Guest host Michael Smerconish writes: Finally, a controversy born in my hometown (Chris’s hometown) of Philadelphia on Election Day 2008, that is back in the news this month. It’s the case of the two New Black Panthers allegedly intimidating voters - hurling racial epithets as one brandished a nightstick - outside a North Philadelphia polling place. I’m thinking their actions were more about “television” than “turnout.” Don’t get me wrong. The Panthers’ behavior cannot be tolerated and needs to be prosecuted. The Justice Department should never have dropped the case - especially after the defendants ignored the charges all together. But the fact is, their choice of polling station - a public housing complex in a largely African American section of the city - tells me they wanted to cause a scene for the cameras more than anything. Here’s how I get there. In November 2008, there were 1,535 registered voters in the district in which this particular polling place is located. Only 84 of them were Republicans. In other words, this wasn’t exactly an area where an African-American running for President would need much assistance. Especially considering the near unanimity with which black voters nationwide cast their ballots for Obama. There’s more. In 2000, the district registered just 8 votes for George W. Bush, compared to 382 for Al Gore. In 2004, John Kerry bested Bush 501 to 24. Maybe it was that explosive GOP growth - 8 votes to 24 - that caused these knuckleheads to arrive in time for 2008, where Barack Obama ended up winning the district 596 to 13. Frankly, if they were set on voter intimidation, the Panthers should have sought out voters who actually needed intimidating - some battleground in the bell-weather Philly ‘burbs maybe. As it stands, the numbers made their self-described “security” efforts useless - so utterly senseless that it might actually be their best defense against allegations of voter intimidation.
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