The Legitimacy of our Government Depends on the Legitimacy of the Vote

The Legitimacy of our Government Depends on the Legitimacy of the Vote

House Chamber, Washington, D.C.
January 20, 2010
 
 
Mr. Speaker:
 
I never thought I would see the day when a commentator entrusted by a major broadcast network with the ability to reach millions of listeners would use his influence to incite voter fraud, but this week we passed that unfortunate milestone.
 
On Friday the 15th, MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz told his nationally syndicated radio audience: “I tell you what, if I lived in Massachusetts I’d try to vote ten times. I don’t know if they’d let me or not, but I’d try to. Yeah, that’s right. I’d cheat to keep these bastards out. I would.” This could be dismissed as an unfortunate verbal excess brought on by the passion of the moment, except for the fact that when given the opportunity to retract the statement, Mr. Schultz embellished it in a way that makes it crystal clear that his words were deliberate and calculated. He said, “I misspoke on Friday. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I meant to say, if I could vote 20 times that’s what I’d do.” Later he said, “Let me be very clear – I’m not advocating voter fraud, I’m just telling you what I would do.” 
 
Mr. Speaker, exactly how does one not advocate voter fraud when three times on national broadcasts you say that’s what you would do?
 
This can only be interpreted as incitement to commit voter fraud in a pivotal election in the course of our nation.   As such, it strikes at the very foundation of our democratic traditions and our constitutional institutions. In every election -- win, lose or draw -- it is of utmost importance that the vote be fair, that it be accurate, and that it has the confidence of every citizen – both those in the majority and those in the minority. If we cannot trust the sanctity of the vote, we have destroyed the legitimacy of that vote and with it the legitimacy of our government. 
 
All of our governing institutions and all of their acts rest upon a single foundation: fair and free elections which guarantee that those who exercise authority under our Constitution do so “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
 
It is this principle that Mr. Schultz has sought to desecrate and demean.  His statements excusing voter fraud weaken the single most important mechanism of our democracy and undermine our form of government. 
 
His words deserve – indeed, they demand – the contempt and condemnation of every American. And they deserve immediate action by those who have accorded him his broadcast platforms and whose silence and inaction thus far can only be described as a disgrace.

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