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Sunday, October 31, 2004

What Part of Democracy Don't You Understand?

Lost ballots, stories of intimidation at the polls, stolen registration forms, and other tactics to discourage participation in our democratic process may be coming from both the right and the left but they have one name: Fascism. That has been a very over-used and misused word but when I use it to describe those who are trying to steal an election I think it is completely free of hyperbole.

Although voter intimidation has made its way into the press I think that it has been under-reported and the gravity of the crimes committed have been severely discounted. The 2000 Florida recount was mostly ignored by the media and especially so by the one person, Al Gore, who should have campaigned hardest for any impropriety to be exposed. To paraphrase the impossible-to-quote George W. Bush, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and we are little more than a fucking banana republic.”

The television has done an especially atrocious job in reporting possible voting improprieties. CNN spends about half of its coverage citing polls relating to the presidential campaign. One quarter of their coverage is devoted to showing clips of the two candidates campaigning. The rest of their broadcast has talking heads telling you how you should think about what you just heard the candidates saying. Almost none of their broadcast involves actual news reporting or anything remotely resembling journalism. Actual reporting takes too much time and money to be conducted for a 24 hour cable news outlet. It is better to just point a camera at something in Iraq that just got blown up and have someone with nice hair tell you about what just got blown up.

Democracy from M.Fr. democratie, from M.L. democratia, from Gk. demokratia, from demos "common people," originally "district," + kratos "rule, strength." This gets to the heart of who really is to blame if things go wrong in the upcoming election. In past elections up to fifty percent of those registered to vote have chosen not to. Voter ignorance and apathy are equally disturbing characteristics in this present election cycle as so much is at stake.

The American democratic ideal has a grave test before it. Will we the people correct ourselves and take back the power of the government that we have so willingly reliquished? John Kerry must defeat Bush but even after that is accomplished our work as citizens has only begun. At the grass roots level I think we have made a great start in returning power to individuals and away from corporate interests which are at odds with those of America.

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