American Revolution

A Supreme Mistake

Money talks. This is an old aphorism in American culture and probably among people the world over, for human history has demonstrated that the rich generally get whatever they want. The haves never have enough and the have-nots never get enough. This is sufficiently problematic in the world of finance. But when that world intersects politics, the result is generally disastrous.

Democracy, certainly the American version of it, is predicated upon the principle of one person, one vote. No one individual possesses a greater claim than any other on the outcome of an election. At its core, democracy is essentially egalitarian. But this guarantee of equality is eroded when elections are determined by the amount of money available in a campaign. That is a lesson we should have learned in the 1970’s.

The Watergate scandal toppled an administration and led to the only Presidential resignation in U.S. history scarring the reputation of Richard Nixon, arguably a great statesman. But it did more. At the time, the scandal awakened Congress and the American people to the corrupting influence of money in politics, proving that this corruption is not just theoretical. The buying of politicians and political influence is intrinsically perverted and leads inevitably to a political and social landscape that is as dark as the night that follows the day.

The U.S. Supreme Court, at least five Justices, appear ignorant to historical reality. In yesterday’s decision
McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “There is no right more basic in our democracy than the right to participate in electing our political leaders.” Ironically, and not just a touch cynically, that is exactly the right that the Supreme Court has now stripped from most Americans.

I am baffled by one aspect of this decision: Why didn’t the Supreme Court just abolish elections altogether and merely put candidates up for auction? Oh, come to think of it, they did. How many Americans have $3.6 million to contribute to an election? People might do well to ask themselves whether their individual votes equate with participation compared to that kind of wealth.

There is an element of incomprehensibility in the court’s decision. Money is a tangible object, but the Justices want us to believe that spending it to influence elections is an exercise of free speech. This suggests that some people are
more free than others because they possess more wealth. It also makes slaves of the poor, reducing the average American to a plantation worker. And if I am not mistaken, we already fought a war over that.

America is quickly falling, if it hasn’t already, into a world of oppression. An abyss where the oligarchy control all aspects of government—legislative, executive and judicial. We’ve seen this before, throughout history and around the globe. And we know the result. People will put up with oppression for only so long before they revolt. We did it ourselves over two hundred years ago. The last line of defense should the Supreme Court, but it has now fallen prey to the power and whim of the wealthy. As such, more and more citizens will begin to realize how powerless and disenfranchised they truly are.

I fear we are nearing a new revolution. Since the court’s ruling in
McCutcheon infringes on the fundamental rights of the governed, maybe it is time to revisit our own Declaration of Independence. That founding document states, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new Government…” Then again there might a less drastic solution.

In American democracy the government
is the people. That’s why we have elections in the first place: to vote in and out of office those who, respectively, do or do not represent us. It is a reality today that running a campaign costs money. Perhaps the time has come for the government to equally fund all campaigns—the federal government for federal candidates and state governments for state candidates—and to eliminate all private funding. This is money that belongs to all the people, not just a privileged few. I realize that such a proposal will fall on many a deaf ear. But elections should be determined by the power of a candidate’s ideas and convictions, not the size of his or her bank account.

Money talks, but it is not speech.
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Voting Rights and Election Monitors

Throughout the world, mostly in emerging democracies and dictatorships, there has long been a need for independent, international election observers. It is a common occurrence to see vote manipulation and downright fraud in many third world countries. In the western world, one expects a different situation. Voting should be free and universal, honest and accurate.

Maybe it is the ease with which corruption embeds itself in the exercise of power; maybe it is insecurity after an opponent has unmasked one’s vacuous concepts; maybe it is the fear of losing control; maybe it is the dread of a rising and empowered populace; maybe it is merely the fact of human weakness. Whatever the cause, the electoral process as practiced in the Western world is not as elevated as we want to claim. This is one reason that the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is called upon to monitor elections around the globe, including longstanding democracies such as France, the United Kingdom, and even the United States of America.

It is a necessary and daunting task. Take for example, the United States, the root of modern democracy. In the current election cycle, fraud rules the day. Not the fraud of unregistered, illegal, or even dead people voting. The real voter fraud is far more pernicious. It is not merely an effort to influence the outcome of an election. It is an attempt to prevent a large portion of the electorate from participating in the first place.

Not surprisingly, this fraud is exercised primarily by elected state officials, specifically Republicans, striving to cement their uncertain grasp on power. In a manner most deceitful, they espouse lofty principles even while they seek to undermine those principles. They use simple sounding words and frame their policies as “Voter ID laws.” That seems reasonable. Everyone would agree that there must be some regulations around the act of voting. Sadly, it’s just not that simple.

These Republicans know it is only a matter of time before their true intentions and their policies come to light. Unable to win by the force of their arguments, they seek to solidify their grip on power through oppression. Will these legions of darkness be allowed to prevail? That depends on whether or not people will see the truth, expose it to the light, and fearlessly condemn it in speech.

Many commentators, I presume unintentionally, play into the hands of corrupt Republican legislators by describing these machinations as disenfranchisement. That sounds almost harmless. Such language, however, is many degrees removed from the very real and deleterious effects of these laws, enabling politicians to disguise their true motives.

This is not the only corruption. Employers such as David Siegel, the Koch brothers and Richard Lacks are pressuring their employees to vote for Romney. Robert Murray forced coal miners in Ohio to attend--without pay--a Romney rally during the summer. The miners were even used a backdrop behind Romney during his speech.

This is where international election observers come in. They cannot affect the outcome of an election, but they can help reveal the truth of corruption. They can expose the real American election fraud to the entire world—on election day when people are turned away from polling places, and before elections begin when minorities are deliberately shut out of voting procedures or when voters’ freedoms are stripped through employer coercion.

The surface question is whether or not the people of America care what others think—does America’s standing in the world matter anymore? The deeper question is whether or not America’s founding values still matter to Americans, themselves.

I don’t know if Americans are gullible, ignorant, or if they just don’t care. This country used to stand for great things: for equality and equal opportunity. The American Revolution started something new in the world. The U.S. Constitution laid the groundwork for modern democracy, and the United States stood as a beacon of hope and progress in a changing world. These new “Voter ID” laws, coupled with employee coercion, crumble the very foundations of democracy.

Every person running for President is required to declare: “The United States is the greatest country on earth.” That kind of hyperbole was never really true, but it soothes the anxiety of a people who are insecure and need to feel important. It should be said, that citizens of most countries share that angst. In the United States it is amplified by this question: Are we as good as the generations who came before us?

At least when it comes to voting rights, the answer is clear. No. We are not.
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