by Robert Willkinson
So far I have refrained from boring readers of this column with the tedious minutiae of Election 2008. However, in a nod to those who wonder at the spectacle of US elections and the political process, as well as those who want to know "who will win," today's column calls this election.
Besides specific calls as to who wins what coming later in this piece, as a (former) campaign strategist, political analyst and fairly respected political blogger I feel that I should offer my larger take on Election 2008, one of the weirdest and most trivialized, as well as one of the most important in history. I don't believe I'm overstating its importance, since we stand on the threshold of the radical economic, social, and environmental changes I've been speaking and writing about in this column for years.
Though this is a very long piece, there is much to examine about the extraordinary drama now unfolding. Usually this would be a multi-part analysis, but given the election is only a week away and there are many other things to write about, please settle into this narrative and enjoy it as much as you can anything political. I've tried not to make this too wonkish, boring, or pedantic, though any in-depth political analysis usually is all of these. That said, on with the show!
First, in any play we must examine the stage set to see the circumstances on which the plot unfolds. And of course, it always helps to know the cast of characters and their background.
After years of criminal neglect of the well-being of American ideals and basic human responsibilities, we now confront a world in more chaos that any of us could have imagined even 10 years ago. While both American political parties have contributed to this mess due to their own differing motives, one of those parties has been in overwhelming control of the American government and looted the taxpayers at will, even as the other passively stood by bleating like sheep, taking the money and perks, and settling for being comfortable losers.
This leads to a reasonable conclusion that beyond the agreements and disagreements of the two parties, our ersatz two-party system is actually one party, which I have long called the "corporate party." Since both Dems and Repubs go to the same corporate trough to feed, I suppose we could just call it "the money party," since money governs the economic and political rules this country plays by.
As an aside, though it seems obvious, it doesn't have to be structured this way. In the past I've done articles on how to reform the system by taking the money out of it and providing the public much more information and ease of voting, and none of it is very difficult. I believe we need less posturing in a beauty pageant setting and more true informed consent regarding who makes what rules that run our elections and therefore our country.
Elections in our country are ultimately governed by the assumption that money buys free speech. And of course, those with money, lots of it, are very much into protecting their own and all the perks that money can legislate.
If you doubt that America is not governed by "the money party," look no further than the recent bailout of crony capitalists by one of their own. The system is rigged so that those with money are favored over those without (or with little) money, and those who have great wealth have many rules to prevent money from falling into the hands of the "great unwashed."
Due to failed Republican "free market" philosophies and practices, America is crushed by overwhelming debt and massive underemployment. These have led to such widespread poverty and suffering in the US that a natural counter-movement has come forth in this election from what are known as the "net roots."
In this election we now are seeing the true spirit of Americans hammered by the policies of George Bush and the corrupt Wall Street thieves arise in hope that there might be a way out of the escalating disasters visited upon us by Republican freebooters cut loose by legislation sponsored by John McCain and others of his ilk. Simply put, the chickens of extreme greed have come home to roost, and Americans are very unhappy and unsettled.
When Americans are unhappy economically, it usually means disaster for those in power at election time. When those in power have failed to make them economically secure, the electorate almost always votes for the party out of power. Additionally, Americans tend to trust a cool head over a hothead anytime, and when extremists run, it usually means a landslide for their opponent.
While it is true that both parties have raised and spent an obscene amount of geld, our modern internet-driven ability to reach out to individuals has injected greater wealth than imaginable into the campaign of the candidate of true change. This has enabled this election to be played out in a much different form than past several Congressional and Presidential elections.
The result is a far different cast of characters on a vastly different playing field than we've ever known, and the first of a series of elections that will transform the way business is done in Washington DC, and by inference, the world. This is a much different Democratic Party than any since the "Dixiecrats" abandoned the party (due to civil rights issues) to elect Richard Nixon in 1968, setting the stage for the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other war criminals to loot the public wealth to benefit war profiteers.
