Posted: 11/02/12 12:14, Edited: 04/24/13 15:28
by Alan Anderson
It doesn't really matter who wins the election next week. The actions and process unfolding in America is a sad commentary on the democracy we claim to have. Participation by an educated electorate in making decisions about our country's policies and future is in real question as money, deceptive practices, and genuine hostility override the electoral scene.
First, the fear of the impact of the Citizens United case is coming to fruition. It is estimated that perhaps $6 billion dollars will be spent on all the races throughout the country, a huge increase over expenditures in past elections. The bulk of the money is coming from outside forces, with unknown donors, who are flooding the airwaves with mean-spirited ads, falsehoods, and a volume of noise unheard of in the past. Add the avalanche of flyers, phone calls, and door knocks to the list and you have an electorate overwhelmed with short sound bites that do little to enlighten voters about the real positions of candidates. It is estimated that the imbalance in funding is in the area of 3 or 4 to 1; Republicans garnering support from three to four times as much money and influence. In some races Republicans are outspending their Democratic opponents by as much as 10 or 12 to 1. There is little doubt that money is having a tremendous influence in the nature of this election. If Republicans win it would certainly indicate that elections can be bought, or at least strongly influenced by outside money. And we have no idea where the money is coming from....it could be from China and Iran attempting to destabilize the US and its domestic culture.
Add to this the impact of a Republican media network, Fox News, and the bevy of radio stations devoted to conservative values, and you get a full force effort to sway voters to conservative viewpoints. While there are some more liberal stations, the number of right-leaning programs is estimated to be in the 90 to 10 ratio, conservative versus liberal. Conservatives clearly dominate the radio airwaves.
In addition to money, the issues and amendments presented are designed more to have an impact on who turns out than on what is decided. Driven in large part by the actions of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), legislation and amendments have been introduced in more than 30 states addressing issues of gay marriage, voter identification (voter ID), and abortion. In Minnesota, for example, an amendment to the constitution says a marriage is between a man and a woman. In fact, the law in Minnesota already states that a marriage is solely between a man and a woman. The reason it is on the ballot is to draw out those conservative who are single issue voters who oppose gay people. A more reasonable approach would have been to wait for the Supreme Court to strike down the law and then propose an amendment to override it. But, the conservative forces believed they needed the issue on the ballot to bring out their voters to affect a whole host of conservative causes.
And ballot measures that require voter identification are said to eliminate voter fraud in America. Since few causes of such fraud have been identified, the real reason for voter identification requirements is to create impediments to potential Democratic voters....seniors, the handicapped, college students, poor people and keep them away from the polls. This is simply an effort to suppress votes, not ensure voter safety. It will eliminate same day registration in many states, like Minnesota, which unequally affects more marginal individuals. The purpose of this effort is to suppress votes, not secure them.
This attitude toward voter suppression is also found in efforts to intimidate certain portions of the population. From election boards that send out the wrong information about time and date of voting, to more heinous efforts to send letters to potential voters telling them their voting rights have been challenged for a host of reasons, efforts are underway to suppress votes. The ultimate goal of these efforts are, again, to keep the poor, the elderly, minority populations, and youth away from the polls. And this makes sense for Republicans. In 2008 Democrats won handily, securing more than 10 million more votes for president and having 40 million more votes cast in the election than in 2010 when Republicans won the majority in the House of Representatives and a ton of governorships. The math is simple: more voters, Democrats win; fewer voters, Republicans win. Therefore, it is a good strategy is to keep people, especially those inclined to vote Democratic, away from the polls if you want Republicans to win.
Lastly, the content of the political discussion is filled with lies and stretched truths. Some believe politicians and political parties will say anything to win ---and that seems to be the case with the Republican right this year. They downplay everything in the country, from the economy to the resolution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the Dow Industrials has risen from March 2009 levels of 6500 to more than 13,000 in 2012, the economy has been cast as a failure because the number of unemployed has not responded as quickly as had been hoped. Republicans continue to make this point, despite the fact that they had more than 300 filibusters in the last several years, all designed to slow or stop the advancement of the economy by President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.
Who cares if the auto industry was saved by government intervention (when there was no money available in the private market), or if the auto industry is making excellent profits and paying back their government loans. Who cares if manufacturing is seeing an increase in hiring and production and that many US companies are recording excellent profits this last year. The goal is to suppress public confidence in the economic recovery (reduce consumer confidence in order to reduce economic spending). Anyone who studies economics knows that when consumer confidence is low, economic activity follows suit and slows down. When consumer confidence is high, economies experience growth and increased spending by people, which creates more demand for jobs and economic recovery. Thus, the goal of one political party has been to embarrass the President by continuously beating down the economy to maintain this sense of economic doldrums instead of promoting the good news and propelling the economy to higher levels. Economists have projected that the unemployment rate would have been closer to 7% if consumer confidence had been allowed to rise to reflect the more positive news about the economy.
This sense of lies and stretched truths is perhaps best manifested in Governor Romney's record in Massachusetts and in his personal life. As governor he raised taxes (fees) on everything, including businesses, to balance the budget. He was number one in the country in revenue raised through taxes in his early years. He also cut spending for schools, higher education, and social services. He even passed Romneycare, a health care system that mandated coverage and taxed people who failed to join the system. Yet, he has pledged to repeal Obamacare when he is in office...and health care plan almost identical to the Massachusetts law.
On a personal scale he has hidden his taxes and personal finances from public view for most of the past decade. It is clear from the little he has revealed that he pays low tax rates, has millions of dollars hidden overseas to avoid US taxes, and has made a lot of money through investments in the last few years, while at the same time criticizing the Obama administration for failing to help the American economic system. He clearly has something to hide and refuses to release his returns in order to cover whatever he doesn't want the public to know.
Add all of these factors and you have a picture of a fairly corrupt system of democracy. Money influences voters and voting, suppression of voters and votes is rampant across the country, honesty and integrity of candidates has been thrown out the window, and the American people are confused as to what is real and what is imaginary. This distaste for what is occurring in the Republican Party is perhaps best represented by the following: reasonable and moderate Republicans are siding with Democrats because they reject the direction of the party and its leader for a better America. When Colin Powell and Mayor Bloomberg endorse President Obama over the Republican nominee, when Republican Governor Christie praises the President for his work on bringing assistance and support to victims of Hurricane Sandy, and when moderate senators such as Olympia Snow leave the party because they can't stand the tone and atmosphere created by the Tea Party Republicans, then you know there is an imbalanced approach to all areas and concerns.
America was once considered a model for democracy and democratic process. Today's election actions and political divisions are undermining the very essence of what clean, fair, informed voting is supposed to be. I'm not sure if we will recover, but we must do something to make the process change. Otherwise, we will become an oligarchy, run by people who have enormous money and power and who, like Bashar Assad in Syria, are concerned more about maintaining/expanding their power no matter how much it hurts the nation and its people. Let's hope for a better America.