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Time for change Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jul-14-06 02:07 AM
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2. The Three Determining Factors of Election Results in the United States
Of the three factors that determine the results of elections in the United States, unfortunately only one of those factors is appropriate to a full fledged democracy. That factor is the willingness of the candidate to do things that are of benefit to or are considered to be fair by his or her constituents.

If that was the only factor involved, the most liberal of the two major party candidates, which today is in almost all cases the Democratic candidate, would win the great majority of the time, our President would be a Democrat, and Congress would be heavily Democratic. There would have to be a major party re-alignment, since the Republican Party would no longer be viable.

Unfortunately, there are two other, highly undemocratic factors that play major roles today in determining who wins elections in our country: In three words: election fraud and money.


Election fraud

Nobody knows how many votes were stolen in the 2004 Presidential election. Literally thousands of articles have been written on this subject, but probably the two most thorough and widely acclaimed accounts are Roberts Kennedys article in Rolling Stone, Was the 2004 Election Stolen, with 208 references, and Steven Freemans Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen, with 262 references. From these and many other sources, three things are abundantly clear:

1) There was massive election fraud in 2004 (not to mention 2000 and 2002 as well), perpetrated by Republican operatives, especially in Ohio, and it is highly likely that this election fraud was responsible for the continuation of George W. Bushs pResidency.

2) Our voting system today remains highly insecure, and not enough Americans care about that.

3) Our corporate media, with some rare exceptions, such as Keith Oberman, do whatever they can to bury this issue.

It is very difficult for many of us to understand why more of the American public is not outraged about a situation where private companies count our votes with secret software that provide no assurances about the accuracy of the vote count. The best explanation for that fact is that our corporate media, which is the main source of news for most Americans, does everything it can to persuade us that everything is ok and too many people are happy to believe that.


The corrupting role of money in politics

With the availability of mass media, money is needed for the dissemination of information. Although a class war has always existed to some extent in our country, that class war has now reached its greatest intensity since the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century, as manifested by a widening income gap between the poor and middle class on the one hand, versus the ultra wealthy on the other hand. With that income gap, 1 percent of the wealthiest individuals in our country possess 38% of our countrys wealth, and therefore have a highly disproportionate amount of political clout.

The result is that one of our two major political parties, the Republican Party, has opted to do everything it can to make their wealthiest constituents happy with them, at the expense of everyone else, with the firm knowledge that the voters they lose by doing that will be more than made up for by the disinformation that will be paid for by their wealthiest constituents. The other major political party, the Democratic Party, has tried much harder to act in behalf of the welfare of their constituents, although they too have needed, to varying degrees, to pander to the corporate interests, lest they be smacked into the ground by them.

The legality of contributing money to political candidates, with the implicit (though not explicit) understanding that that money will buy political favoritism, has been defended by both our courts and our Congress by sanctimoniously pointing to the free speech provisions in the First Amendment to our Constitution and claiming that money is speech. But the absurdity of that contention should be obvious to anyone with some primary school education. Speech is of value, from a political standpoint (or any other standpoint) only when it is heard. But if one billionaire has one thousand times as much right to speak through a medium which reaches lots of people than several thousand other people added together, the speech of that one billionaire will drown out the speech of most other people, thereby interfering with their right to free speech.

Anyhow, what is the difference between bribery and contributing money with the implicit understanding that the money will buy political favoritism? I fail to see a substantive difference in the morality of the two. I realize that there must be some difference, otherwise people such as Jack Abramoff wouldnt feel the need to cross that thin line between bribery and legal campaign contributions. But the bottom line of all this is that Republicans absolutely need to cater to the wealthy, since there is no way that their policies alone, without tons of money behind them, would win them 50% of the vote or even 20%.


The special case of the corporate media

If cash donated to their political campaigns is not enough to carry them through to victory, and if election fraud doesnt happen to play a significant role in their state, the corporate media serves as the ace in the hole for Republicans. I think of this as one more example of the role of money in politics, since those who own and control the corporate media are uniformly wealthy, and since it was their money to begin with that led to the legislation that enabled the corporate media to become what it is today Reagans veto of Democratic legislation to enforce the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which together allowed the consolidation of our news media to the point where today it is controlled by a very small number of extremely wealthy individuals.

Several excellent books have been written about the extent to which wealthy corporate interests control our news media today. I would highly recommend Lapdogs How the Press rolled Over for Bush, by Eric Boehlert, What Liberal Media The Truth About BIAS and the News, by Eric Alterman, and Into the Buzzsaw The Myth of a Free Press, edited by Kristina Borjesson. And I have ranted about pseudo-journalists such as Chris Matthews and Tim Russert, who make a largely successful, but hypocritical effort to appear unbiased to their viewers.