From Reagan through the "contract with America" up to W, the Republican Party policies have dominated the national stage for 28 years. And though Bill Clinton had his 8 years, he was the one who instituted the corporate trough model in the Democratic Party while signing off on many policies that a Republican (and corporate Democrat) dominated Congress gave him.
The Republican Party, it seemed, would have a one-party rule for decades, having the advantage of the money, the message, and the organization. But W and criminal misconduct at the highest levels of his administration and the party ended all that, and now after two years of campaigning, the Republican Party has drifted into a division of organized extremists in a power struggle with disorganized and disillusioned free marketeers.
The bloodletting has begun. This is the end of the Republican party as we have known it, as it has already fractured into a circular firing squad of accusations and counter accusations, the true conservatives aghast at the frauds, racism, corruption and sheer ignorance of what in America is called "the Republican base." But both sides soldier on, quoting polls showing the rightness of their stance and attacking the other for an inability to articulate what the polls say Americans are concerned about.
Here a note of caution regarding polls is in order. There are many polls, almost on a daily basis, asserting one or the other candidate has some margin or percentage of voters for or against them. Most polls are worthless after a certain point, since all politics is local, and many who are asked their opinion never vote. A national poll is worthless in knowing how a given state will vote, and only likely voters matter when it comes to actual numbers. Also remember that millions of people under 30 don't have land lines, so are usually omitted from polls. Extensive cell phone polling is nonexistent.
That said, there are only two ways that the Republican Party can retain the Presidency at this late hour in the game, and it certainly seems that the Democratic leads in both houses of Congress will be a total blowout possibly leading to an administration unlike any since the Great Society.
We hear the chattering classes make tedious assertions that this election is about blue states vs red states, a candidate of conservatism vs a candidate who is is a socialist and a radical. But we can and should dismiss talk of left and right, blue and red, since these terms mean little to nothing in modern American society.
There are no true socialists in America, unless you include Bush and his Cabinet, since they have allowed government ownership in banks, insurance, and the business of foreign nations (think Blackwater here). And yet Bush has advanced such obvious Fascist policies, such as state sponsored corporatism and foreign misadventures, that he cannot be thought of as a true socialist.
The Republican party is certainly not conservative. Not with the largest expansion of government bureaucracy and national debt in history. They're not liberal, since they support surveillance of private citizenry, torture, and denial of habeas corpus to our own citizens snatched on American soil, this directly contrary to the Constitution, which is supposedly the supreme law of our land.
These one party excesses and crimes against humanity have given rise to the passion of the electorate across the continent to give Democrats their first opportunity in 44 years for a genuine blowout landslide. The Presidential race wouldn't even be close if people voted for intelligence and qualifications rather than their fear, but I suppose some things in the human condition become more virulent when they are challenged to give way. Truly, this is an election of hope against fear, a better future challenging the assumptions that created miserable past and present conditions.
As it stands right now, Barack Obama will win the presidency with at least 330 electoral votes, and possibly as many as 370 or even 380, depending on whether the flaws in our election system are addressed or not. As I stated earlier, there are only two ways he can lose. One is the unspeakable. The other is through the voter disenfranchisement and electronic vote machine "malfunctions" across the country. We cannot discuss the first, so let's explore the facts around the second.
Machines are already reassigning votes from Obama to McCain in early voting in several states. (You can find out more from one of America's most dedicated voter watchdogs, Brad Blog.) Funny how none of the machines ever misassigns McCain votes to Obama. Also funny that the vote machine companies are owned by Republicans. We could solve any future problems through publicly owned machines with open source codes and paper backup to verify, but that's inconvenient to Republican efforts to be able to hack the vote at will.
On my old political blog, during and after election 2004 I reported extensively on the numerous ways the e-vote machines can be hacked, both on site as well as at the server. I recently did an article briefly touching on this very issue. GOP Cyber security expert Stephen Spoonamore has come out publicly about ways the party (and others) could hack the vote. He's written more on the subject in other forums, so enjoy exploring!
Then there's the severe problem of Republican-driven voter roll purges, mostly illegal, already being challenged in many courts across the country. Right now there is no way to know how many hundreds of thousands, potentially millions, will show up to vote only to be told their names are not on the lists, with no remedies to allow them provisional ballots.
