3.26.2008

obama can't win if they don't count the votes

As you may know, I am completely ignoring the US election campaigns, at least as much as I possibly can. What little seeps through my filter, either from our daily newspaper or from headlines at Progressive Bloggers and Common Dreams, really disturbs me.

Too many people - people who ought to know better - are putting too much stock in Barack Obama. The man is a good candidate and a gifted orator, but he is not going to fix what ails the United States. Any man or woman who would propose to fix what's wrong with the United States could not possibly get elected, or get nominated, or even be taken seriously as a candidate.

Progressive people's reactions to Obama remind me of exactly how I felt in 1992.

After twelve years of Reagan and Bush, a man from a humble background, with great charisma and a silver tongue, wowed the Democrats. It may be hard to remember the Bill Clinton of 1992, given what we came to know of him, but people wept at the Democratic National Convention that year. A Man From Hope was riding into town, and don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

I was hopeful, too. I didn't think of myself as naive (who ever does?), but I had cut my activist teeth during the Reagan years, and I was very focused on removing that stink from Washington. After the election, friends of mine from my reproductive rights group - mostly ten years older than me - were relieved, but not impressed. I remember a friend saying, Sure, I'm glad Bush is out of a job. I just don't expect things to change very much.

She was right.

The minute Clinton took office, he betrayed the left. First it was Haitian refugees, then it was gays in the military, then the courts needed "balance" instead of "ideology". (No matter that the courts had had nothing but ideology for 12 years, and counter-ideology would have brought some balance.) And on it went. This was not because Bill Clinton couldn't be trusted to keep his promises. It was because the Democrats are not so very different from the Republicans. The two parties differ mainly in rhetoric. In actions, they differ very little.

Four years later, I voted for Ralph Nader. Katha Pollitt wrote a piece that became famous: "Why I'm Not Voting for Clinton". I circulated as widely as I could.

For me it was an epiphany moment. I was raised in a very progressive household. My parents voted for the Democrat candidate furthest left in the primaries, then in the general election, it was "hold your nose and vote Democrat, because anything else is throwing your vote away". I believed that, and I followed suit.

Bill Clinton's first term changed my mind. That was the end of my belief in voting for the lesser of two evils, the end of contributing to the Democrats' rightward drift, however unintentionally. From now on the Democrats were going to have to earn my vote, and if they didn't, I was going to help build an alternative on the left.

You can imagine how I bristle when partisan Liberals in Canada call for the NDP to merge with the Liberals. One only need look at the US's dysfunctional two-party system to see what would happen. Without the NDP, what reason would the Liberals have to even be liberal?

I have no wish to debate the relative merits of voting for a third-party candidate: you go your way and I'll go mine. Regardless of whether you would vote for them or not, the Democrats will not possibly fix the system that they themselves help to create and maintain every single day. Has everyone forgotten the 2006 midterm elections? The Democrats won a majority in Congress with a strong mandate to get out of Iraq. And?

The problems are structural. Barack Obama is not going to break the incestuous relationship between government and corporate money. He is not going to restructure campaign financing, or institute a fair tax system, or force US employers to deal fairly with their workers, or fix the education system. He is not going to bring universal health insurance. He is not even going to end the US occupation of Iraq.

* * * *

And will he be allowed to win?

Here's another brief history reminder. During the Democratic primaries in 2000, everyone was talking about how important the nomination was, because whoever the Democrats ran would soon be President. After all, the Republicans were running George W. Bush. What a joke! He couldn't possibly be elected.

Today there's that same assumption, only people are even more excited, because we will soon supposedly see the first person of colour in the White House.

The 2000 election was stolen.

The 2004 election was stolen.

There were huge questions about the validity of both the 2002 and 2006 midterm elections.

And nothing has changed. As all problems left untended will, it has only gotten worse. There is evidence voting machines were tampered with in the primaries.

