Election Day is finally here. When we look back on the epic struggle for supremacy that occurred between our two political parties, can we be proud of the way our democratic system functioned to produce the officials who will now govern us.
The answer has to be a resounding no. Everything possible was done by both parties to skirt campaign and electoral laws and regulations to achieve victory, dismissing the truth at times, and acting immorally if not illegally. However, following Richard Nixon’s path of “dirty tricks,” the GOP was certainly dominant in its disregard of decent behavior in its attempts to influence the election in its favor.
The laws passed in many states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors regarding voter photo IDs to eliminate (imaginary) fraud was a travesty and insult to our democracy. The laws were obviously aimed at minority voters and the elderly, many of whom do not have driver’s licenses and would have had difficulty obtaining the proper IDs. Of course, they tend to vote Democratic. Fortunately, the courts threw out most of these laws, at least for the coming election. There were also signs placed in minority neighborhoods warning residents that voting without proper identification was a felony and calls to minority families giving them false information to prevent them from voting.
In addition, there were the reduction in the days and hours allotted for early voting in some Republican controlled states, again making it more difficult for minority voters to exercise their franchise. The worst problems occurred in Florida. Here, the Republican Governor Rick Scott (former CEO of Hospital Corporation of America when they paid back billions of dollars to the federal government because of Medicare fraud) refused to extend voting hours on the weekend to allow more people to vote. Many citizens had to wait four to six hours or longer in lines in the hot sun as they tried to vote, reluctant to take time off from work on Election Day to cast their ballots. The reason for the voting problems was that the Republican legislature had cut the number of early voting days from fourteen to eight. Many early voters were actually turned away from the polls. While some were given absentee ballots to fill out, these have a much higher rejection rate than the usual ballots. And a number of voters could not even get these absentee ballots. One has to remember that Florida is an important swing state in the presidential election and discouraging minority voters could turn the election in favor of Romney.
Then of course are the attack ads and stump speeches of Romney and Obama, both of whom have played loose with the truth at times. But again, Romney has been much worse. In fact, one of his close political advisors, Neil Newhouse told ABC News “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” indicating that they were willing to say anything that might help them win, true or not.
This approach was brought home by Romney’s recent ads regarding the auto bailout, saying that Chrysler was going to take jobs from Ohio to build Jeeps in China, and that General Motors would do the same. These statements were revealed to be blatant lies as they were denied by the auto companies who said they were actually adding jobs in Ohio. But the Romney campaign kept airing these advertisements in spite of their being shown to be untrue.
Then we have the attack ads by the Super PACs and 501(c)4 organizations. Billions of dollars were spent by them on the presidential, senatorial and congressional elections, mostly by corporations and affluent individuals to spew venom against the candidates they opposed, with no oversight and no concern for the facts. Again, the vast majority of these favored Republicans, with the 501(c)4 groups doing their smearing anonymously. Supposedly non-profit and with no political motivation, they were able to avoid telling voters who was backing them as they continuously attacked the candidates they disliked.
Each election cycle more money is spent by politicians to get elected and by outside groups to support them, with officials trying to discourage citizens believed to favor opposition candidates from voting. This is not the way democracy is supposed to work and there is no end to these strategies in sight.
A VietNam vet and a Columbia history major who became a medical doctor, Bob Levine has watched the evolution of American politics over the past 40 years with increasing alarm. He knows he’s not alone. Partisan grid-lock, massive cash contributions and even more massive expenditures on lobbyists have undermined real democracy, and there is more than just a whiff of corruption emanating from Washington. If the nation is to overcome lockstep partisanship, restore growth to the economy and bring its debt under control, Levine argues that it will require a strong centrist third party to bring about the necessary reforms. Levine’s previous book, Shock Therapy For the American Health Care System took a realist approach to health care from a physician’s informed point of view; Resurrecting Democracy takes a similar pragmatic approach, putting aside ideology and taking a hard look at facts on the ground. In his latest book, Levine shines a light that cuts through the miasma of party propaganda and reactionary thinking, and reveals a new path for American politics. This post is cross posted from his blog.