Today, the St.Louis Post-Dispatch jumped into the fray over ACORN and voter registration fraud with an editorial that lambasts the efforts of the former U.S. Sentor from Missouri, John Danforth, and Warren Rudman of New Hampshire to paint Republicans as the victims of voting fraud.  Noting that “Ordinarily, involvement by these two party statesmen, beacons of integrity in their long Senate careers, would be a welcome development,” the writer goes on to conclude that:

…independent voters can be forgiven for wondering whether their good reputations are being misused for base partisan purposes. Mr. Danforth and Mr. Rudman arrived on the scene just as the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain began a curious and deeply cynical attack on the voter registration efforts conducted by the liberal community activist organization ACORN.


Earlier this week Hotflash demonstrated how ACORN was being used to deflect awareness of Republican voter suppression onto a manufactured voter registration fraud scam. And, indeed, the Republicans started planting this seed some time ago when it occurred to them that they might be able to turn the tables on all those liberals claiming that the 2000 and 2004 elections had been rigged.  

For example, Kit Bond testified in March at a hearing on voter fraud held by the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in favor of requiring voters to produce photo ID on the grounds that ACORN, specifically, was part of a organized and sinister voter fraud conspiracy:

One organization, going by the name ACORN or Project Vote, is a professional vote fraud enterprise. …  Last year, three ACORN workers in Kansas City plead guilty to federal charges of vote fraud in the form of filing false voter registration paperwork. They were busy completing the first of two steps in any vote fraud scheme. First, get someone to file fraudulent voter registration paperwork. Then, step two, get someone to vote fraudulently based on that fraudulent voter registration

Bond, special creature that he is, evidently knew that the few faulty registrations that turned  up were part of a Machiavellian plan to commit voting fraud–although he offered no corroborating evidence, nor has any been provided to date. Who cares if a few voters are disenfranchised in the process of preventing an abuse that has never been shown to exist?

And, sure enough, during Wednesday’s debate, McCain, like the good little Republican aparatchik that this erstwhile “maverick” is proving to be,  played out the party’s smear cards, accusing ACORN of:

… one of the greatest frauds of voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy in this country.

It was clear that this, even by Republican standards, somewhat over-the-top slander was intended as a sop to the party faithful who were salivating for their red meat du jour, and it may have gone over the heads of those who have not been following the back-and-forth about ACORN since McCain offered no details.  However, it did add one more brick to an edifice that may well allow Republicans to dispute Democratic gains while it provides cover for voter suppression efforts.

All of this just serves to provide one more example of a Republican strategy that has proven effective when dealing with other issues: Co-option. Take the other side’s issue, claim it as your own, use manufactured, incomplete and distorted evidence to sow confusion and, ultimately,  create apathy because it becomes too difficult to dig out the truth. Who is really committing election fraud?  Can the voter be blamed if he sits back and pronounces a pox on both their houses–or worse, lets his ingrained prejudices lead when he goes to the ballot box?

UPDATE:  As per Talking Points Memo, FBI to investigate ACORN (link)