So why is everyone assuming the 2008 election will be fair? I'm still not convinced there will even be a 2008 election in the US. I'm not making a prediction; I'm not in that line of work. But let's put it this way: if the election goes ahead as it's supposed to, I'll be relieved. If it doesn't, I won't be surprised.

But if it's more expedient for the Cheney junta to hold elections, but keep them rigged, then they will.

(Regarding election fraud, please don't get hung up on any one link I've posted here. No one story is definitive; each is part of a much larger picture. As always, I recommend Harvey Wasserman and Bob Fitrakis, and Bev Harris' Black Box Voting, as excellent sources. You can also click on the "election fraud" category on this blog for more links.)

* * * *

Recently I overheard two Canadians chatting about the US campaigns. One of them brought up McCain. The other said, "McCain won't win, but not because of him. Just because people are so fed-up with Bush, they don't want to elect another government like that."

The other person replied, "I know. What I can't believe is that they elected him twice!"

Inside, I was screaming, "They didn't! They didn't!" It's very frustrating.

I know millions of Americans did actually vote for the Resident, and I'm not forgetting or excusing them.

Nor am I excusing the media's complicity in this: thoroughly trashing two consecutive Democrat candidates while giving the Republicans a free ride.

All that happened, and it's real.

But the bottom line is: the elections are rigged. Everyone - not just the mainstream media, but a huge portion of the blogosphere and the alternative media, too - is reacting to the campaigns as if these elections are for real.

They are not.

33 comments:

redsock said...

Amen. Another observation on the Canadian coverage of the US election:

The Globe and Mail -- which bills itself as Canada's national newspaper -- treats the entire proceedings as if it's all on the level. Their news stories assume -- in all seriousness -- that every campaign promise made by Obama or Clinton will be followed through on.

Every one of the reporters and columnists -- and every one of the editors, apparently -- assumes that politicans never pander to get votes and that they would never ever fib about what they will do (or not do) once they get into office.

If Obama says he's going to transform American society into one that looks beyond race, well, then, by golly, isn't he an amazing man for being able to do that? And if you want that to happen, then vote for him, because that's what you'll get.

These journalists apparently have little desire (or ability?) to look back at what Obama and Clinton have actually said and done in the past.

From where I stand, when it comes to evaluating the US election process and possible candidates, the Canadian media has the mentality of a four-year-old.

FatLady said...

You've just described why I've lost my political will--it's all just so sad. I agree 100% about Obama's ability, or lack thereof, to make changes. I think he'd be a deer in the headlights the day after the election and all the hangers on would be running the show in no time at all.

I also believe the elections are all rigged. It isn't that much of a stretch, which is also very sad.

But forgetting for a moment that the fix is in, do you think for a moment that the voters of the USA will really cast votes enough for a black man? I just don't think he could win--even if it was a fair election. Still too much bigotry in my opinion.

As well, I don't think Hillary can win. Too many wingnuts out there hate her--either because they are still p*ssed about the cookie remark, or because they are still p*ssed that she didn't leave her cheating husband, or just on principle because she wasn't the usual milquetoast First Lady.

Nope, I think McCain can just sit back and let these two take up all the media attention right now and then just walk right in to the white house.

Sigh.

Redsock, you're right also. Can Canadian journalists not look to their own elections to see that politicians lie? You can always tell--because their lips are moving....

L-girl said...

Thanks, FatLady.

You've just described why I've lost my political will--it's all just so sad.

I definitely have not lost my political will in general. I will always be an activist, and examples of real change are all around us, all the time. But the US system is shot. I just wanted to clarify the difference between those two.

But forgetting for a moment that the fix is in, do you think for a moment that the voters of the USA will really cast votes enough for a black man?

Enough to win? I don't know. Everyone I know asks this, and I don't know. There is certainly tremendous racism. No question. There is also widespread discontent with the current system, and he is electrifying people all over. But enough to win...? I just don't know.

As well, I don't think Hillary can win. Too many wingnuts out there hate her

This I agree with 100%. People in Canada and elsewhere do not understand the depth and breadth of the hatred for Hillary. In my opinion, racism against a light-skinned, good-looking, well-spoken black man pales in comparison to the hatred of strong women of any colour, and Hillary-hatred in particular.

