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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Monday, November 06, 2006

It's almost over

(updated below)

I don't think this election is what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Thank God election day is here — I'm sick of talking about pure politics with no substance behind it, and I'm sure you're tired of reading it. But then, that's what American politics have become, isn't it? I'm only 29, so my personal experience is rather limited. But I can't imagine there have been many election seasons more nasty, spiteful and absolutely substance-free than this one.

Has there been a single discussion of actual issues anywhere? Oh sure, there's been debates, and Q&A sessions with the candidates, and you can go on the candidates' Web sites for their stances on the issues. But the national and local media has been dominated by sound bites and slogans with nothing behind them.

Cut and run. Rubber stamp Congress. Handouts to illegal immigrants. Stay the course. Soft on terrorism. Too conservative. Too liberal. Right. Left. Blah blah fucking blah.

These are abstractions — while there might be some seed of truth buried deep down, they don't really mean anything anymore. They're all just code words now, and they all seem to come down to "Vote for this guy, and a giant crack will open up in the ground and suck the United States down into oblivion. Or worse."

Here's an illustrative quote from an independent Republican group paying for millions of Democrat-bashing, automated phone calls to voters around the country:
Mr. Swift said his group had tried to report each candidate's views accurately. But, he said, "it is very challenging to take something as complex as a person's background and track record and communicate it in a 30-second sound bite."
Ummm, yeah, it is. That's why you shouldn't try to do it. The democratic process is predicated on creating an informed electorate, not 30-second sound bites. My grandmother is actually trying to choose between candidates based on commercials, because her vision isn't great these days and she doesn't use the Web. Ugh.

The entire system seems to be groaning under its own weight. There's nothing but negative ads as far as the eye can see, with a good dose of outright lying for good measure. I've been out canvassing, and the sense of disillusion with the entire democratic process was almost palpable in everyone I met, no matter what their party affiliation.

There's a common misconception that both sides are equally culpable for this atmosphere. While the Democrats certainly aren't innocent, it's never been clearer which side are the bad guys, and we don't even have to talk policy — their techniques in this election have revealed the Republican party to be utterly amoral.

Let me give you a simple example that tells you all you need to know about the Republican party as it exists today. The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has been dumping millions of dollars into automated calls in tight races all over the country. Here's Josh Marshall's succinct description of this tactic:
What we're seeing is an apparent coordinated effort from the NRCC — the House GOP committee — to place calls that appear to be from the local Democratic candidate and then automatically call the same number back as many as seven or eight times each time the caller hang-ups. If the caller listens to the whole message it goes on to bash the Democratic candidate. But if the caller hangs up prematurely, the computer calls right back. Hang-ups are the achilles heal of robo-calls. So this seems to be an attempt to cover for that weakness by making those who hang up think the Democratic candidate is basically harassing them with phone calls. The GOP wins either way.
I heard several people complain about these calls while canvassing for Tammy Duckworth, and did my best to explain that they did not come from her. But there's really no good way to counteract it, and anecdotal evidence suggests it's turning off a lot of likely Democratic voters.

Think about what this says about the Republican party. This is clearly a tactic intended to discourage people from voting and make them frustrated with the entire electoral process in general. Six, seven calls in a row! The phone ringing at 6 a.m.! How would you respond?

Yet the Republican party has not only admitted to this behavior (which is apparently legal in most states), but claims there's nothing wrong with it. In fact, some Republican candidates have asked the NRCC to stop the calls, but they've refused. Maybe I'm naive, but I like to think that even if tactics like these were used in years past, the perpetrators at least had the decency to look ashamed when they were caught. Now it's done right out in the open.

Issues, policy, substance? Screw that! We're just going to make everyone so disgusted that only our hard-core supporters vote.

I don't know how we got here. It might be as simple as evil, amoral self-obsessed men seizing the reins of Republican power — maybe things will return to some sort of normalcy once the party purges itself of Tom DeLay and Co. But I doubt it.

Does anyone have any ideas? Come what may tomorrow, we've got a long road ahead of us before we can once again claim that American democracy is functioning as its designers intended.


More substance.

Try to imagine what was going through the minds of the people who produced this ad.

Republican values.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You guys sound a lot like old Georgie when you keep talking about all these "evil" people. If the Dems take power, will we be preemptively invading the GOP?

Blogger Buck B. said...

I don't throw that word around lightly. But at this point, I think the case has been objectively made. Conservatives in general are not evil. The Republican Party is not evil. But Tom DeLay is evil. Dick Cheney is evil. Donald Rumsfeld is evil. Newt Gingrich is evil. I haven't made up my mind on Bush, but he's certainly wrecked enough havoc upon the world that his intentions matter very little by now.

You don't have to read very much about the histories of these men before you see that they have no regard for anyone but themselves. They wield power and influence like a weapon, destroying anyone who disagrees with them, and have advanced by profiting from others' losses.

Evil is harsh word. But we should not be afraid to use it when it is warranted. You don't have to actually kill anyone (though Cheney tried) to be evil — in fact, Tom DeLay would probably have done less harm if he'd just gone out and stabbed a couple dozen people rather than pushing laws through Congress that will ruin millions of people's lives. Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others, started a war of choice that has created more misery and suffering than a thousand serial killers. War is the most awful thing human beings can do, and to start one even partially based on pride and self interest can only be called evil.

Anonymous johnny5 said...

OK, these may not be "evil" people, but they are employing what I would call dirty/evil tactics. Strategically eliminating people from the democratic process demonstrates that you don't have respect for democracy.

Anonymous tet said...

Uh, my hands are darker than the guy in the Republican ad, and I'm Lithuanian/Alsatian.

I don't see the ad as being racial unless someone is expecting to see it.


Blogger Buck B. said...

I agree, Tom. But the lack of racial tones (ha) doesn't make it any less awful.

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