Posts Tagged With: election

APATHY AT THE POLLING BOOTHS

The very core foundation of a democratic republic as the United States pretends to be, is that the people get to choose who will govern the country through impartial elections. In short, the voting process becomes the overriding essence of democracy. But what if the people don’t show up to vote? What if they couldn’t care less? That, in a nutshell, is what happened in the 2014 congressional elections in which the Republicans not only swept both houses of congress, but almost all governorships and state legislatures as well. It turns out that only 36.5% of eligible voters made the effort to cast their ballots. Over 60% of eligible voters couldn’t be bothered. Most of those that stayed home tended to vote Democratic; hence the Republican sweep. Older people who are generally more conservative tended to vote in higher numbers; what else do they have to do with their time. The poor and sick, whom Democratic policies generally favor, comprised most of the non-voters, while the more affluent classes, whom the GOP favors, again voted above the norm. Add to that the endemic corruption of the American ballot process to begin with, through the powerful dominance of big money interests, and the growing movement in red states of voter suppression efforts such as picture ID requirements, and you have in the U.S. what I call a faux democracy. Turning out one’s base block of voters is not the only way to win elections. Keeping the other party’s voters from entering the polling booth in the first place, also works.

A little while ago, President Obama suggested that legislation should be passed requiring all eligible voters to cast their ballots at election time. Good luck with that. He pointed out that Australia has such a law that works well. But it’s a much too rational act for the U.S. ever to adopt. First of all, it would defeat the GOP strategy of voter suppression of likely Democratic adherents. Secondly, it could initiate a wave of sanity within the U.S. electoral process which would also be detrimental to Republican interests. Such as a constitutional amendment that would move Election Day from November to late September or early October, when the weather would likely be far more conducive to large voter turnouts. Farmers harvesting their crops is no longer a factor in the polling process as it was in the late 18th century when our constitution was written. Or how about making election time on a weekend when most people are home from work or school, and are thus, more available. And as long as we’re in this phase of sanity-fantizing, how about changing the nomination process so that all states would have their primary ballots cast on the same day in June or early July; instead of a handful of really small states essentially deciding early in the year, who will be one of the two people that will become the next president of the U.S. But, of course, all this is pure fantasy, and will have to probably wait for another few hundred years of human evolution to become a reality.

Thus, come election day 2016 we’ll be stuck with the same mess and clutter inherent in our polling system. As I wrote last time, since the Republicans are so much better at the politics of personal destruction which will become especially potent considering all the political baggage that Mrs. Clinton carries, the GOP would literally  have to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory to lose the 2016 election. I’m still going with my prediction that Senator Marco Rubio will be the next president, with a long shot possibility of Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin. Jeb Bush, who is supposedly the current favorite for the GOP nomination, will fade out quickly once Republican voters realize that he might possess a modicum of sanity and common sense. Can’t have something like that going on with Republican candidate, can we?

So assuming the GOP wins the White House and all of Congress, what would life in America look like come 2017. Let’s first start with the Supreme Court. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who’s well into her 80s, and has had some very serious health issues, apparently is determined to leave the bench the way Justice William Reinquist did many years ago, which was feet first. But how long can she last. One way or another, she’s almost certain to be gone during a Rubio presidency. That would give the the Republican president the opportunity to appoint another anti-abortion Justice to the Supreme Court, which would almost certainly be the death knell for Roe V. Wade. In the nearly 45 years since the Roe V. Wade decision came into existence, nearly 60 million abortions have taken place in the U.S. All that would be largely gone. The bible thumpers would be dancing in the streets with celebration. Immediately, the entire South and most of the Midwest would do away with legal abortion. It might still remain permissible in Northeastern and West Coast states, and perhaps in the upper Midwest. But it would be history everywhere else. So, a poor woman, in say, Alabama, who needs to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, and who couldn’t afford to travel to say, New York, would have no other option than to visit some back-alley butcher, as they used to be called. I’m sure they would begin to proliferate once again.

Continuing on the values page, every effort would be made to reverse whatever progress has been made in accepting gay marriage and non-discrimination of homosexuals. Guns and gun ownership laws would proliferate to the point of potential gunfights at the OK Corral nearly every morning with breakfast. I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture. On the budgetary side of the fence, those that are most down-and-out and most in need of government assistance will also suffer the most, while tax cuts for the rich would almost certainly be enacted. But the financial side deserves a whole chapter unto itself, which I will write about next time. Stay tuned if you care about what your future will look like.

