Were you surprised by the 2004 election? I know I was. After the narrow and court-muddled electoral victory of George Bush in 2000, I was astounded that he had won a second term. I was shocked that all the polls leading up to the election could have been so wrong. How could this have happened?

We all heard that this was a mandate on ‘morality’. That red-state voters were fed up with gay rights and abortion, and that this was their triumph. And that made sense. Those of us on the left side of the fence are rarely surprised by anything the religious right does. After all, these are people who protect the sanctity of human life by murdering abortion providers.

But I kept hearing murmurs of dirty tricks and chicanery: Republican operatives vanishing with truckloads of ballots; strongarm tactics that disqualified thousands of votes; and the infamous Diebold voting machines, which were apparently all-too-easy to tamper with. Could the Republicans have engaged in this kind of activity? Surely not. We decided this must just be the Democrats spitting out sour grapes. After all, if this sort of crap really went on, the media would have investigated and sounded the alarm, right?

Then again, the present administration has shown a remarkable lack of respect for the rule of law: The outing of Valerie Plame; the unauthorized eavesdropping on American citizens; and the stunning admission that our President believes he has the authority to ignore any law he wishes, simply because he is President.

It’s very troubling.

And now Rolling Stone has published an article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: “Was the 2004 Election Stolen?” Through detailed reporting, interviews, and research, Mr. Kennedy has built a lengthy and compelling argument that “Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted — enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.”

In order to dismiss these claims, you would have to believe in a collection of combined improbabilities that make winning the lottery look like a dead certainty. If you believe in Occam’s razor at all, you now have to believe that the GOP engaged in an organized effort to deprive citizens of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice. And the mainstream media has largely ignored the entire issue.

Isn’t that the cornerstone of our democracy? One man, one vote. Has partisan politics become so saturated with corruption that the Republican party is willing to demolish democracy itself in order to gain power? That, to lead this country, they’re perfectly willing to trample citizen’s rights? Because even those filthy Democrats are still U.S. citizens.

I ask you, if you are a Republican yourself, is this really the way you want to achieve your political goals?

I know what I believe. I believe that the men and women that committed these acts are not patriots. They’re criminals.

Please. I urge you to read the above article. All of it. And consider the source: Robert Kennedy Jr. has been nothing but an outstanding citizen and public figure. Then go read this article from Harper’s, which provides a slightly different slant on the same issue. Then decide for yourself whether this is still the paranoid ravings of the left wing, or a bona fide symptom of profound moral decay. And then decide if you’re going to put up with it, or if you are going to hold our leaders, and our media, responsible for it.