DAVID E. JOHNSON
If you don't win the election on the first count-demand a recount and litigate until you get the result you want (or the United States Supreme Court says enough of this foolishness). That has become the Democrats' new mantra as seen in the past week's certification of Christine Gregoire as Governor of Washington following three counts of the ballot; two of which she lost. (The third, a manual recount with dubious ballots suddenly discovered in heavily Democratic King County that were not counted previously gave her the election and now we must stop counting ballots or contesting irregularities cry the Democrats because they might lose again.)
It was Al Gore's strategy in Florida in 2000 until the United States Supreme Court quashed the madness. John Edwards and the trial lawyers wanted to pursue this strategy in Ohio until John Kerry, to his credit, overruled them and said this is not the American tradition.
Having lost two presidential elections, the Senate and the House of Representatives, Democrats have suddenly discovered that values matter to Americans. But they have overlooked the fact that Americans don't like sore losers or attempts to change the rules after the game has been played.
Democrats in 2000 cried that President Bush was an illegitimate president who stole the election and they would avenge their loss in 2002 and 2004. In both elections, President Bush and the Republicans scored resounding successes comparable to only one other President-Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Democrats still can't understand how this happened, after all, they claim they were robbed in 2000.
Overlooked in this is that Americans expect their political leaders and parties to be graceful in defeat as they are magnanimous in victory. The greatest example of this was Richard M. Nixon. In 1960, there was widespread voter fraud in the election in Texas, Missouri and Illinois that tipped the election in John Kennedy's favor. Leaders from Dwight Eisenhower to Everett Dirksen urged Nixon to contest the election. Nixon refused.
In 2000, Republicans had ample evidence to contest the results in Wisconsin, Iowa, and New Mexico, yet refused to do so.
In Washington state, it has gone beyond just contesting an election. Democrats are overturning the election results to install their candidate as Governor. Their argument is that a manual count that included ballots that had not been counted and mysteriously appeared when after the election became in doubt are an accurate reflection of the voters will. All evidence shows that manual recounts are not as accurate as machine counts (both of which showed the Republican nominee Dino Rossi winning). No matter, argue the Democrats, this last count that shows them winning is all that matters and it's time to move on. Does anyone believe if Rossi had won the manual recount, the Democrats would be willing to concede the election.
Christine Gregoire may well be sworn in as the next Governor of Washington but at a very high price not for herself but for the Democratic Party. Her election under such dubious circumstances reinforces the belief that many Americans have that Democrats will do anything to win an election-even steal it.
For a political party already suffering from the perception that it is out of touch with American values this new perception could be deadly. Most Americans fear that lawsuits over election results will become the norm in national politics and want this stopped, indeed the Washington theft reinforces the idea. If Democrats are perceived as the cause for these lawsuits, could further electoral punishment be in their future. In 2006, if they lose more Senate seats and governorships they might begin to get the message or perhaps they might sue the voters. In 2008 they could then nominate Christine Gregoire as their nominee with the slogan if at first you don't win, try, try, try again until you get the result you want.
David E. Johnson is the CEO and co-founder of Strategic Vision, LLC, a public relations and public affairs agency. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org