn't take your right to vote seriously enough to pay attention to the instructions. Democracy requires two things: an electorate that takes its responsibilities seriously and small-d democrats of all parties who take the process seriously.
Judged on these two criteria, it's hard to see how the Democrats can call themselves democrats.