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    Michigan Democrats, Don't Play Dirty Politics


    Sometimes you’ve got to “get down in the mud with the fucking elephants.”

    Sometimes you don’t.

    The Michigan primary race is one of the latter.

    On Feb. 15, 2012, founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga launched “Operation Hilarity,” a grassroots, web-based political campaign that encourages Democrats to vote for Rick Santorum in states such as Michigan, whose open primaries allow crossover voting.

    The goal of Operation Hilarity: To “keep the GOP clown show going!” by boosting Santorum’s support, denying presumed nominee Mitt Romney key victories, and dragging out a nomination fight that has already done immeasurable harm to the Republican Party while simultaneously boosting President Obama’s re-election odds.

    The result of Operation Hilarity: Democrats looking like Republicans for trying to rig an election.

    A utilitarian, or consequentialist, would say the ends justify the means—that it is acceptable to gag your conscience in the short-term in order to bring about some greater good in the long-term.

    A Kantian would say any action, specifically a “hypothetical” imperative, cannot be judged logically or morally by its outcome alone; that only categorical imperatives matter, where one’s actions are judged as moral not solely on the outcome, but on the whether the action can be viewed as a universally binding code of conduct applicable to all people in all situations.

    In other words, if you would cry foul if a Republican tried to rig a Democratic election, you can’t claim any moral high ground as a Democrat by doing the same thing in a Republican election.

    From the perspective of a bare-knuckle political strategist, Operation Hilarity is a gem.

    Michigan is Romney’s home state, and losing it to a right-wing dominionist would be devastating to Romney’s candidacy. Failing to garner the support of constituents in your own state is the ultimate rejection; one that would haunt Romney long after the primary race. And so, anything Democrats could do to bring about that end would be worthwhile, particularly because Santorum would be much easier for Obama to beat in the general election.

    “The best way to think about it,” one DailyKos contributor explained in a Feb. 22, 2012, post titled “Defending Operation Hilarity,” “is with a hypothetical.”

    If you knew with perfect certainty that if one Republican candidate was nominated, President Obama would clearly be victorious and if another was nominated, the odds would be closer to
50-50, would you be willing to vote in open primary to guarantee an Obama victory?”

    This is a good point. But it’s a bad rhetorical tool.

    Here is another hypothetical:

    If you knew with perfect certainty that if Republican turnout was low, President Obama would clearly be victorious, and if it was high the odds would be closer to 50-50, would you be willing to call in a bomb threat to voting facilities in predominantly Republican precincts in order to guarantee an Obama victory?

    I’m not saying Operation Hilarity is a domestic terrorist movement. My point is that an if/then argument cannot be retrospectively validated as moral or “fair” (even as an act of retribution), just because it leads to a satisfactory, if partisan, outcome.

    In “Rules for Radicals,” Saul Alinsky argues that “the perennial question” is whether or not the means justify the ends in political organization. Such a question is meaningless, he states: “The real and only question regarding the ethics of means and ends is, and always has been, ‘Does this particular end justify this particular means?”

    No Kantian by any stretch of the imagination, Alinsky learned over time that if you cannot achieve success with what you’ve got, you’ve got to lower your standards.

    Still, he tells the story that during a fight with a corporation, a minor executive brought to him a briefcase full of “proof” that the leader of the opposition “prefers boys to girls”—an unrelated but nonetheless significant bit of information that could have destroyed Alinsky’s opponent.

    I said, “Thanks, but forget it. I don’t fight that way. …To me, dragging a person’s private life into this much is loathsome and nauseous.” He left. So far, so noble; but, if I had been convinced that the only way we could win was to use it, then without any reservations I would have used it. What was my alternative? To draw myself up into righteous “moral” indignation saying, “I would rather lose than corrupt my principles,” and then go home with my ethical hymen intact?

    I’m not morally or intellectually or philosophically superior to the progressives who believe Operation Humility is a sure-fire way to damage the one Republican candidate who has a chance at beating Barack Obama in November. I agree with them, and I admire their political strategizing. I just don’t think it’s necessary in this particular case.

    Republicans are already disenchanted by their options. Voter turnout in almost every primary state thus far has been well below expectations. There is no clear frontrunner in the race, and it is unlikely that a nominee will be chosen before the party’s convention in August. More importantly, Obama is a campaign juggernaut who will slaughter whomever challenges him in November.

    Moulitsas admits the Republican primary race is a “clown show” already. The Michigan race is expected to be “razor thin” even without Democrats “meddling” in it, and “anything less than a resounding performance by Romney here would taint the achievement”; a “resounding performance” by Romney is unlikely given the small margin of victory pollsters are projecting, so the race will be deflating for his candidacy whether he wins or not. How much he wins by won’t matter. And furthermore, Santorum very well may pull off the Michigan primary without the help of Democrats.

    All of that is to say, Why interfere at all?

