Get Out the Vote: So the Illusion of Democracy Will Live On-Part I

By the time this piece goes to press, America, for better or worse, will have a newly elected majority of Republicans sitting in the US Senate.  Or at least that’s what the smart money, the boys in the back room say about how this 2014 off-year election will go down.  So how do they know?  Well there are several touchstones to tell us.  Litmus paper tests to tell which way the wind will blow, you know?  Polls they’re called.  The public will.  The voters’ choice.  And why not?  Ain’t that what democracy’s all about? 

Before the election, pollsters gather information from voters as to how they will vote come election day.  And voila!  You get an instant affirmation of who is going to sit in this or that House or Senate seat in Washington, D.C. So how does this tide of polled voting not yet counted and certified by the pull of thousands of levers in the voting booths of America, come about?  Simple.  From Joe Six Pack to Bunny Rothschild, let us assume that you have made your way through minefields of voter qualification set up by those in power at the state level usually to impede the democratic process by thwarting the right of Americans to vote.    In many states, no ex-convicts need apply because they just ain’t qualified by the rules of those in charge, you understand? 

Some states allowed the vote in that case, but some did not.  And by the time the election was all over the cleverest manipulators of democracy prevailed.  And the manner in which the Florida state ruled processed absentee ballots and the overseas military vote caused Bush to have more votes at the end of the day on many consecutive days of counting in that close race.  And then came the recount.  Republicans dreaded it because Bush was ahead by a slim and waning margin on each day.  Guess who was governor of Florida at the time of the 2000 election?  If you guessed Jeb Bush (who happened to be George W Bush’s kid brother) give the guesser a cigar.  Brother Jeb had his Secretary of State Kathleen Harris disqualify thousands of lower-income voters, likely to vote Democrat, from even showing up at the polls.  But Florida that election year had other bizarre quirks that stank to high heaven.  Like a precinct in Palm Beach County that was almost all Jewish voters going almost totally for Pat Buchannan.  Retired folks with limited incomes voting for that conservative icon?  Give me a break.  And the hanging chads during the recount.  Jesus, it was a nightmare.  I know.  I lived in Palm Beach County at the time.

And when the margin of a Bush victory started to look slimmer as the recount continued, the US Supreme Court stepped in and halted the recount process and Antonin Scalia handed the White House to Bush.  So much for the sacred “states’ rights” and sovereignty of each state to decide for its own self.  You see you got to be flexible and act like Democrats when there’s a lot on the line.  Poor old Gore could just live with it.  Ditto the American people for the next 8 years.  Lies, wars, preemptive strikes by the new president, the Decider, to attack Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thousands, perhaps over a million maimed and killed all total, but maybe we are better off as was Ronald Reagan’s litmus test for something being worth it after the fact and all.  But this piece is not about re-shoveling up the old cow patties as though they were still current and hot news scoops.  Nobody cared then and nobody is outraged now.  It is forgotten history.  Truth and accountability gave way to ambivalent voters who thought it didn’t matter.

So notwithstanding all the nets and tethers and rules why someone is barred from getting to the voting booth to pull a lever let us consider the motives of a voter with free choice and why he chooses to vote a certain way.  Well, Lordy, to start out, a working man ain’t really got all that much time to study the goods and warts of a candidate.  This typical voter (call him Billy Bob) works all day and scoots home (maybe after a few beers with buddies and bidness dudes who buy most of the rounds), acts exhausted in front of wife and kids before finally collapsing into his easy chair to watch Monday Night Football.  So Billy Bob ain’t got the time to really study a candidate so what is his path of least resistance to select those who will do the best job for him and his family?  Television, of course.  It’s easy and passive; all Billy Bob has to do is to lean back and listen just to see which candidate sounds like he or she would best look out for him and his family.  Then decide on who might be best, but not for sure.  And when it comes time, go pull the lever.  Neat.  But you got to hope nobody is lying on camera.  Or trying to sway opinion with unchecked untruths.

