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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Wall Street Journal
November 14, 2002


The Oglala Sioux's Senator

Republican John Thune threw in the towel on his South Dakota Senate race yesterday, notwithstanding the suspicious circumstances under which he lost by a mere 524 votes. We think that at a minimum he owed his many supporters a recount.

If nothing else, a recount would have put on the public record the dubious details of how he lost, if that's the word for what happened. Under state law the close margin entitled him to a recount, and these have been common in South Dakota's closely fought elections. Democrats Tom Daschle and George McGovern both used them to secure victories to Congress.

Moreover, Mr. Thune clearly thinks there was something fishy about last week's vote. "Are there questions that need to be answered about the outcome of this election? I believe there are," he noted in yesterday's statement. "Did things happen that shouldn't have in some polling places around the state? I believe they did. Some of these issues would be resolved through a recount. However, others, though unethical, would not be righted through a recount."

Allow us to translate: Yes, Mr. Thune thinks the election was probably stolen, but he'll have a hard time proving it, won't win in the end anyway and along the way he'll be so beat up by Tom Daschle's political machine that he'd never be able to run for statewide office again. He's only 41 years old, so better to walk than fight. That may sound cynical, but what else are his supporters to make of that ripe phrase, "though unethical"?

We know, for example, that Mr. Thune was leading all during Election Night, until late Wednesday morning when results flowed in from Shannon County; suddenly he trailed by about 500 votes. Last minute landslide precincts are suspicious on their face, a legendary practice in places like Chicago.

But Michael New, a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-MIT Data Center, has inspected the South Dakota Secretary of State's Web site to discover other striking facts: While Democrat Tim Johnson ran statewide about 12 percentage points behind what Mr. Daschle got in his 1998 Senate victory, in Shannon County Mr. Johnson ran about 12 percentage points ahead. He got 92% of the vote compared with Mr. Daschle's 80%. Nowhere else in the state did Mr. Johnson improve his vote share relative to Mr. Daschle.

Senate voter turnout was up 27% statewide for this year's close contest compared with 1998, but in Shannon County turnout increased by 89%. Again, no other county in the state showed comparable turnout increases. Shannon County is largely Indian country, home to the Oglala Sioux nation, and is heavily Democratic. But Mr. Thune managed to receive only nine more votes there than did Mr. Daschle's opponent in 1998, notwithstanding the much larger turnout.

Mr. New points out that this is just a 4% increase in GOP votes over 1998. In the other three South Dakota counties where Indians constitute more than two-thirds of the population, Mr. Thune gained between 23% and 43% more votes than the GOP candidate in 1998. The Oglala Sioux would seem to give new meaning to the phrase "bloc voting."

As Mr. New concedes, "this could all be a coincidence." But "this trifecta of late results, high turnout and unusually strong support for the Democratic nominee should, if nothing else, arouse suspicion."

By the way, we're told that Mr. Thune's lawyers have affidavits from about 50 people attesting to voting irregularities, including from four Indians saying they were each paid $10 to vote. Then there's this week's report of the pending arrest of Becky Red Earth-Villeda, also known as Maka Duta, for allegedly forging absentee-ballot applications. She'd been hired by the South Dakota Democratic Party to recruit voters and denies the charges. But how many smoke signals does it take to wonder if there's also fire?

We understand Mr. Thune is reluctant to risk his future career by seeming ungracious, but he also an obligation to his thousands of donors and volunteers and especially to the principle of honest elections. Every phony ballot is one that cancels someone else's franchise. And we doubt Mr. Johnson would have turned the same cheek. Virtually at the moment Shannon County's results were reported Wednesday, Mr. Johnson was declaring that the election was over and that "Every vote was counted, every vote was counted correctly."

Happy simply to have regained Senate control, Republicans are letting Mr. Thune walk away from an election challenge, much as John Ashcroft did in 2000. But the world should know that Democrats won at least two seats in highly suspicious, if not crooked, fashion. First they changed the election rules in New Jersey to throw Bob Torricelli over the side once he fell behind in the polls. And now we have Tim Johnson's miraculously large and last-minute Oglala Sioux turnout. And the Democrats still lost the Senate.

Copyright 2002 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Republican says WSJ is full of it

No evidence fraud tainted vote results, Barnett says

David Kranz
Argus Leader

published: 11/21/2002

One woman faces charges, but no wider trouble found

Charges are still coming against a Flandreau woman being investigated in alleged voter fraud on and around Native American reservations in South Dakota, but Attorney General Mark Barnett says he still has no evidence that suggests the problem is bigger than was thought before the election.

"Nothing has changed since before the election," Barnett said Wednesday. "I have indicated that she would be charged, and that is still accurate. There are still a lot of interviews we are reviewing, but it will be in the near future."

