No Comment — February 11, 2008, 3:07 pm

Democracy G.O.P. Style in Washington State

One of the open chapters in the internal corruption scandal rocking the Justice Department relates to Washington State. The U.S. Attorney in Seattle, John McKay, a uniformly well regarded Republican prosecutor, was fired on December 7, 2007. It appears that his termination had a lot to do with the sense among the leadership of the state’s G.O.P. that he “didn’t do enough to help” with the elections. In particular, it appears that McKay did not engage in voter suppression tactics that the Republican hierarchy wanted to use to keep minorities away from the polls. He also failed to rally to the G.O.P.’s side in an exceptionally narrow 2004 gubernatorial contest, in which the Democrats prevailed by a paper thin margin. Of course, had McKay done what the party bosses wanted, he’d probably have committed several felonies.

This weekend, the Republican primary in Washington grabbed headlines because of the inexplicable conduct of the state’s G.O.P. apparatus. With 87% of the votes counted, the Republican leadership decided to call it quits and declare John McCain the victor. At that point there were a few hundred votes difference between McCain and challenger Mike Huckabee. The state’s Republican leadership was backing McCain. Understandably, Huckabee cried foul, making an unusual statement in which he compared the G.O.P.’s management of the election to the old Soviet Union:

The Washington Republican chair, Luke Esser, apparently has a very unusual understanding of how the democratic franchise should function. Or perhaps he believes in a form of representative democracy in which he and his friends make the decisions on behalf of all of the voters. Here is one of Mr. Esser’s college-era columns on the subject of voter’s rights:

Like any sport worth its salt, in politics you have adversaries, opponents, enemies. Our enemies are loudmouth leftists and shiftless deadbeats. To win the election, we have to keep as many of these people away from the polls as possible. Now your average leftist loudmouth is a committed individual and can almost never be persuaded to ignore his constitutional rights. The deadbeats, however, are a different matter entirely. Years of interminable welfare checks and free government services have made these modern-day sloths even more lazy. They will vote on election day, if it isn’t much of a bother. But even the slightest inconvenience can keep them from the polling place.

Many of the most successful anti-deadbeat voter techniques (poll taxes, sound beatings, etc.) that conservatives have used in the past have been outlawed by busybody judges. The only means of persuasion left available to us are Acts of God, who we know is exclusively on our side. I’m talking about seriously inclement weather. I want Biblical floods and pestilence. I will settle for rain, sweet rain. The deadbeats won’t even go out in the rain for their welfare checks (they send one of their social workers to pick it up). There’s no way they’ll vote if it’s raining.

We should give Esser credit for an even-handed application of this rule. Apparently he’s just as happy about stopping his fellow Republicans from voting in a primary as he is Democrats in the main contest.

Could it be that a highly respected Republican U.S. attorney was dismissed for “not playing ball” with someone who professes these sorts of shenanigans? More on that in my upcoming article, “Voting Machine.”

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

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 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

In the exam room, she perched on the table with her feet crossed at the ankles, her blond hair brushing the back of her pink hospital gown. “I don’t know what’s available for me here,” she told her doctor, Katherine Degen, who sat facing her on a stool. “I figured nothing.”

 Some names and identifying details have been changed. 

“Big, fat zero, unfortunately,” Degen said, making a 0 with her fingers. The last doctor who provided abortions in Rapid City retired in 1986, three years before Ashley was born.

The baby was due in November, when Ashley, who was a nurse, hoped to be enrolled in a graduate program to become a nurse practitioner. Getting pregnant as a teenager had forced her to put that dream on hold, but she had thought that she was finally ready; she had even submitted her application shortly before the March 15 deadline. For the first time in her adult life, Ashley felt as if her plans were coming together. Then she missed her period.

It would be too difficult to attend school as a single mother of two, Ashley knew. She had made an appointment for three weeks from now at the nearest abortion clinic, in Billings, Montana, 318 miles away. But just a week and a half ago, her husband had said he wanted to get back together and offered to raise the child as his own. Was it a sign that she was meant to continue the pregnancy? As a rule, Ashley approached her problems with resolve. She was capable and tough; she liked shooting guns and lifting weights. She kept track of her stats and checked off her goals as she achieved them one by one. Yet the dilemma before her had shaken her confidence. She leaned back and turned to watch the ultrasound screen. The black-and-white image danced. A sharp, fast thumping emerged from the machine. As Degen removed the wand, Ashley wiped the corner of her eye.

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"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
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