Would Democrat and Republican political and media consultants do that?  Like, spin the truth for profit and gain?  And in these days of people struggling to make a minimum wage to support their families, is the consultants’ gain a big one?  Like a million bucks for a governor campaign, whether elected or not? Or $200M for a Congressman?  As we commoners consider hocking our meager possessions to pay the upcoming state and local property taxes we owe?

Of course.  But you decide.

Political and Media Consultants know this relatively new Reagan “feel good” phenomenon well.  They have gotten rich off the whims of voters that are easily swayed with TV political ads making one candidate stand out as the best choice or the worst choice by visual ads cut and pasted together with music into a typically 30-second “spot” to run on TV just before the election.  The consultants who win the most races are awarded with trophies for best manipulation of the masses.  Wow, awards for the best spin!  As in lies.  Goebbels was ahead of his time. 

All this has to do with the mind of not just the voter, but the mind of man.  If it looks good or convincing (take Ronald Reagan, please) BINGO!  You got a winner!  It is as simple as that.  If, as someone said, George W. Bush is the candidate you would most like to have a beer with, then go with it!  Pull the lever.  It couldn’t hoit.  And it would be just as scientific as all the collected data toward making deciding a science instead of a Billy Bob whim.

So the best ads elect our Senators, our Congressmen, our mayors and presidents, it seems.  It is all about how to best capture the inner self of a voter.  That warm fuzzy place that he claims as his own, that place where the best choices are made for the better good.  In his mind anyway.  It’s quite a statement about who we are and our collective incompetence.  And willful “don’t give a shit.”  Oye.

Reagan was an enigma.  He was the first to capitalize on that warm fuzzy place in us voters, that place of childhood that told us urchins he would do right by us (wink, wink) and maintain the peace and prosperity of America.  As a bonus he allowed God, flag, and country to be a part of the governmental process as he redefined America in a way pleasing to most voters.  He was a great actor.  He even talked a god-fearing nation into borrowing and spending $3 Trillion to defeat Russia, bring her to her knees, because it was the work of God, you see, and who could fault it?  Even though we were not at war with anybody.  Except Grenada, maybe. 

Most of the TV evangelists supported Reagan in his God-driven mania, those like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others who built colleges and Billions of dollars of net worth, thanks to the Jesus business and a president friendly to the cause of melding church and state.  So much for vows of poverty, I know, I know.  But you see Reagan, called the Great Communicator, could get his points across well.  The camera loved him, plain and simple. 

And those corporations and tax-free church entities who profited endowed his campaign funds with billions of dollars.  Reagan had that Old Ranger of Death Valley Days smile and glistening blue eye and good head of hair.  Shoot, even Freud and Jung had they lived longer might have allowed that most probably Reagan could move mountains when it came to voters and his political agenda.  The handlers and the media-consultants knew this all too well and exploited it well.  And accountability and intellect had nothing to do with the endorphins voters felt to have Father Reagan in the White House, keeping America strong, safe, and doing the work of God.  Ask Jerry Falwell.  He saw Reagan as a cornucopia.  Falwell’s notorious Moral Majority even put out a hit list to unseat all Democrats across the land so that only godlike Reagan Republicans would rule America.  I know, I know. Kinda reminds you of Texas and Rick Perry’s bankrupt secession legacy, don’t it?  But don’t it make  you feel all good inside?

But at the end of the day, Reagan embodied the illusion, the subconscious parts of ourselves as voters that “wished” things to be when they weren’t.  And never were.  He did little to nothing for the working man.  Take the striking air traffic controllers.  He did, and they lost.  And America lost its right to union representation in effect.  Perhaps forever.  The effectiveness of unions since then has never been the same.  But corporations have been able to move almost all the significant wealth to the other side of the financial room:  their side.  Our loss of healthcare in the workplace is the best testimonial as Big Med and Big Pharma make reasonable healthcare and cheap drugs impossible.  Like, in Canada.  France. Norway.  Sweden. Mexico.  Shees.  And the corporation you work for supports them, not you, their employee.  But wait.  Reagan was the greatest president, some say.  But for whom?  Let us use his own litmus test for success during his 8-year term in the White House:  Are we, the people, for his legacy, better off?  Did we voters pull the right lever (no pun intended)?