Barack Obama’s poll numbers are up – and the McCain campaign’s gloves are off. This time the GOP’s target isn’t merely the Democratic candidate — it’s a poor people’s group – and if we’re not careful, the impact of the targeting may be felt long after the ’08 election.

In a new ad running online, the John McCain campaign reprises its attack on commnity organizers. In this case, ACORN. The ads allege that in Chicago, Obama and ACORN were close, and, to quote from the ad: "What did ACORN in Chicago engage in? Bullying banks, intimidation tactics, disruption of business. ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans. The same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we’re in today.”

Just to be clear: Poor people, especially people of color, (like those who comprise ACORN) did not cause the 2008 credit crisis. The global practices of investment banks and their deregulators did that. Nonetheless — blaming people at the bottom rather than those at the top for our economic woes has been around for as long as there have been people at the top making out at others’ expense and hoping nobody will notice.

The McCain ad goes on to accuse ACORN of "massive voter fraud," saying the group is under investigation in 11 states "for thousands of potentially fraudulent ACORN (voter registration) forms."

To clarify again: ACORN has registered a stunning 1.3 million voters so far this year. (Not an insignificiant fact in this story.)  Most states require all voter applications, even ones with obvious mistakes, to be turned in to election officials. It is that record, flagged and submitted by ACORN, that the GOP attack ads are using. Flawed forms are flagged so they’ll be thrown out. No matter what the GOP ads say, "massive voter fraud" has not been perpetrated – because "voter fraud" requires voting.

Raising this specter of "voter fraud" in advance, the GOP is clearly laying the groundwork for delegitimizing a Democratic presidential victory. But ads like these, and the attack on community organizers in general, also serve to demonize exactly those grassroots groups who are working hard this election because they want a voice in the planning of a new direction. The Obama campaign is due to respond. They better speak up strongly in defense of ACORN. A week ago it was Bill Ayers. Now it’s ACORN the GOP would have Obama renounce and deny. For their own sake, the entire progressive community should stand up and say enough. The radical Right have no place determining who has a legitimate voice in American politics.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.