Barnett's office began investigating possible irregularities a month before the Nov. 5 election after allegations surfaced about Becky Red Earth-Villeda, a contract worker with the Democratic Party who was registering voters and assisting people with absentee ballot applications. Party officials terminated her after discovering irregularities in some ballot applications she turned in.

Before the election, Barnett said investigators had identified 15 irregular absentee ballot applications. Investigators have been trying to review as many as 1,750 absentee ballot applications that may have been handled by Red Earth-Villeda. The ballot applications have been taken to the people named on them to have signatures verified.

"The magnitude of the problem has not changed, either," Barnett said. "There is no evidence that she got her hands on the ballots."

Red Earth-Villeda has responded to the accusations, saying she has cooperated with investigators. She says she has asked federal officials to restrain Barnett from bringing charges against her.

Assertions of wrongdoing on her part are "libelous" and there was no fraud in getting Native Americans registered, she has said.

Allegations recently in the Wall Street Journal characterize the problem as larger than Barnett says. The newspaper suggested there are greater problems on the reservations that influenced the U.S. Senate race between Democrat incumbent Tim Johnson and Republican Rep. John Thune. Johnson was declared the winner of that race by 524 votes.

Thune did not ask for a recount and did not contest the race, but made references to voter problems in his concession speech. Thune could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

An article in the Nov. 14 Review and Outlook section of the Wall Street Journal says: "By the way, we're told that Mr. Thune's lawyers have affidavits from about 50 people attesting to voting irregularities, including from four Indians saying they were each paid $10 to vote.

"Then there's this week's report of the pending arrest of Becky Red Earth-Villeda, also known as Maka Duta, for allegedly forging absentee-ballot applications. She'd been hired by the South Dakota Democratic Party to recruit voters and denies the charges. But how many smoke signals does it take to wonder if there's also fire?"

Barnett says he would like to know where information is coming from about additional voter irregularities.

"She is going to get indicted, but we have yet to see evidence of widespread voter fraud," he said. "We continue to hear rumors, but we do not have the evidence. Rumors we don't chase around. If someone is a witness, then call me."

He assigned 30 agents to investigate. "I sent them to every county that asked for help and every county that Becky Red Earth had been in," he said.

The only areas where there were problems have been previously reported, he said.

Sen. Tom Daschle responded to the Wall Street Journal comments Wednesday, challenging their implications and raising questions about the reference to "smoke signals."

"Your attack on the Oglala Sioux voters in South Dakota offers a sterling example of what minorities in this county can expect from hard-right editorial politics," he wrote.

He asked the newspaper to consider the Florida presidential margin in 2000 and then consider the South Dakota race.

"Again, we have a 500-plus margin (out of 333,000 votes cast). A problem for you? Very much so, because on this occasion your candidate lost. Yet now minority voting, disregarded in Florida, is announced to be the culprit," Daschle wrote. "You believe Oglala Sioux voting in Shannon County was Ôfishy.' That's about it. No evidence."

More responses to the WSJ

FROM THE ARCHIVES:  November 20, 2002

The South Dakota Sioux Reservation Vote

Your attack on the Oglala Sioux voters in South Dakota offers a sterling example of what minorities in this country can expect from hard-right editorial politics ("The Oglala Sioux's Senator," Review & Outlook, Nov. 14).

Consider one close race, Florida's presidential election in 2000. The margin was 500-plus votes (out of 5.8 million votes cast), and breakdowns in the electoral machinery depressed minority voting (among other problems). A problem for you? Not at all: Your ardently supported candidate won.

Consider another close race, South Dakota's Senate election in 2002. Again we have a 500-plus margin (out of only 330,000 votes cast). A problem for you? Very much so, because on this occasion your candidate lost. Yet now minority voting, disregarded in Florida, is announced to be the culprit. You believe Oglala Sioux voting in Shannon County was "fishy." That's about it: no evidence, no basis whatsoever for the claim, and an omission of the fact that South Dakota's Republican attorney general and Republican secretary of state found no grounds for any such suggestion of fraud. What your readers are offered instead is an outright slur on our Indian voting community, complete with snide stereotypical references to "smoke signals." Missing only was some mention of "firewater."

So what can minorities expect from the editorial right in this country? To be ignored when the right's candidates win, and blamed when those candidates lose? You may wish to claim that you detect the "Chicago" way in South Dakota politics this year, but there is nothing much like the American way in its treatment of minority voters.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D., S.D.)
Majority Leader

Updated November 20, 2002


FROM THE ARCHIVES:  November 20, 2002

Voting Absentee Is Only Practical

In response to your editorial about Sen. Tim Johnson's defeat of John Thune and what you perceive as a questionable vote total on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation: I've spent nearly 30 years in South Dakota Democratic Party politics at every level from precinct man to chairman. Had you researched what happened on the reservations this is what you would have found:

There was an extremely effective voter registration drive and absentee voter effort. It is doubtful many of your readers have to travel upward of 40 miles to cast their votes. On the reservations that is more the rule than the exception. Given the living conditions and South Dakota's unpredictable weather, voting Indians absentee is the only practical way.

