by Robert Willkinson
So far I have refrained from boring readers of this column with the tedium of Election 2012. 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 based in a "real world" set of factors. Astrological factors will be discussed tomorrow.
I’ll make a few specific calls as to who wins what later in this piece. First, though let me offer my larger take on Election 2012 and some of the issues surrounding it. Here I speak as a (former) campaign strategist, political analyst and fairly respected political blogger who knows some things as a result of those experiences.
As with the last several elections, this one continues to be 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 continue to dance on the precipice of the many 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 two days 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.
So what happened to create the mess that set the stage for this election?
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 15 years ago. While both American political parties have contributed to this mess due to their own differing motives, one of those parties has been obstructing any possible public good in the name of a budget game that is all smoke and mirrors with a stated intention of retaking the Presidency to continue the policies of George Bush and his neocon puppet masters.
From 2001-2009, one party spent trillions on wars and war profiteers, even as the other passively stood by bleating like sheep, taking the money and perks, and settling for being comfortable losers. The past 4 years have to some extent been a continuance of those disastrous policies.
That said, the two party/one intention political class is in overwhelming control of the American government and looting the taxpayers at will. They don’t care about fixing anything, nor could they accomplish much even if they did, given how the current busted system works.
Beyond the agreements and disagreements of the parties, our ersatz two-party system is actually one party. I have long called it the "corporate party," since both Dems and Repubs go to the same corporate trough to feed. Of course, 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. The Citizens United decision made it possible for anyone with enough wealth to buy influence in American elections.
If you doubt that America is not governed by "the money party," look no further than the bailouts of crony capitalists by one of their own. “Too big to fail” inevitably means those in power will bill us for the wreckage resulting from unregulated capitalism. 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 in play since 1981, especially continually cutting taxes on the most wealthy, America is now dealing with overwhelming debt and massive underemployment. These were evident in 2007-08, as was the acceleration of the US economic meltdown. The only thing that Republicans and their Wall Street cronies got wrong was the timing. They didn’t care that a meltdown was inevitable; they just wanted the ride to continue until after Election 2008.
So what happened to “hope and change?”
Election 2008 was heavily influenced by the economic meltdown, and Obama was elected on a promise that hope and change could produce a better future for Americans who were confronting another Great Depression. That election brought many people together, if briefly, and there seemed a possibility of a new effort that could bring forth a better America.
One great thing about that election was the emergence of what are now known as “net roots,” the ability of the internet to connect and coordinate people who want to make a difference. The internet has changed US politics forever, and so many models for predicting elections that are left over from the 50s through the 90s are irrelevant. That’s why some polls are worthless, regardless of what the media asserts.
However, just because Obama won didn’t mean that the greedheads would stop being greedy. America’s political struggle involves the wealthy, powerful, and privileged trying to implement policies that would forever end the middle class and the social safety net as we’ve known it since the 40s. The majority of Americans don’t want that. That’s what is driving this election.
When Americans are unhappy economically, it usually means disaster for those in power at election time. When those in power have failed to make Americans economically secure, the electorate almost always votes for the party out of power. That’s why the Republican House has done all it could to prevent any of Obama’s economic policies that would have helped the middle class from becoming legislation.
That’s also behind the Republican tactics of using the threat of a filibuster to prevent anything favorable to Obama from passing the Senate. We are now a country that requires a 60% majority vote instead of 50.1%. So we’ve been stuck in gridlock, with one party refusing to cooperate for the public good lest Obama get credit.
Corporations are people - money, money, and more money
Due to the candidacy of a vulture capitalist who will say anything to give the ultra-wealthy whatever they want, this election has reached an obscene level of spending. Both parties have raised and spent an obscene amount of geld due to Citizens United, and now at the end of the campaign even greater wealth than imaginable is being pumped into media markets. That makes this election very different from past Congressional and Presidential elections.
From Reagan through the "contract with America" up to W, Republican Party policies and memes 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 left the economy in ruins, and Democrats had the dubious privilege of cleaning up the mess.
Since 2008, the Republican Party has become a curious amalgam of free market radicals, libertarian extremists shilling for less government while taking its perks, fundamentalist demagogues who want to restrict individual liberty, and financial power brokers funding the neocons who never really went away. In some ways, we are seeing the end of the Republican party as we have known it, since it seems that above all else, it stands for authoritarian state-sponsored corporatism. That is why there is so much at stake in this election.
How seriously should we take polls and pollsters?
As mentioned earlier, some polls are more accurate than others. 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. The reason I believe many polls are worthless is that “all politics are local,” and there is a difference between registered voters and likely voters.
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 40 don't have land lines, so are usually omitted from polls. Extensive cell phone polling is nonexistent.
