Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is the strategy of disenfranchising voters "pro-American" and patriotic?

Here in the US with only a few weeks remaining to Election Day, Republicans, in danger of losing not only the Presidential election but also a substantial number of seats in both the US Senate and House of Representatives, are really, really desperate. It's becoming obvious that they believe that the only way for the GOP to avoid devastation at the polls is by preventing as many people from voting as possible. In GOP Terrified of American Voters (The Atlanta Journal Constitution October 19,2008), Jay Bookman notes that

On Friday, the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Ohio Republicans in their effort to try to challenge 200,000 voters. Two hundred thousand!! Republican officials fear the verdict of the American people. They fear the wrath of those Americans drawn into political participation by anger at the direction that the GOP has tried to take their country. And they are trying desperately, frantically, to try to prevent that verdict from being delivered.

This is probably the most egregious instance of the numerous challenges Republicans are making to the rolls of registered voters, but in many, many states, the Republican Party is doing its damnedest to disenfranchise voters. Presumably they hope that by making their challenges at the last minute, the voters knocked off the rolls won't have a chance to contest their elimination. This was a tactic that worked well for the Republicans in 2004 and even better in 2006. (And we know that similar tactics were successfully deployed in Florida in 2000.) But this year the effort is much wider and more systematic and seems to constitutes one of the party's major strategies. It stinks of desperation and implies a dangerous mindset: that if the only way to stay in office is to prevent the electorate from voting, the strategy's justified. Republicans and Democrats alike proclaim that the US is a democracy; and they make this assertion solely on the basis of the fact that two branches of the government are headed by officials elected by the nation's citizens. (As we know, leaders of both parties were furious when the citizenry opposed the Big Finance "bailout," and they rejected public opinion as ignorant and irrelevant.) But the Republicans' open embrace of cheating is as good as an admission that they don't give a damn about even this most limited, timid form of the democratic process.

Okay, so the fact that the Republicans cheat (or are trying to cheat) is old, old news. But when I start matching it up with some of their recent rhetoric, I find myself wondering whether there's any line they won't cross in serving their desperate addiction to power. This morning on Meet the Press, Republican Colin Powell, when endorsing Obama, said that he has heard "senior members of my own party" insist against that Obama is a Muslim and is (therefore?) connected to terrorists. (The Nation has a video clip of this.) Powell duly criticized robocalls trying to taint Obama, which he says go "too far." He said he's "troubled by these approaches"-- troubled by what "senior members of the party" say-- and asked: is there something wrong with being a Muslim in America? As for Sarah Palin-- Powell cited her choice as McCain's running mate as an indication that the GOP is taking a turn even further right than it already is.

And then there's Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachman's assertion on Chris Matthews' Hardball that Barack Obama and liberals in general are "anti-American." (The Nation has a clip of that, also, here.) This assertion resonates in a very sinister way with Sarah Palin's statement at a North Carolina fundraiser that

We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit. And in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.

Excuse me? What does it mean, talking about certain parts of the country being more "pro-America" than others? Logically speaking, it seems to be a meaningless oxymoron, though various commentators have extrapolated it to mean she considers some areas of the country more "American" than others. But then she reprised this comment last night in her (reality, not parody) "first press conference," held last night on Saturday Night Live--

You recently said you prefer visiting the pro-American parts of the country; are there parts of the country that you find un-American?

“Sure, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, California, *raspberry*

“But then also too you have states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida... who can choose whether they are un-American or not. *wink*

The wink, of course, is supposed to indicate that she doesn't seriously mean this. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink... What can we conclude, given Michelle Bachman's tarring of both Obama and "liberals" as "anti-American"? Ask yourself who might find Palin's "joke" funny... and there's your answer.

ETA: As Eileen Gunn points out in her comment (and as I also realized when I viewed the SNL clip myself), the "press conference" was actually given by Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin. (My source apparently didn't realize that.) So there are two jokes here: Sarah Palin's joke, and SNL's joke about Sarah Palin's joke. See the comments for more on this.


Eileen Gunn said...

Timmi, that was Tina Fey on SNL at that point, satirizing Sarah Palin. Palin herself mostly stood around and let SNL make her the butt of their jokes. I suppose that's the time-honored role of the VP, but she took it to a new level.

I wonder how many other viewers made your mistake. Fey is perhaps too pitch-perfect. Or maybe the Palin reality is sufficiently outrageous that it is beyond satire.

Timmi Duchamp said...

I just looked at the clip now, Eileen. The source I cut & pasted the quote from apparently wasn't able to disentangle the parody from the reality. (Reading that, it sounded as if the "real" Sarah Palin was facing a fake press corps, having oddly chosen to accede to the demand that she give a press conference, perhaps with the idea that under those "jokey" circumstances, it would be easy to dismiss as a joke.) & of course the parody picked up on Palin's "joke"-- but turned it into another kind of joke, with a different audience.

As Leslie Savan notices in her post on the Nation's site today, the lack of "reality" of the "real" Sarah Palin is being brought out by the uncanny likeness (barely parody) of Tina Fey's performances of "Sarah Palin." & of course in fact, Sarah Palin still hasn't given a press conference.

The dissolution of the subject is often taken as a cause for playfulness & celebration. But in this case, the exposure of Palin's lack of a coherent identity summons up an image of the inexorable disappearance of the onion as the layers are stripped away. I started to feel during the Reagan administration that political satire could no longer keep up with reality. & of course I always felt that Dubya was little more than a walking, babbling parody. This isn't the fault of political satire, of course. Do you remember when the only place on North American television you could find discussion of certain issues was The Daily Show? That, I think, was signaling the same problem that the difficulty of distinguishing between political satire & the reality exposes.

David Gerard said...

MAN ON FIVE, Cook County, Monday -- The McCain campaign is looking at an Electoral College strategy heading into the final two weeks that has virtually no room for error.

"Democrat voting fraud is famous since Tammany Hall," says Republican strategist Karl Rove. "So we'll win without votes."

Voting machines have been remotely reset and the counts adjusted. "Diebold have come to the party big time." Touch screen machines for West Virginia early voting offer voters "McCAIN" or "REPLY HAZY, TRY AGAIN LATER."

The rolls will be thoroughly checked for voter fraud. "If the typeface or font size is different on their driver's licence, Social Security or the voter roll, that's obvious blatant fraud. A typical Liberal knife to the heart of democracy."

The party will check for dead voters as well. "We're making the safe assumption that all registered Democrats are dead. If they're not, we'll correct that." Governor Palin has long dealt with Democrat moose in Alaska. "You betcha!"

All residents of properties whose mortgages were underwritten by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac will be assumed to have voted Republican. "We own the houses, of course we own the votes. It's nonsense to say otherwise."

Finally, under USA-PATRIOT, Obama supporters will be deemed associates of associates of terrorists. The offence will carry a penalty of one day's imprisonment: November 4th.

Mr Rove is confident in the future of our democracy. "One man, one vote. That man being me."

My blog rant: