NYT Front Page: 'Cold Political Calculation' and Racial Tension in GOP's FL Recount Strategy

November 13th, 2018 3:44 PM

The front of Tuesday’s New York Times featured reporters Jeremy Peters and Maggie Haberman in the Florida capital Tallahassee, the heart of the latest controversial voting issues related to recounts to hit that state, for a “news analysis” that cast the Republican Party as ruthless and cynical and the Democrats as meek: “G.O.P. Fears Over Senate Edge Drive Push to Discredit Recount.

The reporters downplayed past and present examples of Democratic electoral shenanigans and managed to mention long-controversial Broward County supervisor of elections Brenda Snipes just once, in paragraph 15.

The concerted effort by Republicans in Washington and Florida to discredit the state’s recount as illegitimate and potentially rife with fraud reflects a cold political calculation: Treat the recount as the next phase of a campaign to secure the party’s majority and agenda in the Senate.

The Times dismissed any concern over what the validity of the vote means for the democratic process, reducing valid Republican complaints to cynical partisanship. (By contrast, the paper has certainly taken Democratic concerns over the governor’s race in Georgia between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.)

But the Republicans’ posture on the recount -- especially the party’s claims of fraud and cover-up and President Trump’s latest assertion on Monday of forgery, all presented without evidence -- has been deeply divisive and even drew a stern rebuke Monday from the chief state judge in Broward County, Fla., Jack Tuter. He urged lawyers involved in the battle over the recount to “ramp down the rhetoric” and take any accusations of electoral fraud to the police.

The Republicans’ strategy in Florida reflects their experience in the 2000 presidential recount in the state. Party strategists and lawyers say they prevailed largely because they approached it as they did the race itself, with legal, political and public relations components that allowed them to outmaneuver the Democrats, who were less strategic and consistent with their lawsuit targets and public remarks about the recount.

It was inevitable that the race card would be played.

But with such aggressive, unyielding attacks on Democrats, Mr. Trump and his Republicans risk treading into territory that is a minefield of tension over race. Their repeated allegations of subterfuge and fraudulent ballots are a blunt appeal to a political base motivated by the notion that elections are often stolen by Democrats. And in this case, some of the central players are African-Americans, including Mr. Gillum and the Broward County supervisor of elections, Brenda C. Snipes, whom Republicans like Mr. Scott have called out by name for enabling “rampant fraud,” as the governor put it last week.

That is the only mention of Snipes, though her controversy service as county election supervisor has hardly gone unnoticed. NBC reporter Kerry Sanders reminded viewers: Republican questions largely surround Broward County and its embattled Elections Supervisor, Democrat Brenda Snipes, whose office in 2016 was found to have destroyed ballots. And this year, admitting she counted 22 provisional ballots that have already been rejected.”

National Review’s Jack Crowe added: “Brenda Snipes, who has been twice previously found guilty of violating elections law, and who most recently refused to disclose the number of absentee ballots her office received on election day.”

Still, the Times stuck to its narrative of nasty Republican overreach.

In the face of the Republican cries of ballot fraud and political mischief, Judge Tuter in Broward County refused a request by Mr. Scott to order the county police to impound voting machines and ballots when they are not in use. The judge was also critical of comments made by Mr. Scott’s lawyers on television and social media perpetuating the unsubstantiated rumors of fraud.

More racial accusations were injected:

Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000 and is one of the most prominent African-American women in the Democratic Party, decried what she described as obvious racial undertones in the Republican attacks on the recount process.


And some Republicans warned that incendiary language, when used by either party during electoral disputes, was sometimes troubling.


On the ground, both Republicans and Democrats are deeply involved in the recount effort, but the G.O.P. organizing muscle from Washington and elsewhere is particularly notable.

To make that case of aggression solely on the Republican side, the Times ignored Democratic lawyers on the ground, including Marc Elias, lawyer for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a law partner at Perkins Coie, which represented former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump in 2016, resulting in the infamous discredited Trump “dossier.”