One thing to keep in mind is that usually there is great weight given to those voters who say they are “undecided.” While most of the undecided voters probably were in past elections, I have serious doubts there are very many in this highly polarized election where the choices are clear. I suspect that most current “undecided” voters actually already know who they’re for, and are saying they’re undecided so they will be polled on how they feel. Either that, or they just don’t care and that’s why they are “undecided.” If you haven’t decided by now, there’s a good chance you won’t in the next few days.
We hear the chattering classes make tedious assertions that this election is about blue states vs red states. In truth, these terms of left and right, blue and red, mean little to nothing in modern American society and the views of the majority of the American public. The traditional scale of left to right in terms of politics no longer applies, given the current party stances.
Is this an election of the people, by the people, and for the people?
As it now stands, politically America is choosing between a middle of the road President who actually leans a little conservative and a radical vulture capitalist who would gladly do the bidding of the neocons who want to continue to make war to perpetuate their power and wealth. These two positions have little or nothing to do with a huge number of Americans who would like to see a more progressive agenda set in Washington.
From one point of view, it’s an election where a huge voice has been shut out of the public dialog. There are millions of us in “the reality based community” who would like to find solutions to the problems that plague our society, and by extension, our world. We appreciate that sustainability is key to human survival, and are willing to work with what is, moving forward while adapting to the many needs of the world of the 21st century.
What we’re being offered is truly the lesser of two evils. The progressive agenda has been shut out by the powers that be, and we are offered on the one hand a “conservative lite” agenda by Democrats, and on the other a huge Republican noise machine that keeps insisting that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs, which if it worked would have already produced results.
That noise machine perpetuates the message that it’s an election of a candidate of conservatism and free market (crony) capitalism vs a sitting President who for years has been called an Indonesian Kenyan radical socialist, Marxist, Communist Muslim. Which makes no sense at all, giving you an idea of why reasonable dialogs are somewhat of a rarity in the public political forums.
The Republican party is certainly not conservative. Not since they were directly responsible for 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.
The problem is that now Obama has continued many of those policies, giving rise to a sense that there is a permanent government in place, and whoever is elected President will still be subject to certain policies that are in place. As long as the person is perfectly acceptable to the powers that be, he will be elected President.
So what’s the bottom line in this election?
Ordinarily, all the indicators would point to an Obama landslide. The stock markets are up, housing starts are up, housing prices are recovering, an increasing number of jobs are being created each month, savings are up, and consumer confidence is up. However, there is one thing that could prevent Barack Obama from being re-elected President.
If normal indicators hold, as it stands right now, given the way the electoral college is breaking, Barack Obama will win the presidency with at least 280-290 electoral votes, and possibly as many as 300, depending on how busted our electoral system is when it comes to electronic vote machines. As I stated earlier, there is only one way that Barack Obama can lose, and that involves massive voter disenfranchisement and electronic vote machine "malfunctions" across the country.
Hacking the vote – As Stalin said, “It’s not who votes that counts – it’s who counts the votes”
Many machines have been proven unreliable in assigning the correct vote to the correct candidate. Thousands of machines already have “patches” in the software which are easily programmed and/or hackable. To find out more about the many ways and times the votes has been and could be hacked, please check out one of America's most dedicated voter watchdogs, Brad Blog.
It’s also discouraging that many companies that make voting machines are owned by Republican-leaning people, and that the software is proprietary, meaning that private individuals control the means of electing our political leaders. 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. In 2008 I 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!
When you’re done here, you may want to begin with a you tube video where Spoonamore talks openly about “fifty ways to steal an election." And if you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, check out this story about the top Republican IT specialist who was to testify in a case alleging election tampering in 2004 in Ohio and mysteriously died in a plane crash.
In short, Michael Connell was the Chief IT consultant to Karl Rove and was deposed concerning his actions during the 2004 election and how some of Rove’s emails “went missing.” Tampering with the vote was the reason W won in 2004, and there is ample evidence that thousands of machines had patches put in that flipped votes away from Kerry to W.
More Republican dirty tricks, past and present
In our country we have a 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 millions - yes, 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. While the courts are trying to stop this mischief, on a parallel line of attack Republicans are trying to revive variations of “Jim Crow” laws restricting voter participation in many states through ID laws that only serve to disenfranchise elderly, poor, and minority voters.
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 in the past have refused to send enough paper ballots to Democrat dominated precincts as backup for when the machines inevitably fail (as they have in the past 5 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.
And while ACORN was exonerated from any and all charges of “voter fraud,” it seems this straw man Republicans bring out every so often is meant to be a distraction from the very real voter registration fraud the Republican Party keeps getting busted for. Even now, the notorious Republican dirty trickster Nathan Sproul has been busted in several states for destroying Democratic voter registration forms. If you want to know more, just research the name Nathan Sproul and you’ll find plenty! Or go to BradBlog.
