Scofflaws and Submarine Sandwiches

SUBGATE: Romney Ryan hand out Subs for Votes in Waukesha

The matter boils down to one simple, yet deeply profound question: Why should I obey the law?

Our government… teaches the whole people by its example.  If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.  ~Louis Brandeis, Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939

For an instant last night, the sheep looked up, saw the plain lawbreaking of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, handing out free submarine sandwiches with the clear expectation that those accepting this bounty were going to go and vote in the primary (or, perhaps NOT vote against Romney).

NO ONE believes that this altered the outcome of the Wisconsin primary. HOWEVER, no one can justify this black-and-white lawbreaking. But they do. And, amidst this sea of pooh-poohing, WHY SHOULD I OBEY THE LAW?  As Jonathan Swift wrote:

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.  ~Jonathan Swift, A Critical Essay upon the Faculties of the Mind, 1707

ABC News cravenly reports:

Apr 3, 2012 3:29pm
Cold-Cut Case? Wisconsin Democrats Accuse Romney of ‘Subs for Votes’

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe, Emily Friedman and Elizabeth Hartfield report:

PEWAUKEE, Wis. – When GOP front-runner Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., gathered at a sandwich shop in Waukesha today to drum up support for Romney in the Badger State primary, they might have been engaging in “subs-for-votes” election bribery, according to the state’s Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin issued a complaint of bribery hours after the event, holding a news conference in downtown Milwaukee to air its grievances.

“It is a clear violation of Wisconsin election law, cut and dry,” the Democrat Party’s representative in Wisconsin told ABC News.
The group is filing its complaint with the state Government Accountability Board, which oversees the elections and will handle the complaint going forward.

Romney and Ryan’s event at Cousins Subs, billed by the former’s presidential campaign as an “Election Day Lunch,” was attended by a solid crowd on the day of the state’s primary.

The two politicos stood behind the store’s counter, handed out subs to a long line of people in attendance, and urged them to go vote.
“Get out and vote,” Romney urged voters in attendance at the sandwich shop. “If we have a good turnout, then I’ll become the person who receives the Wisconsin delegates that I need to go on to become the nominee and finally take back the White House.”

Poll workers in parts of Wisconsin were urged this year not to accept donuts from candidates, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent, which also reported that the Obama campaign in 2008 could not provide box lunches to election workers in Milwaukee.

The Romney campaign responded to the complaint from Wisconsin Democrats by accusing the president’s campaign of worrying more about refreshments than the economy. But it did not directly address whether the subs might have broken the law.

“President Obama and his allies keep wading in to the Republican primary, whether voting for Mitt Romney’s opponents or absurdly claiming we can’t provide refreshments for volunteers,” Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said. “If President Obama focused half his time worrying about the economy as he does obsessing over Mitt Romney, Americans would be a lot better off.”

It is illegal to distribute anything worth more than $1 “in order to induce any elector to go to or refrain from going to the polls,” according to the Wisconsin state statute.

The subs Romney and Ryan were handing out today, if bought individually from the store, cost more than $1. Sandwiches at Cousins range in price from $4.49 to $5.59.

This creates an astonishing irony as I hear NPR report “Mitt Romney is acting more and more like the Republican presidential nominee …”

Yeah. Nixon.

Or, as Aristotle noted: “The greatest crimes are caused by surfeit, not by want.” (Politics)

No heroes here

There was no reason to break the law, just as there is no reason to MINIMIZE it.

Wise men, learned men, and men of the West have, throughout history, recognized the primacy of the law in maintaining an ordered society. Consider this idiom, still fresh after two millennia and more:

Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.

Prov.The associates of public figures must not even be suspected of wrongdoing. (The ancient Roman Julius Caesar is supposed to have said this when asked why he divorced his wife, Pompeia. Because she was suspected of some wrongdoing, he could not associate with her anymore.)

Clearly, even though they used to watching enslaved men fight to the death for recreation, we seem to have fallen below even the honor of the Romans. When this ancient trope is brought up in public discourse, it is invariably minimized and scoffed at. Even though any careful observation of anybody’s politics will vouchsafe the sheer practicality of the proposition.

If those who make our laws do not themselves obey them, there are no laws, in essence, and people rightly ask:

“Why should I obey the law?”

Because, without law, there will be law. Not the law that we’ve evolved since the Magna Carta, thence to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and 230 years of modification and adaptation through law of those principles. What principles? Turn, if thou wouldst, to chapter and verse of the Book of Warren:

It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.”  ~ Chief Justice Earl Warren

No: it will be the law of Chicago in the 1920s, where ruthless men murdered one another to supply the farcically illegal booze to speakeasies all over the Greater Chicago area. Or, worse, the law of the New Mexico Prison Riot of 1980, in which, in less than 48 hours, the veneer of civilization came off, and 33 inmates were killed, another 200 injured, and “none of the 12 officers taken hostage were killed, but seven were treated for injuries caused by beatings and rapes.

Kill or be killed, survival of the strongest and most ruthless; game of thrones.

Torpedoed by a submarine sandwich

THAT is, presuming civilization could be maintained, with tankers of oil, and electrical lines and power stations, and roads and relative freedom from roaming marauders. Think “Road Warrior.”

Because this magical civilization in which we live is NOT a given. Sorry.

Pull the plug on America and all hell breaks loose within 72 hours. Food spoils. Generators run out of fuel. All electronic gizmos start dying off.

Then what?

Saturn Devours His Children – Goya

The framework that holds it in place is the law, which we commonly agree upon, following the last successful war. In this case, we opted for a representative democracy with three rules: we agree to  self-governance by majority vote. We agree to abide by the results of those elections. And we agree to reach consensus on the laws we elect our representatives to enforce and modify.