Had you watched the returns, you'd have noticed that at around 3:30 a.m. John Thune had a 3,200-vote lead with all the no-reservation counties reporting. But either by accident or design, the majority of the reservation precincts (including more than just Shannon County) had not reported. Any observer of South Dakota elections would know at that point, given the exceptional voter turnout on the reservation that had reported, this was going to be an extremely close race. Also, on the Pine Ridge Reservation there was not only the general election but also an election for tribal chairman, featuring the aging Indian activist Russell Means. Certainly, this increased turnout and interest on the Pine Ridge.

The Republican attorney general, after spending several weeks prior to the election investigating allegations of voter fraud along with the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, found "no evidence of voter fraud." However, this effort was not unusual. It has been a common practice several weeks before an election to cry "voter irregularities on the reservations." While this has never amounted to anything other than to whip up the racist sentiments of West River whites, it nonetheless has been very disconcerting to the Indians. This time they fought back, ignored the threats and intimidation, and voted in record numbers.

Clifford Scott
Former Chair
South Dakota Democrat Party
Sioux Falls, S.D.

Updated November 20, 2002

WSJ:  bigoted or just incompetent?

Manipulated journalism seeks to tarnish Indian voting

Posted: November 29, 2002 -- 10:18am EST

The age of manipulative journalism is certainly upon us. Remember investigative journalism, when the idea was to find out the truth? Well, it has been replaced. Manipulative journalism is becoming the norm of the times.

This is how it works. Anything about your opponent that anyone has ever criticized, no matter how spitefully or how dishonestly, is fair game for scandal mongering. Once planted anywhere, no matter by what operative or other manipulative outlet, keep spinning the rumor and exaggerate it into popular reality. Fairness be damned; accuracy be damned. Make the truth fit your particular telescope at all cost. Some call this practice "spinning," but it is really outright manipulation. It is dishonest and without scruple.

The Democrats toy with the idea but their political discourse resembles a Tower of Babel these days. It is the right wing of the Republican Party that has this practice down to a tee. The right has accomplished a communications coup of tremendous magnitude, building steam for at least ten years. There is a strongly doctrinaire approach to news and commentary that flows back and forth from The Wall Street Journal editorial pages to the many right-wing pundits and the hordes of talk radio hosts -- led by the ever-present Rush Limbaugh -- who agitate the airwaves daily and incessantly.

The latest campaign to spin a minimalist story into national truth aims to stain broad corruption onto the South Dakota Indian vote that re-elected democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson. This was prominently and shamelessly fueled November 14, in the Wall Street Journal's Review and Outlook section, under the heading, "The Oglala Sioux's Senator."

Sprinkled with phrases that would suggest fraud but without introducing any evidence whatsoever that widespread fraud had taken place, The Wall Street Journal's editorial page editors once again gave indication of willing distortion and anti-Indian motivation. According to the Journal editorial, Sen. Johnson won re-election over Republican challenger Rep. John Thune, "the Chicago way."

The 2002 South Dakota senatorial race was decided in "highly suspicious, if not crooked, fashion," writes the WSJ, wondering out loud about the, again, "suspicious circumstances under which … [Thune] … lost by a mere 524 votes."

The editorial is obstinate disinformation at its best. Citing for its base a hocus-pocus statistical analysis by Michael New, billed as a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard-MIT Data Center, it sets out to assume, against all real evidence on the ground, that fraud decided the South Dakota senatorial election. The vaunted researcher found something "fishy" in an increase of 89 percent in Indian voter turnout for Shannon County, which went overwhelmingly Democratic. New pointed out that Johnson picked up a hefty 92 percent of the votes cast by the largely Oglala Lakota voters of Shannon County. This, he exclaims, is the cause of suspicion. You want proof? Hey, this is 12 points better than Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., did in 1998. Definitely something fishy. That's the extent of it. This, The Wall Street Journal publishes as a serious fact-pattern.

