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November 27, 2004

Constitutions Don't Make Stable Democracies; Tradition Does

You can specify all the checks and balances you like, but utlimately it's only a respect for tradition -- and a regard for the judgment of history -- that preserves a democracy:

Ukraine's Parliament, meeting in special session, voted Saturday to declare last Sunday's presidential runoff invalid, but failed to set a date for a new election, as the country's opposition leader and diplomats in Europe have demanded.

Outside Parliament, tens of thousands of supporters of Viktor A. Yushchenko, the challenger, who has claimed the government stole his rightful victory, cheered and jeered as the debate inside unfolded, broadcast on large television screens set up on the streets.

As the Parliament voted on each of several resolutions, the crowd roared, chanting "Yushchenko is our president!" or "Kuchma out!"


The fight over the election - over the country's very future - is now moving on several fronts, each utterly unpredictable six days after the runoff. It has been only 13 years since Ukraine became independent in the breakup of the Soviet Union; its democratic traditions are still being formed, and its branches of power are youthful and largely untested.

On the streets of Kiev and other cities, antigovernment protests continued and appeared to grow.

On the legal front, the Supreme Court is to hear Mr. Yushchenko's complaints of electoral fraud on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Kerry campaign is quietly working to challenge the results of our presidential election, despite the absence of any credible evidence of fraud or erroneous counting.

This is a dangerous game.

If the Democrats want to clean up the election process, they're the only ones holding it up. They are the ones who scream at the idea of voter ID cards; they're the ones who insist that even asking a "voter" for a driver's ID or utility bill constitutes some sort of "chilling" effect on recently-minted citizens.

This is ludicrous. Those who go through our naturalization process are the most aware of their rights as Americans. They spend years studying civics as adults, and know American government better than natural-born citizens. After years of waiting, they are finally told in a big ceremony that they are now US citizens, full-fledged Americans, and of course they are entitled to vote.

Genuine US citizens know they can vote. And merely asking for an ID isn't going to send them running from the polls.

The current situation is intolerable. There is too much bad faith in politics, and neither party trusts the other.

But the Democrats are playing a double-game. On the one hand, they suspect electoral fraud whenever they lose. On the other hand, they rely on those extra several hundred thousand illegal votes they know they're going to receive every election -- and please, don't tell me this is about principle; you can tell who's benefiting from the illegal vote by who wants to crack down on it and who wants to perpetuate it -- and thus will not agree to anything resembling electoral reform.

We did not come by our democracy easily, and we could lose it in a few bad months. Bush won handily this time around; but what if he had not? What if he had only squeaked by in a few key states? Would we have rioting as they do in the Ukraine?

And, for that matter, what if Kerry had just barely won, in a few states known for having high numbers of illegal votes?

This system has to be cleaned up. Democrats have to stop weighing the political advantages that inure to them from illegal votes and instead consider the effect on our democracy if this madness continues. Partisanship breeds high passion, and high passions can only be cooled and kept peaceful if all parties have a reasonable degree of confidence that the results that come in on election day are valid and honest.

And Keith Olbermann should be ashamed of himself. Desperate for ratings and driven by liberal-left lunacy, he's trumpeting easily-debunked conspiracies about the "stolen" election of 2004. Does he actually want blood in the streets in 2008? Or even 2006?

Update: Power Line blog reports that the corruption of the ruling Yanukovych regime is obvious and noxious even to a bond-trader in New York.

That's the same guy. There's some suspicion that opposition leader Yuschenko has been poisoned, and looking at the before and after, I can't say it's a ridiculous idea.

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posted by Ace at 12:59 PM

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