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst. ~ Aristotle

Oh, one other rule: we agree to obey those laws passed by the majority consensus. Even “civil disobedience” openly acknowledges that a crime has been committed and agrees to the penalties for breaking that unjust law.

But we must know that our elected representatives are lawful. And we must know that those who are hired by those representatives to ENFORCE that law are, themselves, lawful.

Anything less, no matter how benevolent-seeming, is an inevitable descent into savagery and blood-feud.

It is NOT a small matter that a man who aspires to the highest office in the land breaks the law, and if he didn’t know he was breaking the law, surely Paul Ryan must have known, and Romney’s aides and Wisconsin GOP allies must have known. Now, the “defense” is that it’s not important.


Yeah. Consider the sniggering tone of the headline — knowing that merely saying “Democrats accuse” in the passive, rather than the quasi-journalistic, “DID Mitt Romney break election law?” will automatically make null and void all words following said phrase to 40% of any general readership, so partisan and poisonous has the climate been:

Cold-Cut Case? Wisconsin Democrats Accuse Romney of ‘Subs for Votes’

What a funny pun! Ha ha hah ahhhahahahahah.


And then “Wisconsin Democrats Accuse”


Less tongue and less ham, please.

To which I’d like to say, if the law is so unimportant to you, what funny headline will you come up with when you get back home and suddenly experience that existential rape: your door is off your hinges; stuff is missing, clearly. OH MY GOD! My (special irreplaceable thing) is GONE/BROKEN! Etcetera.

Will it be funny that a law was broken? Or are you just a bunch of coprophageous bottom feeders, slithering under the soft white underbelly of whatever sludge you can suck up and feed to your “audience”?

Well, when a man who aspires to the presidency has pulled this crap before, and again, you have to wonder if his fingers would be crossed when he pledges to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” so help him whatever he preys too.

You know there’s a goddam good reason for anti-corruption voting laws. And the continual irregularities of this electoral season OUGHT to scare the living hell out of you, if you give a damn about your country, and aren’t just masturbating to your fantasy of what the “Founding Fathers” had in mind.

Because it represents a FUNDAMENTAL scoffing at the very idea of democracy. We “bribe” the voters to get out and vote for us, and scoff that nobody can be bought that cheap.

(I don’t know, ABC News. They bought you pretty cheap, if that story is any indication.)

piss and vinegar doesn’t cut the mustard, pal

Besides, the Wisconsin Republicans know ALL ABOUT illegal electioneering. Here’s from a Milwaukee “News Radio” station on August 5, 2011 (if this were a stock or securities sale, Mitt, it would legally be a short term sale):

The Republican Party of Wisconsin and Media Trackers, a conservative non-profit, non-partisan investigative watchdog, filed complaints about the block parties.  According to Media Trackers,

On August 1, a source who wishes to remain anonymous attended a Wisconsin Jobs Now! “block party” and witnessed a number of illegal activities firsthand. Upon checking in, the source was given a free meal ticket and a raffle ticket for a prize drawing before being whisked away in a white van to Milwaukee City Hall. At Milwaukee City Hall, personnel wearing Wisconsin Jobs Now! t-shirts explained the ballot and assisted voters with registration forms all from inside the Milwaukee Election Commission office, a polling location.

The Media Trackers complaint alleged Wisconsin Jobs Now! violated two sections of Chapter 12 of the Wisconsin statutes: those covering election bribery and electioneering at a polling place.

Earlier this week, Peter Pickett of the Government Accountability Board told the MacIver News Service it would be illegal to give people anything of value before giving them rides to the polls. It is also illegal to combine giveaways with transportation to the polls.

“If they walk in with a sticker that says ‘I voted ‘that’s one thing, but if they eat before they vote that’s a problem,” Pickett said. “It’s still a questionable practice on way or the other.” […]

(I’ve covered Wisconsin’s “MacIver News Service” before, BTW. See “Water, Tea or Koch?” 20 February 2011)

If the law was important then, it is important now. And, in EITHER case, the law is the law until you change it. You don’t get to just “ignore it” when it’s inconvenient. (Unless you’re Mitt Romney and have returned to Massachusetts from Utah and want to change your residency. Or you’re Dick Cheney and want to change your residency from Texas, where you’ve lived for years, to Wyoming so as to get around the Constitutional requirement that no President and Vice-President may be from the same state. Having let them break that law, how’d that work out for the USA?)

This is not a partisan issue. It is an American issue.

And Mitt Romney just made a mockery of the very laws of elections — the PRIME source of all law and governance. What was committed was, by Wisconsin law, a felony.

And the law must either be enforced, else


When those who would lead us show no inclination to do so.

Dance down this broad, good-intentionally paved road.

But remember. At the end of that road, the New Mexico Prison Riot of 1980 is waiting for you.

If that’s what you want.

Or, you could have some foul-mouthed hillbilly from Wasilla, Alaska stand on your stage with her bastard grandson in the womb of her loose daughter, with the supposed-shotgun-wedding “groom-to-be” and yammer on about how moral and upstanding you are, and claim it’s about “country first.”

If you gave a damn about your country you would at least pay attention.

And if the Fifth Estate (or is that fourth column?) gave a damn about you, they’d not sneer and spit on the story, as did ABC this day.

And ask yourself: “Why should I obey the law?” and “If I obey the law, why shouldn’t Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney?

Law is nothing unless close behind it stands a warm living public opinion.  ~Wendell Phillips

Wendell Phillips by Matthew Brady

And ask yourself why Sarah Palin guesting on NBC’s Today (Toady?) Show is getting exponentially MORE press coverage than this story?


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

Bookmark and Share

About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.