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AFTERTHOUGHTS

The fact that Barack Obama edged out a narrow victory in this election was nothing short of a minor miracle. The last time a president won re-election with an unemployment rate near 8% was in 1936. Then there’s the fact that the country is bleeding red ink with annual trillion plus dollars of budget deficits, and a combined overall red-ink tab exceeding $16 trillion. Let us also not forget that the entire economy is one step away from being on life-support as it barely limps along from one month to the next; and the real estate market, is for the most part, still in the dumpster, with housing prices still well below par, amid a continuing rate of foreclosures. On the international front, the recent fiasco in Libya, where the ambassador and 3 of his aides were murdered by terrorists because of a failure to provide adequate protection, would normally be enough sink any presidential candidate’s hopes. Then there’s Iran on the very cusp of developing nuclear bombs as they defy our puny attempts to shut down their nuclear capabilities, and the risks posed by the growing military strength of China and Russia which we also can’t stop. Although in China’s case, they’re really isn’t much of a risk since they own over a trillion dollars of our debt which would suddenly become worthless should they try any funny staff. To say nothing of the fact that we are such a lucrative market for them to dump their shlock goods on. The clothing aisles in Wal-Mart would be barren if not for cheap Chinese imports.

So how did Obama pull off this miracle. Certainly not by getting the white male vote which went to Romney by 20 points. But Obama achieved a 12 point plurality in receiving the white female vote, mainly because of the Republican’s almost fanatical anti-abortion position. Romney could have significantly cut into Obama’s lead among women had been willing to utter just one sentence such as: “If elected, I will NOT appoint a justice to the Supreme Court that would vote to overturn Roe V. Wade.” With that one statement, Romney would have likely siphoned off enough women’s votes to give him the election. But he couldn’t make himself do it, mainly out fear that his base of white evangelicals (read religious fanatics) would be so turned off by such a statement that he would lose their votes. A false assumption, as it were, since these people would never, under any circumstance, vote for Obama. The rest of the coalition that Democrats were able to stitch together, was comprised of young people under 30, and minority groups such as Latinos, African-Americans and Asians. The GOP, after all these years, has made relatively little effort to secure votes from these groups, and it cost them heavily.

About 95% of the black vote went to Obama, understandably, given the pride blacks felt in seeing one of their own in the Oval Office. But where Romney really lost the election was among Hispanic voters that went for Obama by an incredible 71%. They were the key element in several swing states such as Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, and my own state, Nevada. All of these states went for Obama, albeit by narrow margins provided by the Latino vote. Back in the fun days of the Republican debates, each of those crazy kids up on stage were out to prove their anti-illegal immigration chops by trying to out-do each in how tough they would be on that subject. One of the main goals of the Tea-Party movement, in addition to slashing Government spending, was to stop illegal-immigration in its tracks, and deport as many illegals as possible. In those heady days, it was thought that Republican success at the polls was highly dependent on currying favor with Tea-Partiers, and Romney was no exception. During one of the debates, Romney, again trying to show how tough his anti-illegal stance was, made the curious statement that anyone here illegally should self-deport him or herself back to Mexico. (Like that would ever happen.) It seems that upon hearing that, Hispanics were not in a very forgiving mood, and as I said, 71% voted against the Republican candidate. Asians, because they were experiencing the lowest rate of unemployment among any voting bloc, also went heavily for Obama. Altogether, blacks, hispanics and asians comprised more than 25% of the votes cast, and further illustrated the GOP’s continuing problems with minorities.

There is one more factor I feel is significant, and that is Romney’s inability to connect, on a personal level, with the average man and woman. Almost all of us go through life with feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, weakness, fear, anger issues, depression at times, and even a sense of personal failure, etc., although we may not admit or show these feelings to the rest of the world (except maybe to a psychologist, if you have the money.) Is there anyone out there that has not had some or all of these feelings from time to time. But not Mitt Romney. He was born rich, handsome and smart. He was an honor student in high school and college, which, by the way, was Harvard. After graduating college, he plowed through the world of finance without a setback. He eventually become boss in a huge venture capital operation and earned hundreds of millions of dollars. He has a picture perfect marriage and 5 sons that any parent would die for. And he wears these incredibly successful life experiences like a suit of armor that cannot be penetrated by the slings and arrows of any possible misfortune. No self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy there. If there is any chink in Mitt Romney’s armor, it’s the fact that there are no chinks in his armor.

Who can identify with such a person? The guy behind the counter at your local 7-11?  The truck  driver that has driven hundreds of miles to his destination, and now has to schlep all the heavy boxes he was carrying off the truck? Has anyone, in the history of mankind, ever led a more perfect life? I kind of doubt it. All this abundance has shown thru in the hugely self-confident way that Romney conducts and projects himself. Not that Obama hasn’t also led a privileged life. But Obama goes to great lengths to identify with the average person. He openly roots for the Chicago White Sox. He makes his picks well-known for the NCAA college basketball finals, known as March Madness. He takes his girls to local ice cream stores or hamburger joints in Washington. But Romney’s life has been so perfect that he is just unable to make a personal connection with his fellow citizens. In the end, I believe this went a long way toward crushing his dreams of sitting in the Oval Office.

