As the election process inches forward, we are once again faced with allegations of election fraud and voter suppression. The primary yesterday in Arizona was an outright disgrace. A state in which one county (Maricopa) had witnessed 300,000 people come out to vote at 200 polling stations during the 2008 election cycle, was unprepared to handle the estimated 800,000 who came out yesterday to only 60 polling stations. Voters stood for five and six hours on line, only to find that once again, insufficient numbers of ballots were on hand. Once again, registered voters found that their political affiliation had mysteriously changed or that they had been dropped from voter rolls altogether. Once again, provisional ballots were handed out though it was indicated to voters that these ballots would not be counted. And the Media called the election by 10:00p.m. eastern time, with just 1% of the vote in, while voters were still lined up for blocks at 1:30a.m.
These are the same problems which plagued the primaries in Florida (where some thirteen precincts had run out of ballots by noon), North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Missouri, Massachusetts, and just about every state the Clinton campaign has notched as a victory. Oddly enough, a large proportion of Hillary’s supporters have been instructed to vote early, by mail, and avoid the entire precinct voting process.
But there have been instances of Republican election rigging as well, namely Ted Cruz’s efforts to convince voters in Iowa that Ben Carson was dropping out of the race. Yesterday, in Mormon Utah, a Super Pac supporting Ted Cruz ran an ad featuring a nude Melania Trump with the tag-line, “Meet Melania Trump, your next First Lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday.” I have absolutely no love for Donald Trump, but attacking someone’s family in this manner is gutless, classless, despicable and cowardly. And whether or not it was authorized by him, Ted Cruz will have to own that characterization from here on out.
One interesting element to the dirty politics we are seeing from both sides, is that it has originated with the establishment candidates. Neither Sanders’ nor Trump’s campaigns have been accused of attempting to rig the elections. The DNC, on the other hand, has been complicit in nearly every effort to suppress the vote of Democrats who would largely be supporting Bernie Sanders (if Hillary’s supporters have voted early and in enough numbers, you could suppress everyone on election day and almost guarantee a win for the Clintons). The RNC has openly suggested that they might need to run a third party candidate to stop Trump, and has dragged Mitt Romney out of mothballs to do their dirty work.
How should we read this? To express the conditions surrounding our current election process in their simplest terms, the Establishment on both sides is actively working to suppress the will of the people to make a change in the status quo of our government. The Establishment is utterly out of touch with the voters of this country. When Trump and Sanders began their campaigns, each was scoffed at by their respective party elders. Each was seen as something of a joke. But Sanders and Trump are engaged with their base; they know their supporters. Each, for his own reasons, reflects the will of the voting makeup of his party. And now, the Establishment finds itself with only one card left to play; make sure that those votes don’t count.
Like him or not, Donald Trump is bringing voters out of the woodwork. His rallies are enormous and his supporters passionate (for all of the wrong reasons, I would add). The other night, Sanders held a rally in Washington State which drew 35,000 people. Hillary, meanwhile, held her “rally” in a living room where attendees paid $27,000 apiece to get in and $50,000 if they wanted to meet and speak with her. This is not lost on the American voting public.
Middle and working class people in America may not really be able to comprehend just how much money $170 billion dollars in increased earnings by the top fifteen people in America is, but we know when we are getting screwed. We know that when Washington tells us the economy is improving, it isn’t improving for us. Our wallets are still just as empty. Our credit cards still carry large balances. Our bank accounts still have no buffer. Our jobs pay less, our health care costs more. Our retirement savings won’t be enough and a trip to the hospital could be one cost too much. We may be able to remember a past full of promise, but we now fear that our children will have no future.
“At least,” we may have thought, “we still have a voice.” We have been taught since we first entered school that the greatness of America lies in the process by which we, the people, elect representatives to speak on our behalf in Washington and in the State Assemblies. Each November, we learned, the people get to vote so that the government represents our needs, our desires and our principles. That, we now must concede, was a lie.
The middle and working class people of this country did not arrive here overnight. We can now look back on nearly half a century of legislation which has allowed corporate America to line its pockets while sending our jobs and our futures overseas, legislation that keeps us in debt to big health care corporations when the rest of the industrialized world provides better health care as a right to its people. We have been dragged into twenty odd years of endless and pointless war, run up a national debt that is somewhere in the vicinity of nineteen trillion dollars, and found that a large chunk of the debt for which we are responsible, is held by the Chinese. The people on both sides of the aisle, playing politics in Washington, have doomed at least once generation of us to penury. And now, the RNC and the DNC have informed us that we no longer even have a voice of complaint in the process. Our votes, if it looks like they will cause injury to the Establishment, don’t count.