I can't stand Hillary Clinton because she's a war-mongering hawk, but if the Democrats are stupid enough to nominate her, the Republicans won't even have to fix the election.

L-girl said...

My thoughts on Hillary Clinton.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I'm kinder to both of the Democrats than you are--I don't agree with them about much, but I do think either of them would be an improvement over the current status quo. Democrats are what they are--centre-right politicians--but they're still better than Republicans.

But where we completely agree is that a good portion of the American left is deluding itself that electing a Democrat--whether Obama or Clinton--is actually going to significantly change anything. No matter what minor waves the next president might make, nothing's going to budge the beast that made me leave in 1997. The Democrats made me want to leave the U.S. far more than the Republicans ever could, because when the Democrats are in charge, you know that things are as good as they're ever going to get.

MSS said...

My political journey since 1992 is nearly identical to L-Girl's, other than the small detail that she will be able to vote for the NDP (should she choose) a whole lot sooner than I will (probably never, in my case). I have been aware of the NDP and considered it a party I would vote for at least since the 1980s. And for the past year, I have been a card-carrying member of the Green Party USA (who also voted for Nader in 2000 and has no regrets about that). I say all this just to indicate where I am 'coming from' politically.

However, I do not feel the same way about Obama in 2008 as I did about the Clintons in 1992. I never trusted the Clintons (yes, always plural) in the least. I voted for them twice (in 1992 because I just could not bring myself to vote for Perot and I thought B&H were worthy of a chance, and in 1996 purely for the veto). But I am enthusisastic about Obama. As a political scientist as well as someone well to the left-libertarian end of the political spectrum (and therefore pretty much off the US charts), I tend to be jaded, so I know that most of what L-Girl says at the start of the post is true. But there are differences this time, the biggest of which is that the congressional and activist party is a totally different animal from what it was in 1992, when it was still ossified by years of feeding at the government trough.

Will President Obama disappoint me? yeah, big time. But it's all I have. I still have to live here. For a while anyway.

MSS said...

By the way, I have been meaning for a couple of years to read the article on 2004 linked to in the post. (And since I can't find my printed copy, thanks for the link!)

I am willing to believe that the Republican party was ready to steal the election in Ohio if necessary. I don't think it was necessary. But I would be willing to concede the point simply for the sake of argument.

So, suppose the Ohio vote was stolen. Do proponents of the argument that the 2004 election was stolen deny that Bush won a majority (or plurality) of the nationwide vote?

Yes, I know he could have lost his bid for a second term (I would never say 'reelection') even while winning the national majority. But I can't see a credible case that he did not win more votes than Kerry nationally, even if he actually lost Ohio.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

MSS,

I think Obama should be president. I even think he'd be a good president, of the country I left behind. But there are reasons I left it behind, and none of those things would change with a President Obama at the helm. Therein lies the rub.

L-girl said...

IP and MSS, thanks so much for your thoughts.

I'm very glad you feel better about Obama than I do. That makes me feel better, too. I hope you are right. Really really really hope you are right.

For some reason I feel I should clarify my voting record:
1992 - Clinton
1996 - Nader
2000 - Nader
2004 - Kerry

After much debate, I (and I believe Allan too) decided to vote for Kerry to boost the popular "veto" vote as much as possible.

L-girl said...

Oh, also meant to say thanks to Allan for his points about the Cdn media. I find the election coverage up here pretty inane.

L-girl said...

Re the 2004 stolen election, it wasn't just Ohio. It was Pennsylvania, too - the two biggest swing states.

There may have been other states, as well - I don't retain those kind of details well, although I read a lot about it at the time. The Rolling Stone story I linked to should have details.

But my issue is less "would he have won anyway" than "every vote should be counted". Which of course means dismantling the electoral college, and removing many of the barriers to voting.

