“Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words.”
I remembered that quote by the late great Italian journalist Italo Calvino when I read Post contributor Stephen Silver’s “‘Massive Voter Fraud’ in Philly Is a Myth.”
Al Capone used to like to say that organized crime in Chicago was a “myth.” And it was, until it was proved that it wasn’t.
I also remembered the image of infamous Philadelphia politician Jimmy Tayoun, the ghost of election days past. On the early morning of election day, he would sit at a table on the first floor of his Middle East restaurant on South Street. On the table was a stack of cash and a gun. If you asked, he would tell you, “The money is for the election. The gun is for the money.”
In Philadelphia, the money handed out to a legion of Democratic committee people and various other election day workers is called “walking around money” or “street money.” The word “bribes” is just so, well, criminal.
Maybe I am just fueling the “myth” with the assumption that the money made its way to voters. After all, the party bosses will tell you that the money is legal payment to the election day’s get-out-the -vote crew. But ask yourself this: Wouldn’t it be easier to pay them by check? I know, I know, checks can be such a pain … and traceable.
Former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo bragged that he would ticket more cars before election day so he could fix the tickets for votes. I thought of Hizzoner when I read last week’s report of an FBI investigation and a separate court investigation into ticket fixing that implicates Democratic Party Chief and Congressman Bob Brady. When I talked about the investigations on my radio show at IQ 106.6, a caller from South Philadelphia told me he had a dozen tickets fixed by his committeeman. In return, he told me, he just had to vote Democrat. He said he learned about the ticket fixing for votes from from his father. Ah, another heart warming South Philly family tradition.
I am gratified that Silver agrees with me that the recent election day expulsion of Republican poll-watchers from almost 80 Philadelphia polling places should be investigated. The difficult task is getting someone to investigate it.
Neither the Pennsylvania Secretary of State nor Republicans in Harrisburg seem too interested. It seems asking politicians to look into voter fraud is like asking NASCAR racers to look into speeding. On my radio show, Al Schmidt, the co-chairman of the Philadelphia City Commissioners—the people who oversee city elections—said he will look into this year’s election and put together a report of possible problems. The report would be helpful evidence, but a full-scale investigation is still needed.
I get concerned when Silver and others discount voter fraud in Philadelphia as “impossible” because it would involve “a pretty large conspiracy.” Well, yes. But a conspiracy is just a large number of unscrupulous people with a common goal. That is a pretty good description of the Philadelphia Democratic Machine.
The first hint that some may have wanted to cheat is the millions spent this year to defeat Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law. The second hint is the bloated Philadelphia voter rolls. There were as many people registered to vote in the city as those eligible to vote, which is impossible, unless you conveniently forget to expunge the dead and those who moved out of the district. Without ID, anyone can claim to be one of the excess names on the voter rolls.
Silver is correct that without investigation, all of this just adds up to another Philadelphia myth, which, as Calvino says, is the hidden part of a story still to be explored. A court investigation and an FBI investigation into ticket fixing for votes and an analysis by City Commissioner Al Schmidt of the 2012 election starts that exploration, but if they don’t lead to a bigger investigation of voter fraud, it will always be hidden and too easily discounted as myth.