There are also other extensively documented Republican maneuvers, such as telling felons in dozens of states they cannot vote even though they are legally allowed to do so, or threatening ex-felons with jail if they do vote. More? Telling students they will be disqualified from student loans if they vote on campus rather than in their parents' home state, sending out flyers telling people they are supposed to vote at the wrong precinct, and attempting illegal voter purges using home foreclosure lists and non-deliverable mailouts. All of these are illegal.
Even more! Republican officials in charge of such things refuse to send enough paper ballots to Democrat dominated precincts as backup for when the machines inevitably fail (as they have in the past 4 Congressional elections). Other local Republican officials refuse to allocate an adequate number of voting machines in predominately Democratic precincts while making sure there are plenty of machines in more affluent Republican precincts, thus forcing impossibly long waits for Democrats trying to vote even as the Republicans insist the polls be closed before those Dems get to vote.
As for suspected ACORN "voter fraud," this is a "straw man" Republicans bring out every so often with no proof. Republicans are altering or throwing out legitimate registrations (research the name Nathan Sproul) while accusing ACORN of "voter fraud" - actually "registration fraud" - when they turn in (as is their policy) already flagged suspect registrations gathered by independent contractors. As far as I have been able to document, so far in this election there have been fewer than 100 fraudulent early votes cast across the entire nation, which is not exactly the epidemic threatening our democracy that John McCain has asserted. But it is well documented that hundreds of thousands of those who have the right to vote have been illegally stripped from voter roles.
Welcome to Republican ruthlessness and lawlessness in an effort to retain power indefinitely, regardless of how their policies have sunk the American dream, ideal, and reality. One definite result of this was the recent conclusion by investigations in Ohio that had all the machines assigned the votes accurately, John Kerry would have won Ohio in 2004 by over 100,000 votes, and thus the Presidency. Then we add the fact that after extensive investigations by multiple entities it was found that Gore would have won Florida in 2000 had a statewide recount been implemented. Imagine how different our world would be if the past two Presidential elections had not been stolen.
These systemic monkeywrenching devices have the ability to swing the electoral process and tally quite a bit in either direction depending on whether they are successful, and to what extent. Again, though, my call is that Barack Obama wins in a fairly large majority if there isn't massive fraud and theft next Tuesday. About the only safe bet is that there will be an army of lawyers for both parties filing thousands of pounds of legal paper to assert the other side has done something wrong.
This giant wave desiring change is definitely going to impact the races for the Senate and House of Representatives. Right now it looks as though the Democrats will improve on their current numbers and pick up either 7 or 8 seats in the Senate, and about 20 in the House. This is mainly due to the large numbers of retiring Republicans and the clear financial and organizational advantage of the Dems.
That results in 56 or 57 Dems, 41 or 42 Repubs, and 2 Independents in the Senate. The House will move from the current 236 seats held by Dems to around 255 seats (plus or minus 5), with Repubs holding around 180 (plus or minus 5). Due to the momentum built since Election 2006, the odds favor Dems over Repubs. The halcyon years of Republican dominance of the House from 1994-2006 are officially history. There is simply no contest here.
Talk of a 60 seat veto-proof majority in the Senate is somewhat of an unlikely stretch, but it should not be necessary if Barack Obama is president, since more than one or two centrist Republicans can be counted on to join the wave of change and back more humane legislation reflecting White House initiatives. There won't be many vetoes if the Democrats control both houses of Congress by substantial majorities.
This is a watershed election, where we determine the future course of America and the world for decades to come. Whether it will prove enough to stop the runaway train of economic, international, and environmental wreckage already in motion due to Bush and Republican financial policies is yet to be seen. But at least with an Obama presidency and a Congress with a mandate to end corrupt Wall Street practices we may at least slow the time of reckoning and mitigate its inevitable tragic results just a little.
Copyright © 2008 Robert Wilkinson
(For an well-articulated article on the fractures in the Republican party, please check out "Civil War on the Right" by E. J. Dionne Jr.)