The way I see it - and please forgive my repetition of this theme - if there aren't fair elections, where every vote is counted, what makes it a democracy?

Also MSS, thank you for being precise with your language and avoiding the canard "re-election".

L-girl said...

Hey MSS, I just realized this post lured you out of your non-comment mode. I hope Blogger was kind to you.

M@ said...

when it comes to evaluating the US election process and possible candidates, the Canadian media has the mentality of a four-year-old.

I agree absolutely with this. But is the US media any better? If they care about anything more than superficialities, the horse race, and the personalities, they're hiding it well.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

The way I see it - and please forgive my repetition of this theme - if there aren't fair elections, where every vote is counted, what makes it a democracy?

And then we've got Canada, where every vote IS counted...and then about half of them are thrown away.

L-girl said...

But is the US media any better? If they care about anything more than superficialities, the horse race, and the personalities, they're hiding it well.

The US media is much worse. All they report on (as I recall) is the campaign itself. Campaign strategies and tactics, who is positioning themselves how, endless polls, endless temperature-taking of the campaign. Appearances, the this-vote and the that-vote (as in "the Hispanic vote", "the soccer mom vote", etc.).

All while allowing any allegation from any wingnut to pass for fact (eg, swiftboating).

Our sorry judgement of the Canadian mainstream media's coverage is by no means an exoneration of the US's.

Unless since I stopped looking at it there's been a complete overhaul.

What? No?

redsock said...

But I can't see a credible case that he did not win more votes than Kerry nationally, even if he actually lost Ohio.

We'll never know, will we?

We have no idea how Americans truly voted in 2004. We have no idea who they truly elected.

L-girl said...

The two are bad in different ways, tho.

The US media reports only on the campaigns themselves. No issues.

The Cdn media seems to take it all at face value, as if whatever you hear from any politician is the exact truth. They act as if by electing a person of colour to the presidency, the US will no longer have any race issue. I'm not exaggerating. That's the impression I get from the G&M and CBC. Elect Obama and all racism disappears!

L-girl said...

And then we've got Canada, where every vote IS counted...and then about half of them are thrown away.

Right.

But on the other hand, there's hope to change that here.

M@ said...

Our sorry judgement of the Canadian mainstream media's coverage is by no means an exoneration of the US's.

Understood. I have yet to see anything in Canadian media with any substance to it at all, to be honest. It's not just the wide-eyed, uncritical acceptance that you describe (I admit I hadn't noticed that, though I'll be looking for it now); it's more like second-hand stenography, summarizing the US media but understanding and adding nothing.

What to do, then, to understand what's going on? The BBC, the Guardian, Al Jazeera? Who actually does substantive reporting and criticism on the election? Suggestions welcome...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

But on the other hand, there's hope to change that here.

Yeah, that's the difference for me, too.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

m@,

What to do, then, to understand what's going on?

The best English-language U.S. election coverage is in the Guardian these days. The very best stuff I've been reading, though, has been in Germany's Spiegel, in German. There was some amazing nuanced coverage of the Wright stuff that knocked my socks off.

L-girl said...

M@, I didn't realize your question was specifically about election coverage. I would have to answer, I don't know, because I don't care.

That sounds bad, I know, but I'm just not interested in politics in that sense. I only want to know about issues, and there are a huge variety of ways to learn about those.

I hear about the candidates most often through commentary about them - essays, blogs, op-eds. Sites like On The Issues or How'd They Vote are good resources.

But campaign coverage, bah. (For me.)

I do love the Guardian, tho. I'm not surprised IP picked it for us non-German readers.

M@ said...

The very best stuff I've been reading, though, has been in Germany's Spiegel, in German. There was some amazing nuanced coverage of the Wright stuff that knocked my socks off.

Unfortunately, I don't know German. I'm not surprised that der Spiegel is that good, though. I'm pretty much limited to the Guardian then.

That sounds bad, I know, but I'm just not interested in politics in that sense.

It doesn't sound bad, it sounds sane. I haven't been able to pull away, myself. I've been promising myself a news and blog-reading hiatus for about three years now. (Maybe next week I'll actually do it...)