    Citing “Operation Chaos,” a voting drive started by Rush Limbaugh that encouraged Republicans to re-register as Democrats and vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Party so as to draw out the nomination and  “weaken the eventual nominee,” Kos argues for a tit-for-tat counterattack:

    Rush Limbaugh and his ilk have had no problem meddling in our own contests. And if there’s one thing Daily Kos is about, it’s about fighting fire with fire.

    There are times when you have to get down in the mud with the elephants. But when you do, you get dirty. And when you’re drenched in the same filth as your opponent, you become indistinguishable, politically and morally, from the foe you’re trying to defeat.

    The problem is, fighting fire with fire only creates a bigger fire. And our democratic process is the burn victim.


    See also: Daily Kos’ “Operation Hilarity”—getting Dems to vote for Santorum—is a HUGE mistake from ABLC contributor Chris Savage; How Serious is the Democratic Crossover Vote Threat in Michigan? via Talking Points Memo; and Michigan: Inviting Crossover Voting? from The Wall Street Journal


    (​Originally published at




    When you publish and finance a book slandering the war record of a hero who requested two tours of Vietnam...that is dirty.

    When you state lies as facts to send hundreds of thousands into battle upon false pretenses...that is dirty.

    When you see that your foes in the media a fired for telling the truth...that is dirty.

    When you make billions for your corporation by declaring war based upon false pretenses...that is dirty.

    When you reward your corporate sponsors with billions in tax breaks...that is dirty.

    When you award billions to drug companies to further addict the helpless in return for campaign monies...that is dirty.

    When you award oil companies with subsidies whilst the felons bribe your employees with sex and vactions...that is dirty.

    When you reward religious organizations with opportunities to spread their propaganda for political support...that is dirty.

    When you call all those traitors who would disagree with you...that is dirty.

    When you torture people and call it enhanced interrogation techniques...that is dirty.

    When you sell your citizens wars based upon falsehoods in order to make money for defense contractors...that is dirty.

    When you take money from billionaires promising tax breaks...that is dirty.

    When you attempt to keep solid citizens from voting in order to keep your governmental position...that is dirty.

    When you destroy the rights of workers to organize in order to make more money for the corporations in return for campaign monies...that is dirty.

    When you fire governmental employees stating that more jobs will be created thereby...that is dirty.

    When you destroy women's rights with regard to their own options regarding their own bodies...that is dirty.

    When you claim affirmative action is a blight upon society so that minorities will be further discriminated against...that is dirty.

    When you claim that imprisonment is the best recipe for a peaceful society but do not apply that same standard to the majority felons...that is dirty.

    I could go on and on.

    Actually I have already. hahahahahahahah

    Obeying the laws and the rules and carrying out a purpose....that IS NOT DIRTY.


    Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
    Barry Goldwater/

    Agree 100% Richard. Surprised to see this 'moral high ground' stuff from MP.

    We are talking about a Party, the GOP, that sold us an illegal war and sent thousands of our fellow citizens to their graves as a ' War President' re-election strategy, did all the stuff you listed and finally plunged the economy into a tailspin, later blaming it all on liberals and 'guvment' (which they were in control of for 8 years), immigrants, Kenyan socialists or strawberry pickers lying on home loans, instead of the real reason, that being their own policies and actions.

    Talking 'moral high ground' with them would be like discussing social etiquette with Ted Bundy before he takes your niece out on a date. (BTW - Bundy was involved in Republican politics and campaigns)

    I wake up late and here is Santorum's campaigner in Arizona misquoting the President about college again.

    I mean the tapes are right out there demonstrating Barry's position on education and this jackass doubles down on one of the ten most ridiculous Santorum positions to date.

    So they lie about what someone says, they lie about what they previously said, they lie about events...

    It never ends.

    Republicans are shameful, therefore we should be too. Got it.

    Except that this conduct is purely legal and, since the public at large subsidizes the primaries of political parties (which are private associations) then the public has the ethical right to treat the primaries in any legal way.  Your beef isn't with immoral Democrats, it's with the laws of open primary states.


    Dirty, shameful?


    I am an American.

    Only the repubs take any time and money to keep me from voting.

    FUCK EM!

    There is not one clean deal they have come up with since...since when?

    Rove is gone but his ghost still collects hundreds of millions of dollars to spread fear and rage and racism and classism and corporatism and oligarchism and .....

    You name it.


    The repubs stand for nothing but sucking the procreator of the corporate skunk.


    You want rules?

    These nazis have no rules!

    It is a timid betrayal of principles, and grossly naive, not to do everything possible, within the law, to try to steer the nation to a better future.

    Frankly, I think that the parties should have a lot less to do with our politics than they do now.  If it were up to me, the parties would finance their own primaries and make their own rules.  That way, if the parties want closed primaries, they could have them.