The sorry editorial fails to point out, of course, that solid Democratic vote is the norm on the Pine Ridge reservation, that in 1996 against then Sen. Larry Pressler, as challenger, this same Johnson got 85 percent of the vote. Then too, in the 2000 election, 85 percent of Pine Ridge voters went for Democrat Al Gore over the Republican victor, George W. Bush. Again, it is the least of mysteries that Shannon County and the Oglala Lakota have always voted very much as a Democratic bloc. With 4,000 new Indian registered voters, turnout was up 20 percent or more in South Dakota counties neighboring reservations. Turnout skyrocketed to 44.6 percent in Shannon County (Pine Ridge reservation), 51.8 percent in Todd County (Rosebud reservation) and 56.7 percent in Dewey County (Cheyenne River reservation), according to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

The Journal editorial brazenly implies that "Thune thinks the election was probably stolen," which Thune has not expressed directly. Given the "dubious details of how he lost," the Journal editorial castigated Thune for "throwing in the towel." The vanquished candidate, insisted The Wall Street Journal, "owed his many supporters [the demand of] a recount." It went on to claim that Thune would not because he was afraid to get "beat up by Tom Daschle's political machine."

Meanwhile, South Dakota Attorney General Mark Barnett, a Republican, denies the allegations of voter fraud, citing the miniscule examples that involved two voter registration workers, both of whom were immediately fired. Barnett, who expects to indict one registration worker, assigned 30 agents to review the issue in every county where possible misconduct could have occurred. Even before the election, Barnett's office identified 15 irregular absentee ballot applications, while reviewing as many as 1,750 absentee ballot applications. Signatures on suspect ballot applications are verified with the specific voter it belongs to. The Wall Street Journal claimed that "Thune's lawyers have affidavits from about 50 people attesting to voting irregularities, including from four Indians saying they were each paid $10 to vote." Barnett has asked to know the source of their information, which he labels, "rumor."

Attorney General Barnett is joined by South Dakota Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine, also Republican, in attesting that there were no problems or improprieties during the voting. In fact, they asserted, no election-day complaints were filed with the state and there was no evidence that the highly publicized but minor incidences of fraud in any way tainted the vote. Lawyers from both parties were on hand in Shannon County on Election Day.

In typical "piling on" fashion, other right-wing ideologues have jumped on the fraudulent Indian vote bandwagon. The conservative magazine National Review commented on the fraud potential of the so-called bilingual voting factor even before the election. An article titled "Lost in Translation: Bilingual voting and the South Dakota Senate race," Oct. 22, by Jim Boulet Jr., assumes as reality a South Dakota "Indian reservation voter-registration scandal." Boulet, executive director of "English First," goes on to make a convoluted claim of potential would-be fraud by translators who assist non-English speaking Indians.

Boulet's point is that since "many Indian languages lack written alphabets … This means their bilingual ballots are actually cast via oral translation." Translators working with non-English speaking Indians are thus prone to conduct fraudulent voting schemes with groups of Indians. Boulet's assumption, quickly becoming an across the board factuality for right-wing pundits -- is that the voting fraud on reservations "has happened."

Boulet writes, "Given these two facts, all anyone needs to sway this year's South Dakota Senate race is a list of fraudulently registered Indian voters, a willingness to round up a few Indians and a bus to bring them to a polling place. The person with the registration list then claims to be translating for each person in the group and helps them cast their ballots for the candidate of his choice under the names registered earlier."

Recognizable hogwash, this kind of editorializing is grist for the scandal mill of manipulative journalism. Pile on enough innuendo through the printed media and soon there is enough for the right wing, talk-radio hosts to belabor the lie ad nauseam. The lie this time, eagerly activated and pursued by The Wall Street Journal before, is that Indians are easily corruptible. The implied insult: Indians are too stupid to vote independently.

Now, this is truth:

The South Dakota victory of Senator Tim Johnson, obviously produced by a highly effective voter registration campaign among Indian voters, is a grand and glorious chapter in American democracy. It marks one of those rare times when the national electoral process has actually rewarded Native participation and it should be a great source of pride for every American. The right-wing campaign now afoot to besmirch it is vindictive and un-American. That The Wall Street Journal editorial board has chosen to lead this manipulative, slanderous bandwagon is a point of continual shame for a newspaper that has now lost any and all credibility on American Indian issues. The man who ran the editorial page since 1972, the highly respected Robert Leroy Bartley, is now ending his active career. It's a shame that his colleagues are sending him out on such a low note.

Asked The Wall Street Journal editorial in increasingly recognizable bigot-baiting style, "But how many smoke signals does it take to wonder if there's also fire?" We might ask a similar question of The Wall Street Journal's senior editors. How is it that every time you put ink to paper on American Indian issues you lower the discourse?

Rob's comment
Ironically, it turns out the Republicans fabricated the so-called affidavits. Yet the WSJ was ready to believe that SD's Indians, not its own party hacks, were guilty of something. Sounds like racial discrimination to me.

This is another variation of the good-for-nothing Indian stereotype.

Related links
The Wall Street Journal's hatchet job on Indians
Indians as welfare recipients

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