WASHINGTON--Minnesota Democrats solemnly said it would be so very wrong--vulgar, don't you know, and insensitive--to so much as think a political thought until after the memorial service for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. But even before they raised the rafters Tuesday with partisan rhetoric at that political rally--sorry, that memorial service--attended by 20,000 rollicking mourners, the Democrats had done some politicking.
They had selected Walter Mondale to take Wellstone's place on the ballot, although they said it would be vulgar and insensitive to ask Mondale a political question--such as, Would you, like Wellstone, have opposed the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq?--until after the rally/service that Vice President Cheney was asked to stay away from. Supposedly Cheney was so asked because security measures for the vice president would have subtracted from the solemnity of the rally/service, at which several Republicans--Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, former Minnesota Sen. Rod Grams--were jeered.
Even before the rally/service, Democrats discovered in their stricture against pre-rally politics a loophole large enough to slip a battalion of lawyers through. Foreshadowing the sort of post-election litigation that is becoming the party's specialty, Democrats were arguing that Minnesota should do what the Gore campaign's lawyers asked various Florida jurisdictions to do after the polls closed in the 2000 election--read voters' minds.
In Florida, Democratic lawyers said: If you hold this and that ballot up to a bright light and really squint, you can see faint dimples, which mean these voters really, really wanted to vote for Gore. Minnesota's clairvoyant Democrats argued that everyone who mailed in an absentee ballot marked for Wellstone should be assumed to really, really want that vote counted for Mondale.
So began the pre-election phase of the Minnesota Democrats' post-election campaign. Yes, campaign. The Floridization of the nation is the Democrats' aspiration. Before dawn the day after Election Day 2000, as the Democrats' lawyers began descending on Florida, Bill Daley, chairman of the Gore campaign, said, ``Our campaign continues.'' Yes, campaign.
In St. Louis in 2000, Gore's post-election campaign began on Election Day, when his Democratic lawyers found a friendly judge to hear this argument: The Democrats who run St. Louis, and particularly the Democrats in charge of elections, are responsible for long lines at polling places in certain heavily Democratic precincts, and hence the Democratic officials are violating the rights of Democrats who want to vote for Democrats. Bowled over by the force of this analysis, the judge ordered polls in certain heavily Democratic precincts to stay open later than the law allowed. The suit was filed in the name of a St. Louis congressman's staffer, whose claim that his right to vote was being denied was weakened by the fact that he had already voted.
The registered voters in St. Louis included Ritzy Meckler, who was only 13. Still, that is old for a springer spaniel, which Ritzy is. Registration rates in St. Louis are wondrous. In most cities, the number of persons registered is about 65 percent of the city's voting-age population. In St. Louis last year the number of registrants was a remarkable 99 percent. Surely most were bipeds.
In politics, lawfulness is not always mandatory, according to the Lautenberg Principle. That principle was pioneered by New Jersey's Democratic Party and its servant, the state's Supreme Court, which rewrote state law to allow former Sen. Frank Lautenberg to take the ballot place of Sen. Robert Torricelli, a likely loser. The principle is that campaign and election laws are laws for Republicans and suggestions for Democrats. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip, understands. Passionately supporting recent campaign finance reforms to regulate political behavior--of others--she said:
``This beautiful city in which we serve, 200 years ago was built on a swamp. And a swamp it is again today, a swamp of special-interest money. ... We have an opportunity to create a new architecture of political fundraising.''
This year Pelosi, swamp-drainer and architect, built for herself two political action committees, an attempt to evade campaign finance laws by doubling the amount she can receive and contribute. The Pelosi aide serving as treasurer of both PACs says the Federal Election Commission approved them. An FEC spokesman denied that, and this week Pelosi suspended one of the PACs lest, the treasurer said, they ``become a campaign issue." So Pelosi's decision had nothing to do with the fact that the PACs violate the campaign laws she praises and multiplies but regards as mere suggestions.