I didn't know the site On the Issues, so I'm glad you posted that. How'd They Vote has been a longtime favourite of mine. I even volunteered to help them but never heard back, and their mailing list has been silent for over a year. Ah well, I tried...

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

I've been promising myself a news and blog-reading hiatus for about three years now.

Like you, I love the horserace, but I take a hiatus like this at least once a year, for a couple of months. It seems to be just what I need.

L-girl said...

I often hear people mentioning their hiatus from the news. I can't do it. But otoh, I don't feel pressure to keep up with every issue all the time. There are times I follow things more loosely or more closely, waxing or waning depending on what else is happening in my life.

I don't keep up when I'm traveling, nothing more than headlines, so that's an intermittant break.

I guess I'm lucky that the horserace doesn't interest me at all. I hear so many people complaining about how they dislike the campaign... yet they don't turn it off. They tell me it's impossible to avoid. But I'm proof that's not true.

David Cho said...

Wow, you wrote the whole post about US politics without mentioning Hillary.

Impressive :)

West End Bob said...

It was because the Democrats are not so very different from the Republicans.

That one sentence sums it up, L-Girl . . . .

MSS said...

Well, I know this comment thread went dormant a while ago, but...

Re the 2004 stolen election, it wasn't just Ohio. It was Pennsylvania, too

???

Kerry won Pennsylvania.

As for the comments, yes, Google/Blogger seems to be working fine for me now. I had an incentive to make it work during that time when Word Press had failed me and I moved F&V temporarily back to my (dormant) Blogger site.

L-girl said...

Kerry won Pennsylvania.

Oops, you're right, of course. I have trouble holding those kind of details in my mind. (Blame fibromyalgia.) But it wasn't just Ohio. The more I read, the more convinced I was that the election was fraudulent.

Not that it took much to convince me, I grant you.

AMneverperish said...

Again this is interesting to a sympathetic UK observer. Political apathy over here since the 1992 election - when we proved that a real left-wing govt is unelectable, even against John Major - has been remarkable.

We followed your lead with Blair (for him read Clinton), and to be honest Clinton was given a hugely supportive press in Britain, even after Monica. I only learned of certain unpalatable things after he left office.

Anthony Blair's administration was the most depressing decade for anyone left of centre. Or even slightly right. It was a Tory government in all but name, an increasingly hawkish one, and ended up with him stitching Brown over the economy, leaving to earn £250k a year from a bank, while his wife could flog a copy of - of all things - the Hutton Report (I expect you know what this was, but I'd be delighted to inform you if not) to raise money for the Labour Party.

But in the first three years we did have a real Irish agreement, and they almost got Pinochet. At which point Mrs. Thatcher came out and said he was an ally during the Falklands War and so we should leave the poor old man alone. Aah. Some of the press ran stories about how, er, 'Chilean sanctions' might cost our economy.

And his party dropped Clause Four, while he actually came out and said how great Mrs. Thatcher was. I doubt that Clinton ever said that Reagan was fantastic, or if he expressed his undying admiration of Milton Friedman, but to hear a Labour PM say that about HER was one of those incremental things that convinced me something was going horribly, gradually wrong.

L-girl said...

Clinton was always held in higher esteem abroad than at home. Canada loved him, Ireland loved him, Italy loved him.

But a lot of that was image and charisma. He sold out the left just as surely as Blair did. You're right that he never praised Reagan, but he did what even Reagan couldn't do: he ended the federal guarantee of welfare. He scuttled FDR's great legacy.

L-girl said...

Great comment, btw. Thanks.

AMneverperish said...

Being as we did have hope when it was 'Blair/Clinton', the turning point was all too obvious.

Being of mining stock and with a civil rights background at university, I am ashamed of not voting in 2001 and 2005. But it was 'not him' v 'never them' v 'wasted unless in marginal'. I think turnout was a post-war low in 2005. I barely even noticed we had an election.