Monday, November 06, 2006

A night to remember

The state of Ohio is a representative microcosm of the larger biosphere of these national elections: a GOP-ruled political establishment rife with corruption and a population entirely ill at ease with the direction and behaviour of their government. As goes Ohio, so goes the nation. One needn't look too far beyond the races for the senate (Brown/DeWine) and governor (Blackwell/Strickland) to see that Ohioans are not pleased with what the Republican establishment has wrought in their name. The latest poll from the Columbus Dispatch now has Strickland 36 points ahead of a laughably delirious Kenneth Blackwell, who insists that the polls "pushed the edge of credibility." Then again, the man who perfected the black art of voter suppression in Ohio in 2004 probably has a few unpleasant surprises in store for his state's voters. We already know that Blackwell has overseen the purge of some 500,000 voters from the registration rolls, many of whom may not even know they have been removed and will be in for a disagreeable shock at the polling stations come election day. And Blackwell is right in some sense: it doesn't matter what those stinking polls say before the election, especially when those voters who would toss Blackwell to the curb can't actually cast a ballot.

Meanwhile, Sherrod Brown, a man of no particular or notable distinction and one of the few Democrats who voted for the torture bill, is leading the incumbent DeWine for the US Senate seat by a whopping 24 points. And in every other state election -- Auditor, Secretary of State, Attorney General and Treasurer -- the Democratic candidate is well ahead. The Treasurer position is of particular interest here. Cordray has an even larger lead in his race than Brown in his, 28 points, and it must be seen that people of Ohio have been none too happy with the Tom Noe Coingate scandal, siphoning millions as it did from the state's worker's compensation fund to the benefit of the Bush/Cheney campaign and various other Republican enterprises both political and personal. Ohio Republicans clearly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with other people's money and Ohio voters appear likely to send the state GOP a strong message with this regard.

But the GOP doesn't want to listen to any voter-based messages. Because they know who their real base is and it ain't field hands in Ohio. This is as true for Ohioans as it is for the rest of the nation. Republicans at the federal level have ignored for years displeasure within their constituencies in favour of party-line voting and when that didn't involve shoveling buckets of money at defense contractors, it was indulging various other corporate interests. They have placed themselves in this position by their ill-advised catering to the Bush/Rove agenda and while the individual candidates may be aware that they are paying the price for that party loyalty, Rove and his machine still don't care why that is. Nor will they listen. Right now and for the last few days, an Ohio-based firm, Conquest Communications, run by former Proctor and Gamble executives, is blanketing various districts across the country with "false flag robo calls." In fact, the organisation says it has "reached hundreds of thousands of homes in five states over the last several weeks," but the fury and focus of them has been strongly felt in at leasts 20 congressional districts over the last few days. But these aren't all regular push polls telling voters that Ben Cardin approves of experimentation on unborn babies. No, in many of the reports coming in, the automated calls pretend to be calling on behalf of the Democratic candidate. People have reported receiving repeated calls at dinner time and they appear to be designed to annoy voters and push them away from voting for the candidate in question. The Republican agenda is atrocious, their records in both foreign and domestic policy are disasters and this is how Karl Rove and his get-out-the-vote machine operates; if you vote for Democrats, "our values will be destroyed." Bwahahaha!

It is unclear just how effective such a massive robo-call campaign will actually be. Effectiveness of such efforts is measured at the few percent level. But that is all that is expected, or needed, in races that are toss-ups. Add that to the efforts of voter roll purges, voter disenfranchisement, voter challenges, confusion on election day, ill-behaved machines with their requisite long lines and it soon becomes clear that these various GOP efforts will have some effect. It clearly won't be enough to swing the outcomes in Ohio, where Brown and Strickland seem assured of winning. But these races could be a bellwhether indicator of serious electoral malfeasance: if these guys loose in Ohio, you can pretty much assume the fix was in. But I do that anyway.

It must be stated, in no uncertain terms, that these electioneering efforts sport one salient feature. They are all being conducted by the GOP. Every single one of the above mentioned tactics are being carried out by the Republican party with no reciprocation by Democrats. Democrats are left, as usual, on their heels, reeling at the tactics. Some might say that this is smart politics by the GOP and that the Democrats just don't know how to do it. That the Democrats don't know how to do it is certainly true and I expect that the reason is they rather have people vote than not. Democrats traditionally do well when voter turnout is good and given the poll numbers, the Democrats are sure to gain with a large turnout. That the Democrats can't or won't play as dirty as the GOP can is a plus not a minus. The stream of vituperative campaign ads, launched by the RNC against various Democratic candidates, have been embarrassing for American politics; every election they only seem to get worse. And partisan purges of voter rolls are not "smart politics." The robo-calls smack of illegality -- New Hampshire has already demanded that calls to people on the federal "do not call" list be stopped. And, given the lack of transparency with them, Republican-connected companies and their voting machine are always suspicious. Always. And when was the last time you heard a Democratic candidate call a Republican a traitor?

While the pre-election poll numbers look extremely promising for the Democrats, and not just in Ohio, but in a lot of places, just how the elections will shake out is still terribly uncertain. Polls predict one thing, election results say something else entirely. Isn't it funny how this has now become the norm of American elections since 2000? So, pay attention to the Brown and Strickland races in Ohio. This could very well be the last night you believe in American democracy ever again.


Post a Comment

<< Home