In the title of this article, the question was asked, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom?” We often hear that our nation’s soldiers have paid that price for us, guaranteeing with their lives the freedoms which we enjoy. But now we have to ask whether we are free at all. One need not feel the bars to be trapped in a cage. When limitations are placed on our abilities to grow as a society or as individuals within it, we are not free. When a corrupt economic system keeps the vast majority of us enslaved to the next paycheck, we are not free. And when our political leadership looks us in the eye and says that our voices do not matter, we are not free.
It is now nearly forty eight years since the summer of 1968, two generations, a single life lived almost to its mid-line. It was in 1968 that the people, for one brief, shining moment, found their voice. The assassination of JFK in 1963 marked the first time that the majority of American people believed that their own government could not be trusted. By 1968, with the war raging in southeast Asia and middle and working class American kids being drafted and sent to fight for nothing more than the nightly body count, that voice rose as one to shout down the Establishment.
While the respective parties gave us establishment candidates in the form of Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, the grass roots gave rise to Eugene McCarthy and, later in the campaign, Robert Kennedy. McCarthy’s early primary lead chased incumbent president Lyndon Johnson out of the race and lured RFK in. In time, the voice of the young people in America, desperate to end the war and to heal the wounds at home between white and black Americans, coalesced behind RFK. McCarthy’s ill advised remarks on opting for a Communist coalition in Vietnam and relocating black youth out of urban areas to quell urban problems ultimately doomed his campaign.
So, with the Doors’ song, “Five to One” as a backdrop, the young people of this country began to see that it was true that “they have the guns but we’ve got the numbers.” And politics, after all, is a numbers game. Everything was coming together for a political revolution. And then it was gone. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in Memphis on April 4th and RFK was assassinated in Los Angeles two months later. By late August and the Democratic convention in Chicago, the sense that the fix was in was palpable. During the primaries, some 80% of the votes cast were in favor of anti-war candidates, but at the convention, the DNC pushed Hubert Humphrey through, despite the fact that he had not entered a single primary. The “riots in the streets” to which Donald Trump alluded last week when considering what might happen if he is denied the nomination, were exactly what played out in Chicago.
In hindsight, 1968 saw this country on the verge of a massive political shift, away from establishment politics, away from a war that no one outside of government wanted, away from hatred and divisiveness at home. The chance was there and the voting public seemed ready to seize it. But the promise went unfulfilled. Now, nearly half a century later, the chance has once again arisen. This time. however, it is not a “lone nut gun-man” who has his crosshairs on our opportunity. It is the establishment itself, bold as brass.
Perhaps it takes a leader like RFK or maybe Bernie Sanders, to galvanize the people of our republic behind an image of all that is good about us, an image of the potential for greatness that still lies in America. Or, could it be that Donald Trump has revealed something about ourselves that we have kept hidden, but which could once again push us to the top of the world stage? Truly, those leaders come along only once in a lifetime. So the question is reframed, “Are we willing to pay the price for our freedom to elect the leadership we choose for ourselves?” If the people put their support behind a candidate whom the parties seek to undo, are we willing to destroy the parties in return?
This journal does not endorse Donald Trump. Other articles here have in no uncertain terms pointed out just how bad a choice he would be for the country. But if Hillary Clinton is to get the nomination, are we, the people, willing to pay the price of electing her and continuing the ownership of this country by the ruling class? If the supporters of Bernie Sanders “sit on their hands” in protest, refusing to vote for a candidate who is the antithesis of all that they believe, Trump will win, regardless of what the Republican party does to stop him. The next four years will be disastrous, for trade, for human rights, for maintaining allegiances throughout the world. But should we elect Clinton, the very first order of business for the DNC will be to make sure that no grass roots candidate ever again threatens the party’s plan. The next Bernie Sanders, maybe fifty years from now, will have it that much harder.
Do we resign ourselves to business as usual or do we break the machine and build anew?
Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. George Carlin used to say about the relationship between the working people of this country and the owners of the country (and of our government) that, “it is a big club and you and I ain’t in it.” The old Fram Oil Filter ad warned us that, “you can pay me now or pay me later.” If we don’t stop the cycle of selling our freedom now, we consign our children and our grandchildren to the debtor’s prison of paying later. Thirty pieces of silver now could damn us for generations to come. I, for one, am not willing to pay that price.