Saturday, January 22

False voters exist only in the feverish imagination of Boris Johnson | Nick cohen

TO a government that can terrorize a population can usually do what it wants with it. If nothing else survives from his journalism, HL Mencken’s warning of 1918 will never perish: “The aim of practical politics is to keep the population alarmed (and therefore clamoring to be led to safety) by threatening it with a endless series of goblins, most of them imaginary. “

British Conservatives and American Republicans have added a modern game to the demagogic playbook. They are creating an imaginary fear that the elections are being rigged to rig the elections. They will protect democracy by eliminating the right to vote.

Boris Johnson’s hobgoblin is a fake voter, almost certainly from an ethnic minority. These masters of disguise steal the ballots of honest citizens by posing as them at polling stations. When honest citizens arrive, election officials tell them that they have already voted and call the police.

False voters are false. If not, you would have read hundreds of articles about people whose identities had been stolen. The government itself investigate found that electoral college personality fraud accounted for only eight of the voter fraud allegations made in 2018. When Lutfur Rahman, the corrupt mayor of Tower Hamlets, was found guilty in the major electoral fraud In the recent trial, the fraud consisted of funneling bribes to Bengali organizations that were “totally ineligible” for public money, not arranging for body doubles to flood polling stations.

Voter suppression, the deliberate attempt to influence the outcome of an election by stopping poor, black voters who oppose the conservative elite, is often accompanied by lies about stolen elections. Donald Trump and the US Republicans strategy to brainwash their supporters after their defeat in the 2020 US presidential election. They fed them accusations of double voting, dead voting and out-of-state voters moving into contested states. No indictment stood in court, but at least Trump made the effort to provide a cover story.

British democracy is so deteriorated that Johnson does not feel the need to lie. He happily admits that the hobgoblin is a fantasy of his calculating mind. Question from Ian Blackford of the National Party of Scotland last week how could he justify his “Trumpian” tacticsJohnson said he wanted to protect the election from “the idea of ​​voter fraud.” Not the reality of a crime that barely exists, as it would take thousands of copycats to influence an election, but the idea, the notion, the paranoid fear that it might they exist, although they do not.

He is trying to disenfranchise poor voters by requiring everyone to present a photo ID before voting. Ministers dismiss concerns on the 2.1 million people without identification when saying that the councils can issue the necessary passes, knowing full well that most voters will not know how to request them. Meanwhile, in voter identification trials in local elections, 750 out of 2,000 people rejected for not having identification never returned. Maybe they didn’t bother to go home and look through their documents, or they had to go to work. No one checked, but the point remains that Johnson’s phantom threat laws will stop not just people without a driver’s license or passport from voting, but others who don’t have the time or inclination to negotiate his new bureaucracy.

His willingness to attack the foundations of democracy marks Johnson as an extreme rather than a conventional right-winger. The division between the two is not as clear cut as it seems. Professor Tim Bale, historian of British conservatism, invites readers to consider who made a speech saying that a liberal elite was turning the British into foreigners in their own land. “Talk about taxes and they call you greedy. Talk about crime and they call you reactionary. Talk about asylum and they call you a racist. “It was not Nigel Farage during the Brexit referendum in 2016, but William Hague, the leader of the Conservative Party, in 2001.

Farage had his chance when David Cameron briefly pushed the Conservative Party away from Euro-extremism and a hard line on immigration in the early 2000s. And all he did was utter the slogans of previous Conservative leaders. The fringe doesn’t always take over the mainstream and push it to the right or to the left. Often times, it is impossible to untangle the two and decide who is the monkey and who is the organ grinder.

On Riding the populist wave, released next month, political scientists across Europe emphasize that the difference between the radical right and the mainstream has as much to do with means as with ends. Almost by definition, populists are disloyal actors who do not accept the rules of the democratic system that the dominant politicians abide by.

Johnson’s attempt to deny the vote to secure an electoral advantage, along with his attacks on parliament and the independence of the judiciary, the BBC and the civil service, marks him as a member of the Trump club of right-wing extremists. Meanwhile, its policies are designed to ensure that a party like Ukip never again outflanks the Conservatives on the right, and Westminster is filled with roars to punish asylum seekers, cut international aid and condemn English footballers who They protest against racism.

I’m not sure conservatives will listen to my advice, but I’m going to give it anyway. They need to watch their back. The dominant Republicans in France moved so far to the right to fire Marine Le Pen that Emmanuel Macron and his centrists were able to destroy them.

David Davis, who is not a savvy liberal, told me that the prime minister acts as a metropolitan elitist caricature who thinks that Leave voters are fat, ugly and racist, rather than men and women concerned about tax bills and taxes. public services. His stunts reveal a populist who does not understand his people and believes that they will be satisfied with stupid arguments and senseless cruelty.

As if to prove the point, investigate The Election Commission found that 90% of the public thought voting at polling stations was safe. Boris Johnson’s hobgoblin doesn’t even haunt the nightmares of most of his mainstream followers. Perhaps one day some of them will get tired of a prime minister who treats them like terrified little children and puts a cross against the name of another politician.

Nick Cohen is a columnist for Observer

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