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FINALLY OVER

At long last, it’s finally coming to an end. Today is the final day we’ll have to put up with all those vile, obnoxious, mudslinging TV ads; all the mendacious junk mail assaulting  our mailboxes every day advocating for every candidate from state assemblyman to president; and all the equally vile and obnoxious attack phone calls invading the privacy of our homes. The phone calls got so bad that I have had to unplug the phone in our bedroom when we turned in for the night. I was getting calls before 5 A.M or after 11 at night; probably from East Coast campaign workers oblivious to the 3- hour difference between Eastern and Pacific Coast times. But, as I’ve said, what started well over a year ago, finally comes to it’s conclusion tonight.

I do have to admit that I sort of miss the-carnival-is-coming-to-town atmosphere of the Republican debates that began in 2011. There, up-on-stage were the carnival actors or clowns if you prefer. There was the dingbat element represented by Michele Bachman and wacky Ricky Santorum, the old crank that was Ron Paul, rotund Newt the Lovable, the bible thumper Rick Perry, and, of course, His Mittness, who by appearing to act with some clarity and sanity out-lasted all of them and secured the Republican nomination, and is now on the very edge of becoming our next president. There was also one other candidate, Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah. But his problem was that he spoke with such common sense and rationality, that Republican primary voters just couldn’t handle someone that didn’t feed into their world of delusion. Therefore Huntsman wasn’t able to gain any traction, and finally had to drop out of the race. Those were the fun days of the 2012 election, but now it has become a colossal and nauseating drag.

If nothing else, however, this election has richly displayed both the coarsening and polarization of modern-day America. The mean-spirited venom that has spewed forth from from each candidate and their surrogates, from president, to congressional, and to state and local races speaks to both social conditions. First, there is the mind-boggling $3 billion that will have been spent on all these candidates when it finally ends tomorrow. How many hungry people in the world could that $3 billion have fed; how much infrastructure, water or sewer pipes, electrical grids, roads and bridges, etc. could that money have built or repaired. When you think of all the good that money could have been used for versus the garbage ads some of you may be removing from your mailboxes even as I type this, you can only conclude-what a waste. About $2 billion of that amount will have gone into the presidential race where both men are now so hopelessly compromised and beholden to their fat-cat donors, that it’s hard to see how anything meaningful can be accomplished for the rest of the country.

The polarization of America can be seen in the fact that a day before the election, all polls show the race to be a 50-50 toss-up. About half the electorate believes the answer to our huge problems is to severely slash Government spending (except for  military spending),  and cut tax rates that will primarily benefit the rich, while the other half believes that Government is needed to help the poor, the sick, the unemployed and the elderly. Half believes that we should edge toward a Christian theocracy by banning abortion and gay rights and gay marriage, while the other half maintains that we should hold onto a secular society. There appears to be no meeting of the minds or a desire for compromise on either side. So even if Romney wins tomorrow (as I suspect he will) it will be a divided nation with a divided Government. The Democrats will have at least as many Senators as needed to mount a successful filibuster, which could throw a monkey wrench into a President Romney’s agenda. If Obama should manage to squeak out a victory the same would hold true for the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate. In the the end we are likely to have a Government that barely muddles through the process of governing and achieves nothing meaningful.

A good example of the coarsening of America could be seen after the 2008 elections. After it was clear that Obama was the victor, there was a huge run on gun stores to purchase as many guns and as much ammo  as people could stuff into their trucks. Now buying a gun is not like buying a loaf of bread. A gun goes for around $500 a pop and can increase in cost into the thousands. Yet millions of people, most of them of modest means, were buying firearms as if they were loaves of bread. In their minds, with the Democrats in power, tanks would soon be rolling down their streets, with armed military going door-to-door, and taking away everyone’s firearms. These people would be defenseless, and then soon shipped off to concentration camps if they opposed the administration. Of course, the gun mentality is just one example of the coarsening of our society. Everything from the degradation of our pop culture to the lack of civility in our everyday dealings with one another, to the lack of compassion in the way we treat the less fortunate among us, to the growing superficiality and shallowness among the populace, bespeaks to the constant dumbing down and coarsening of American society. And now with society so highly polarized, that trend seems to be going in a steady stream downhill.

One last thing. The worst possible outcome in tomorrow’s election would be if the voting was so evenly divided, especially in the swing states, that no winner could be readily ascertained. Counts and recounts could drag on for days or even weeks, with both sides fighting vociferously to get their guy declared the winner. The election results could even wind up for the courts to decide, the way the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, granted George Bush the winner over Al Gore in the 2000 election. If something like that were to happen, imagine the bitterness and hostility that would emanate from the losing side. It would result in polarization on steroids.

 

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