Friday, April 3, 2009

Dole in '76: The Possible Dream

One of the most interesting bits of news to come out of the recent special election in New York's 20th Congressional District was the Tedisco campaign filing a lawsuit to overturn the results before the polls had even closed. This appears to herald a new Republican election strategy that we might call the Tedisco Principle: it is automatically assumed that any close election will be stolen by the Democrats, and the results must be overturned in court.

The Tedisco Principle follows logically from the results of the contested 2008 Minnesota senate race. Although it had become clear by December that Democrat Al Franken won the race, the Republicans have been able to use a court challenge to keep Franken from taking his seat, even though it has been three months (and counting) since the new Congress was seated.

It may seem at first glance that Barack Obama's victory over John McCain was too overwhelming (Obama won by 192 electoral votes, and received 9,522,083 more popular votes than McCain) to be challenged under the Tedisco Principle. However, it isn't necessary for Republicans to challenge the results of the 2008 presidential election when it may be possible to achieve the same ends by challenging an earlier election.

Consider, for example, the 1976 presidential election. As noted in this front page story at the Great Orange Satan, Jimmy Carter won the presidency by only 57 electoral votes and 1,683,247 popular votes. If Republican candidate Gerald Ford had won 12,000 more votes in Ohio and 36,000 more votes in Wisconsin, he would have won the election. This seems like fertile ground for the application of the Tedisco Principle.

Although Gerald Ford passed away in 2006, his running mate Bob Dole is still alive and kicking, and has standing to challenge the 1976 election results in Ohio and Wisconsin. If he does so, and succeeds in overturning Carter's victory, he can require that Ford and himself be compensated for being wrongfully deprived of the presidency and vice-presidency by being awarded the remainder of Barack Obama and Joe Biden's current terms of office. He can further require that while the lawsuit is pending, Obama and Biden be barred from serving out their terms, and that the previous occupants, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, be installed during the interim.

While it may seem unlikely that Dole can succeed in overturning Carter's victory, that's not the point. The point, as in the Minnesota senate race, and in Tedisco's own special election race, is to keep the elective office in question in legal limbo for as long as humanly possible, thereby depriving the Democrats of its use. If Bob Dole and the Republicans play their cards right, they can use the 1976 challenge to keep Obama and Biden out of office for months, possibly even years. And with a Republican majority on the Supreme Court, there's even a chance that Bob Dole could win his legal challenge, and thus gain a compensatory term as (in Ford's absence) president.

With such high stakes, any gamble, no matter how unlikely, would be worth it. Bob Dole and the Republicans need to take a serious look at applying the Tedisco Principle to the 1976 election. Because, really, you never know.

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