Is it okay with you if I needle Byron York a bit more about the South Dakota story? Thanks. I appreciate it.
As you know we've been talking about the South Dakota voter fraud hoax for months now. And the National Review's Byron York has been pushing the story heavily in the aftermath of Tim Johnson's reelection victory.
For a moment, let's set aside whether or not there's any truth to the charges. One of the biggest obstacles for Republicans who are pushing this story is South Dakota's Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, who insists, rather inconveniently, that the charges are pretty much all bogus.
So, predictably, the guns have now turned on Barnett.
In recent days the National Review has published a number of pieces claiming Barnett is stifling the investigation into voter fraud. The claim of late has been that Barnett is ignoring the voter fraud issue in hopes of future political gain. (Barnett and National Review have actually now gotten into a public spat.) As this editorial note from yesterday put it, Barnett is "a Republican with designs on the governor's office."
Can we unpack this for a moment?
If Barnett's angle is riding this to the governor's mansion, the guy is really thinking outside the box, isn't he?
Normally, if one wants to get nominated by one's party and then get elected, the angle is to curry favor with members of your party, not infuriate them by discrediting them, right? Now, the thinking at National Review seems to be that Barnett simply wants to avoid controversy and thus doesn't want to get involved in a messy voter fraud investigation that will make him too controversial to get elected. "Starting an aggressive and controversial investigation into voting irregularities," says York, "would be a sure way to anger at least half the electorate in his state."
But does even that make sense? If this were a race in California or New York or even Ohio, it might. In states with lots of Democrats, a Republican has to rely on large numbers of crossover Democrats, who might not react well to someone who pushed voter fraud charges -- rightly or wrongly -- against other Democrats. A stretch still, but not unreasonable.
Yet, as Republicans were very fond of noting -- until John Thune lost -- voter registration in South Dakota leans heavily Republican. Republican candidates don't need many crossover Dems. They don't need any. So what on earth would Barnett would be thinking? And if his angle were avoiding controversy wouldn't he just be taking some uncontroversial middle road? As National Review is rightly noting, he's got himself in quite a controversy by so aggressively seeking to refute National Review's claims.
Just because Barnett's a Republican and doesn't believe in the voter fraud charges doesn't mean the charges aren't true. But National Review seems to be straining to find any ulterior motive -- even the most ridiculous -- to explain Barnett's inconvenient apostasy.
Does National Review think Barnett is going to switch parties and become a Democrat?
Now that would be a story!