Friday, November 05, 2004

Win, baby, win

Democracy in the United States does not appear to be in very good shape. The election is over and Bush/Cheney have been declared the winners. They are claimed to have won both the electoral votes and the popular vote. And perhaps they did.

But perhaps they did not. And even if they did, the manner in which they accomplished this is certainly open to question. There are reports of literally hundreds of voting irregularities in seven southern states. These all have to do with the suppression or intimidation of minority voters. In Palm Beach, Florida there is a reported 88,000 vote discrepancy. In Ohio there are reports of extra votes for Bush. In Broward Country, Florida there is a reported computer glitch favoring Bush. Greg Palast report that in Ohio, Florida, and New Mexico there is reason to believe that Bush actually won. There are questionable results in the state of Washington, Wisconsin, and North Carolina. There are many reports of malfunctions in e-voting machines. Curiously, virtually all of these questionable results have to do with minority or young voters. Is there any reason to believe that Democrats would have tried to sabotage young and minority voters? I don’t think so.

Now, even if these presumed violations of election laws did not ensure the Republican victory, they certainly indicate that Republicans were involved in every dirty trick they could conceive of. They are absolutely gloating over how they won the election, not only for the Presidency but for the Senate and House as well. But is this how we want American Democracy to work? Do we really want the party that can employ the best dirty tricks to win? While it is true that there have probably been dirty tricks in all Presidential campaigns up to a point, the Republicans have carried this “art” to abnormally high levels. Indeed, the Republican attempt to overthrow the Clinton Presidency reached such a new low as to be almost inconceivable in a presumably Democratic country. This seems to have set the standard for Republican politics – win at any cost – the end justifies the means. To hell with democratic principles, just win, baby, win. I’m sorry, but this is not my idea of democracy.

Of course part of the problem is ignorance. The absolutely fundamental requirement for a functioning democracy is an enlightened and well-informed citizenry. This assumes that you have decent public schools and citizens who have recourse to truthful information. At the moment in the United States we have neither. The public schools, which have been underfunded and denigrated for years, with facilities and teachers starved for funding, which now serve as little more than places to park young people for a few years to keep them off the labor market, are a national disgrace. The major media are worse, feeding us nothing but absolute mindless trivia day after day, making a mockery of what they should be, and dumbing us down even below the lowest common denominator. They are worse than disgraceful.

There is a terrible sickness in the United States, and it grows worse every year. It will certainly not be helped by another four years of the Bush/Cheney administration. I hesitate to say it, but we truly need our own “cultural revolution.” And if it doesn’t happen soon it may well be too late. Margaret Halsey said it quite some time ago: America is a primitive society because it is focused around a single institution, and that institution is “business.” While I am not opposed to business per se, I believe when it is the absolute dominant institution of a society, riding roughshod over art and science, truth and beauty, love and virtue, it is not a healthy thing. Karl Polanyi was right: land, labor, and money are not simply commodities to be traded on the market. They are the very essence of the human condition from which we have strayed far too far. There should be more to life than business.

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