The bottom line, as Bill Moyers points out, is that the protection offered us by our First Amendment is based on the assumption of a separation of our government and a free press, which is supposed to protect us from government abuses. Moyers goes on:

What would happen, however, if the contending giants of big government and big publishing and broadcasting ever joined hands, ever saw eye to eye in putting the public's need for news second to free-market economics? That's exactly what's happening now under the ideological banner of "deregulation". Giant media conglomerates that our founders could not possibly have envisioned are finding common cause with an imperial state in a betrothal certain to produce not the sons and daughters of liberty but the very kind of bastards that issued from the old arranged marriage of church and state.

Consider the situation. Never has there been an administration so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large and -- in defiance of the Constitution -- from their representatives in Congress. Never has the powerful media oligopoly ... been so unabashed in reaching like Caesar for still more wealth and power. Never have hand and glove fitted together so comfortably to manipulate free political debate, sow contempt for the idea of government itself, and trivialize the peoples' need to know.


How do we know that Democrats would rule our country today if not for the corrupting role of money and election fraud?

To answer that question Ill just give a few examples:

National Health Insurance
Opinion polls in this country consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly favor a national health insurance program (For example, this ABC News/Washington Post poll, which demonstrated a 62-32 margin in favor of national health insurance.) Yet, when it comes time to vote on the issue, the dollars start to flow by the millions, and the result is that today a national health insurance plan is considered not to have a snowballs chance in hell with our current Congress.

The minimum wage
According to Gallup opinion polls in November 2005 and June 2006, Americans expressed a clear and decisive approval for a raise in the minimum wage. Yet, even though the minimum wage has remained stagnant for almost ten years, during which time Congress has repeatedly voted itself a raise, in June of 2006 the U.S. Senate again rejected a minimum wage bill, with an almost straight party line vote.

The inheritance tax
Though polls show that Americans favor a repeal of the inheritance tax, the reason for that is misinformation which leads many people to believe that repeal would actually help people who arent already wealthy. Though a recent attempt to totally repeal the inheritance tax was successfully filibustered by Democrats in the Senate, the great majority of Republicans still voted for its repeal, even though that would benefit only individuals who inherited more than a million dollars. How many people in this country could possibly think that the total repeal of this tax would help them? And in the meantime, the Bush reductions in this tax have contributed substantially to our massive budget deficits and the paucity of money left over for needed government services.

Veterans health care
A recent attempt to pass a much needed veterans health bill was defeated in the Senate, with only two Republicans, Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe, voting for it. How many Americans would approve of that if they knew? But no matter. Few Americans either know about it or ever will know about it.

The Iraq War
A recent Gallup poll showed that 37% of Americans feel that it was worth going to war with Iraq. Yet, the same poll suggested that if Americans were not misinformed about the war they would be much less likely to believe that it was worth going to war with Iraq. In particular, a substantial minority of 39% believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9-11 attacks on our country, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and 48% believe that the Iraqi people are better off because of the war, despite polls showing that Iraqis overwhelmingly feel that our presence there has done them no good. If people were not misinformed (by the corporate media) on those issues, the percentage of people who continued to feel that it was worth going to war would undoubtedly be much lower.

Black box voting
I have never seen a poll which asks Americans something like: Do you think it is acceptable for private companies to count our votes with secret software that provide no assurances about the accuracy of the vote count? though such a poll badly needs to be performed and publicized. And for those who might say that such a question would be biased, I say to them that if the assertion is absolutely true, then the question is not misleading and therefore produces no bias.

Anyhow, it seems obvious to me that if such a question were to be asked in a poll, Americans would overwhelmingly answer with a resounding NO. Yet, Republicans in Congress continue to do whatever they can to ensure that precisely this type of voting system remains in place for future elections. How could they get away with that if people knew what was going on?


Conclusions

The above are only a small sampling of the examples that can be given of Republicans supporting policies that cater to the wealthy at the expense of the great majority of their constituents because that is what they need to do to bring in the money necessary to win elections.

Its a vicious cycle, with money and election fraud installing corrupt Republicans in office, and Republicans using their office to make their benefactors ever more wealthy and to perpetuate election fraud. Yet, their greed may have over-reached, and it appears that in 2006 and 2008 we may be able to take back our country. If were successful in doing that, Democrats damn well better make sure to use their window of opportunity to pass legislation that will begin to take the money out of politics, re-establish controls that will lead to a free and independent press, and greatly improve the integrity of our election system.
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