    But that's not the system we have.  A great many states have open or semi-open primaries.  The parties both rely heavily on state subsidies in order to run their primary elections.  So, it's anything goes.

    If you think that Democrats voting for Santorum is inherently immoral, work to change the law.  Otherwise, it's fair legal and, to my mind, moral game.

    One other thing on this -- Rick Santorum and his GOP supporters are eager to have Democrats come out and vote for their guy.  They are even robocalling Dems to make it happen.  If the sanctity of the Republican primary isn't important to Santorum, of all people, then I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

    If Santorum says it's okay, it must be. I stand corrected.

    Well, if anyone cares about the integrity of the party he professes to love so much, should be him, right?

    But, beyond that -- Michigan has open primary laws.  Why do you think that is?  Why shouldn't people vote their preferences as they are lawfully allowed?

    Why do I have to be a Republican to express my preference about who should win the Republican nomination?  A lot of Republicans want Santorum to win.  Why is it wrong for me to help them?

    I agree with MP.  I don't care if it's legal or not.  Why play those dumb games?  This is not a necessary moment.

    Pretty hard to take the high road after you've been rolling around in the mud and enjoying the hell out of it.  This is not the kind of dirty tricks Dems or unions or even Michael Moore should be encouraging.  All it does is keep the cycle going. 

    "Well, they did it so why shouldn't we?"  Nobody EVER wins that way.

    I think that the legality of it is important. By having open primaries, the Michigan government is saying that the cost of receiving public subsidies for your election is that people outside of your party might express a preference as to your nominee. I'd be all for universally closed primaries, if the parties foot the bill for their own nominating process. In 2008, Democrats were too involved in their own nomination drama to have much preference about who on the other side runs.  This year is different.

    Beyond that, how would I feel if right wingers jumped into our primary to support a more liberal candidate that they think is beatable (but who I might prefer)? Great! If my own party won't back my candidate, I'll take the help where I can get it. Party isn't everything. 

    Two words that don't go together:  "Elections" and "mischief".  I'm a Michigan Democrat and I'm embarrassed by this kind of crap.  And to me, party IS everything.

    By the way, Republican dirty tricks of this same sort forced the wholly ludicrious and unqualified Geoffrey Fieger  on us as the Dem gubernatorial candidate in 1998.  We couldn't bring ourselves to vote for him, of course, thus opening the door for Big Business's BFF, John Engler, who nearly ruined the state before he went to work as head honcho of the Manufacturer's Association.

    Maybe that's why I hate this so much.  I hate that Michigan allows this, too.  It makes no sense.


    I agree that, absent the public subsidy of party primaries, open primaries don't make sense.  But, since parties are basically giant private organizations anyway, very few laws pertaining to them make a ton of sense.  Most of these laws just serve to perpetuate the real problem here, which is the dominance of the two parties.

    The purpose of open primaries isn't to allow the other party to help elect the least-qualified or weakest candidate. It is intended, as you admit, to give all voters a chance to voice an opinion. If your PREFERENCE is Santorum, vote for him. But that isn't the objective of Operation Hilarity, just as it wasn't the objective of Operation Chaos.


    I beg to differ.  My honest preference is that Rick Santorum win the Republican nomination.  You're questioning my motivation for that preference.  But in voting, motivation counts for exactly nothing.

    Wasting your time destor.

    Muddy is either a hopelessly lame and naive Democrat with a measuring stick for 'shameful' broken off at 'zero or barely measurable', and is unable to quantify the shame differential between legal voting and lying the country into war and all the other stuff mentioned done by the GOP, or, Muddy is a Romney admirer. Either way Romney won, big deal.

    Here's where my mind's at:

    1. I want to help Obama win, so I'm tempted to ignore the ethics involved. In fact, I've expressed before that I might vote in the Virginia Republican primaries. I still might. I'm still wrestling with it.
    2. If I really think about it, though, it seems that open primaries serve the interests of the incumbents, and incumbents don't really need any more help. (I'm assuming you can connect the dots there, but if not, let me know.)
    3. However, there's this thing about unilaterally disarming (what Obama said about super-PACs). That does feel a little like making excuses, but it's a pretty convincing one, IMO.
    4. Finally, it just feels wrong.

    So, that's two for, two against, as if numbers mean anything here. Like I said, I'm still wrestling with it, but I'm leaning against it.

    Too bad it's a week night, because with all the latest memes, tonight's primaries would make for an excellent drinking game. I'll be watching Current TV.

    I know!  I can't even handle Santorum when I'm not wasted.

    Yeah, I am playing this game right now!

    How many school kids were shot and killed today!

    Everytime some kid dies....

    I'll take a shot!

    I just had my third shot!

    Oh the NRA, what could we do without them?

    And the shooter; according to CNN & MSNBC report we can even kill the 17 year-old who killed these kids.


    Santorum's objective........ the same as the GOPs ..........RULE OR RUIN 

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