Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, about Chile, prior to the CIA overthrow of the democratically elected government of socialist President Salvador Allende, 1973.
Something struck me as I lay in bed this morning listening to NPR and it begin to grow into a potential post after I heard stories about apparently stolen elections in Kenya and Georgia, and it struck me as obvious that the state of democracy around the world has been marred by stolen elections and outright power grabs (I'm talking about you, Vladimir Putin). In all fairness, the 2000 election was not the first election ever stolen on American soil - there was the 1876 "Fraud of the Century" in which Republican Rutherford Hayes beat out Samuel Tilden, Democrat, by one questionably earned electoral vote (Tilden had clearly won the popular vote), but here in the 21st century, there are most certainly the Bush vs. Gore and four years later the Bush vs. Kerry contests that bring to mind stolen elections. This seems to be a pattern not only here in the United States, but also abroad - see references to Kenya, Georgia, and Russia. So where did all of these despots get the bright idea to rig an election? Well, we need not look any further than our last two elections here in this country to see where this idea may have taken root and flourished.
Granted, the United States did oversee the coup that unseated and murdered Salvador Allende and put in place the despot, Augusto Pinochet, back in 1973, but the memory of the world is short, and we are firmly ensconced in the 21st century. So I believe that the 2000 and 2004 elections here in this country hold enormous sway over elections in the rest of the world. I am not saying that the United States sets the standard for democracy around the world, rather I think we lost that claim in large part because of our stolen elections in 2000 and 2004. We are clearly not living in a functioning democracy, rather we are all living in an imperial kleptocracy, but we have a chance, one that comes along every four years, to return our country to something that may more closely resemble a democracy. That is, if all of the votes are counted and the office is awarded to the person who gets the most votes.
One of the obstacles to achieving this straightforward goal is one that we have faced every presidential election since the founding of this country and that is the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an arcane institution that should go the way of prohibition and other outmoded institutions. The electoral college makes a mockery of the one person/one vote claim that is the foundation of our democracy. There are those who may want to remind me at this point that John F. Kennedy would not have been elected president had the popular vote held sway, but that would miss this digression for the distraction it truly is. It is neither here nor there as far as my argument goes today. Rather it is the aim of this post to point out obstacles to our democracy that face us here and now and beyond the electoral college. It is the very nature of our system of voting that provides the biggest hurdle to the United States reclaiming a measure of democracy in this next election. It is the false flag of voter fraud rather than wholesale election fraud that should be foremost in our minds. I recommend that readers check out BradBlog.com or Greg Palast's excellent post, Fear of Chavez is Fear of Democracy.
Why are we not all out in the streets screaming that Diebold voting machines (which have been hacked with ease by high school kids) be banned? Probably for the same reason we are not all out in the streets demanding an end to this god-awful occupation in Iraq. Is it that we lack conviction? I don't think so, I know how strongly fellow Democrats believe that this election must bring about a sea change of leadership or, or, or, what? We will all move to Canada or the Netherlands or Costa Rica? Why don't we all get on the phone tomorrow and call our local election board and find out how our vote will be recorded on November 4, 2008. And if the answer is that the vote will be counted on an electronic device that can be programmed or hacked or otherwise manipulated, then file a complaint and demand paper, verifiable ballots.
This may seem like an odd post on the heals of the delightful Democratic victory in Iowa (and please remember, kids, that Iowa was an overwhelming victory for democracy and Democrats) - the numbers alone bear this out (see Rolling Stone, Iowa by the Numbers). This is all to say that the race is the Democrats to lose and believe you me (a curious expression that I picked up from my grandmother who died over 30 years ago), I will not breathe a sigh of relief until January 20, 2009 when the new (Democratic) president is inaugurated into his/her office. I am not an optimistic type who thinks that the Dems will have a cake walk to the White House, nor do I put it past the devious and dastardly republicans to try to steal another election, but as the idiot-in-chief said in one of his more famous bungles "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, well, you can't get fooled again..." Wanna bet?
BTB, did anybody else notice the way that Hillary was sizing up Bill Richardson during the debate last night - think he might be on the short list for VP? Just wondering...
Mother Jones Article on our broken voting system.
NYTimes Op-ed piece (January 7, 2008) on the need for a paper trail when we vote.
Check out Jeffrey Toobin's article in the New Yorker on the Supreme Court's review of an odious Voter ID Law (out of Indiana).
See the New York Times Magazine, Can You Count on Voting Machines?.