So while there have been a small handful of “vote fraud” – and most of them involve Republicans – there is a real problem historically with Republican dirty tricks leading thousands to believe they are registered but aren’t, thousands being told to vote in precincts other than their own, thousands being told to vote on a different day than election day, thousands being told they have no right to vote even when they do, and thousands of Republican poll watchers bringing thousands of frivolous challenges that slow down the ability of thousands more to vote. And every one of these is in play this election, just like every election since 2002.
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. As a result of investigations in Ohio after the 2004 election, we found 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 Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 had not been stolen.
So what can we realistically expect?
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 by a modest majority if there isn't massive fraud and theft this 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.
So though there is a large desire for change, due to the reality of incumbents usually being reelected in massive numbers, I suspect things will look pretty much the same after this election is done with some minor tweaking. That involves several Tea Party radicals being tossed, since the public is fed up with people who can’t work with each other in the best interests of all Americans.
In Congress, right now it looks as though the House will go from 241 Republicans and 194 Democrats to somewhere in the neighborhood of 227 Republicans and 208 Democrats. For the Senate, right now it’s 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans, and 2 Independents (one of whom is consistently Republican, the other an avowed Socialist!), and I believe this election will result in 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and 2 Independents (Sanders of VT and King in ME).
So my call is that there is only one way that the Republican Party can gain the Presidency in this election, and that’s through illegal means. Republicans will lose a few seats in the House while retaining their majority, and the Senate will pretty much stay the same in the numbers from each party.
There will be no “coattail” effect, but the continuing importance of the women and youth vote, as well as the votes of minorities who are asserting their agendas more vigorously, will begin to emerge as a primary set of forces shaping future elections. Already voting demographics are radically changed even from 12 years ago, and the face of American politics is changing, despite the retrogrades who want to cling to power at all costs. (ADD: Of the various demographics, the Hispanic and womens' votes will prove to be major factors in this election. Look for many pundits to bloviate about these voter groups.)
One final observation: after the third debate, the media outlets trotted out different pundits to weigh in on what they thought. The station I was watching cut to the President of the Council On Foreign Relations to ask his opinion about the debate. If you don’t know who the CFR is, well, they run the show. Period. A group of thousands from every branch of government, the military, and business and industry, they are the ones who call the shots.
The look on his face was interesting. He began expressing some serious reservations about the coherency of Mitt Romney’s stance. I saw that he was genuinely concerned at the lack of clarity and cohesiveness of Mitt’s vision, and Mitt’s inability to think on his feet and answer questions in a straightforward coherent manner. To me, that was the moment when Mitt Romney lost the election. When the powers-that-be express concern about your fitness for the job, you probably won’t get it.
Anyway, this election will come and go, and will have almost no impact on stopping the runaway train of economic, international, and environmental wreckage already in motion. Given what began under Bush, the neocons, and Republican financial policies, most of which have been perpetuated by Obama, we have an appointment with destiny that won’t be pretty.
These patterns that will lead us to massive upheavals have dominated the last 4 years, and will certainly dominate the next 4 and more. Things are coming that are beyond anything we’ve ever seen, and will change our political priorities forever. This paralysis of political insanity will pass, but only after a massive dislocation that forces us all to elect those who will solve problems rather than create or perpetuate them.
Tomorrow I’ll start the astrological examination of Election 2012.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Wilkinsonps. - Since it could be inferred that my approach to this election is somewhat biased, I want to be clear that I do NOT like that Obama continued so many of W's policies, and that progressive voices have been shut out of the political dialog. Nowhere in the public sector are issues being confronted from a spiritual angle of the common good. Our government is a broken machine that doesn't work, due to the greed for power that sees that to win requires another to lose.
While I believe our current two faces/one party system is utterly corrupt, and we need to get rid of the influence of money in our elections as much as possible, I am also realistic about what direction I would like to see this country move toward and who will further that vision, if only a little.
While both actors are two faces of one party, the reality is that one face is far more ruthless and would gladly take away women's rights and go back to a health insurance model that is the nation's leading cause of bankruptcy. One professes to hate government itself, and would slash the safety net for the elderly, poor, and infirm while giving tax breaks to billionaires and spending more on the war machine.
That's unacceptable to me. So if some of what I state seems prejudicial toward one view and against another, you're right. We ALL have our truths we believe in, and it is impossible for me to embrace political policies that are inhumane, draconian, and have already led to the destruction of the Middle Class. When Republicans show me they care about anything other than wealth, power, and the war machine and offer a better health care model and restore the safety net, then I'll consider modifying my view.