Democratic Underground

Ask Auntie Pinko

December 16, 2004
By Auntie Pinko

Dear Auntie Pinko,

What ARE we going to do about the increasingly obvious signs of election finagling? You seemed to imply Bush won fair and square. Like hell he did. Diebold needs an audit NOW. How can we do something about this? We have to stop acting like forty-nine-percenters because we all know, from our conversations with our fellow citizens, that a really large part of America wanted that lapse-of-sanity George W. out of any position where the job description involves big red nuclear buttons. So when do we stop acting beaten and start getting insistent on some real democracy at home before trying to export it elsewhere?

Mandate, My Ass
San Francisco, CA

Dear Mandate,

It was certainly never Auntie's intention to express (or even imply) a judgment on the technical validity of November's election results. I'm not qualified to do so, and I apologize if anything I've written in one of my columns gives the impression that I am making such a pronouncement.

I'd like to draw your attention to a previous column on the subject of voting irregularities, written shortly after the 2002 elections. Here's a link:

Ask Auntie Pinko, Dec 5 2002

In fact, I am in agreement with you over the need to audit the electronic voting machine system very stringently indeed. I believe that all electronic voting machines should operate using open-source coding that can be examined and monitored by independent parties when needed. And all electronic voting machines should provide a paper receipt with a unique identifier for the particular vote cast, so the receipts can be matched with the stored votes if a hand count is required.

Americans must be able to have absolute confidence in the reliability of our both our system of voting and the mechanisms for counting votes. Anything less will undermine our democracy, and any party, elected leader, or civil servant who does not put aside partisan ambitions or budgetary concerns to make this a top priority is committing treason against our Republic. Period.

Now, as to the issue of confidence in the election just past, Auntie has not studied the specific allegations of irregularities, nor examined the evidence advanced to support those allegations. But I do believe that, in the interests of maintaining public confidence, any serious or credible allegations warrant careful examination by independent and/or bipartisan investigators of experience and integrity. And we must not fear the outcome! Such an investigation, properly conducted by trustworthy sources, can only produce a win/win result: Either enhancing public confidence in our voting system; or giving us a chance to fix any problems before they get worse.

Unfortunately, the passionately partisan aura surrounding the current questions does much to prevent real progress in examining the reliability of the system. Everyone concerned appears entirely focused on how the results of such an examination might affect their political party's agenda. Such an atmosphere makes it significantly less likely that worthwhile results can be obtained and used to make constructive change.

I don't have any solutions to offer - it's very possible that things will have to get worse, before they can start getting better. I do know that continuing interest and pressure from thoughtful citizens of all parties and viewpoints is our best hope. Raising this issue strongly when specific election results are not at stake may help quite a bit.

But Auntie would like to address this:

"We have to stop acting like forty-nine-percenters because we all know, from our conversations with our fellow citizens, that a really large part of America wanted that lapse-of-sanity George W. out of any position where the job description involves big red nuclear buttons. So when do we stop acting beaten and start getting insistent on some real democracy at home before trying to export it elsewhere?"

It is demonstrably true that a large part of America voted for Mr. Kerry. It is also tolerably well-documented that a great many Americans regard Mr. Bush with extremely strong negative feelings. (I'm one of them!) However, it's dangerous to make the assumption that everyone who voted for Mr. Kerry did so because of such feelings.

And it's arrogant and counter-productive to assume that the opinions of the great many Americans who dislike Mr. Bush are necessarily more important or more valid than the opinions of the great many Americans who feel sufficiently positive about him to vote in his favor. The down side of a democracy is that there is no guarantee that your views - no matter how justified or correct they may be - will prevail.

The harsh truth is that about the same number of people voted for Mr. Bush (or against Mr. Kerry) as voted against Mr. Bush (or for Mr. Kerry.) Of course I think that we are right and they are wrong. But the mere fact that there are so many of them makes it imperative that we do not simply dismiss them with insulting assumptions about their motives, their level of intelligence, gullibility, etc. That's no way to make a representative democracy functional in organizing and sustaining a society for everyone.

I have no problem with "acting beaten," Mandate, if "acting beaten" means studying why we couldn't make a better case for our beliefs and policies and convince more of our fellow-citizens to support them. If it means finding ways to make that case more effectively, and to generate that support - that's a healthy and constructive way to "act beaten," and to prevent us from being beaten again.

I have no problem with conscientiously carrying out the duties of a responsible minority party: persuasively presenting dissenting views and demanding their genuine consideration; strategically guarding the well-being of our constituency and their access to Constitutional rights; and using appropriate Constitutional protections to restrain the most damaging excesses of those in control. These are important functions, critical to the health of our representative democracy.

However, if "acting beaten" means doing our best to make it impossible for the majority party to effectively maintain the government functions and services we all depend upon, just to make them look bad, count me out. If "acting beaten" means spending our efforts exclusively on pointing out our opponents' deficiencies, rather than demonstrating our own superiorities, I agree with you, it has to stop, as soon as possible.

If the policies and abilities of those who currently control the government are as bad as many of us (including Auntie Pinko) believe, it will eventually be impossible for them to hide it behind propaganda and spin. Our fellow-citizens - even those who voted for those currently in control - will take notice. (They're really not all ignorant mouth-breathers, you know, just because they don't see everything the way we do.) And if we have been using our time wisely, to demonstrate that our Party, its leaders, and its policies, offer real hope for the future of American families, it will be impossible for our opponents to beat us again, without vote fraud so massive that it will fail anyway, and bring them down more effectively than we ever could.

I'm sorry this isn't a more stirring, satisfying, passionately militant response, Mandate. Auntie Pinko does, in fact, agree with much of what you say, and share your feelings. But feelings will not help us promote our visions of a better America, and make them possible through electoral victory. Only squarely facing unpleasant realities and finding constructive ways to change how we present our essential message of economic and social justice can do that. But thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!

Auntie will be taking a little time off to bake cookies and roast chestnuts in the next couple of weeks. See you in the New Year!

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