Tag Archives: Democracy

Disreputable Candidates

Every year in the United States, there are elections. Presidential elections are held every four years; senate elections are held every few years, with senators’ terms being six years. Elections for the House of Representatives are held every two years. Interspersed among these are various so-called ‘off year’ elections, such as those recently held in New Jersey and Virginia. A special election will be held next month in Alabama, to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, who, incredibly, is now Attorney General of the U.S.

Governmental spokespeople will point to these many and varied exercises in electoral futility as evidence of a vibrant democratic nation, where the people oh-so-frequently are able to choose their ‘representatives’, by a majority vote. The fact that increasing numbers of voters are disenfranchised, or that the ‘majority’ doesn’t count in presidential elections, thanks to the bizarre Electoral College, are not topics for today’s discussion. Rather, this writer would prefer to look at the caliber of the people among whom the hapless electorate is forced to choose.

Take, for example, Judge Roy Moore, running on the Republican ticket for Senate in Alabama. He was twice elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, first in 2001 and then again in 2013. He was removed by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary in 2003, for failing to abide by the order of a federal court judge that required the removal of a copy of a Ten Commandments monument from the state judiciary building. Following his second election in 2013, he was again removed, by the same body, in 2016, for ordering judges and their employees to defy the federal court ruling that granted marriage equality. Hardly a sterling character.

But wait! There is more to Moore than his disregard for federal law. While unmarried and in his thirties, he was known for dating high-school aged girls. Several have surfaced over the past several weeks, one stating that he touched her ‘inappropriately’ when she was 14!

When men in their 50s and 60s date women half their age, one might say that the woman is particularly mature; she may have an advanced university degree, a responsible position in business, government or a social service agency. Perhaps she has travelled extensively. He may be far advanced in a career in which she is still establishing herself. There are unlimited topics they might share, and, therefore, there are many legitimate reasons why a man in his 50s and a woman in her 20s might be attracted to each other, beyond the physical one.

The same cannot be said of a man in his 30s who ‘dates’ a girl (a 14-year-old can hardly be referred to as a ‘woman’) half his age. What, one wonders, could they discuss? Perhaps they converse about the boredom of Study Hall; talk about their very favorite band, or complain about parental restrictions. Or is it possible that a man in his 30s has something else very different in mind, when ‘dating’ a girl in her early teens?

But this perversion is just a part of the model that has been presented by the U.S. Commander-in-Chief, President Donald Trump, who has been accused by numerous women of inappropriate touching, grabbing, etc., and who has not confessed to such behaviors, but has proclaimed them as a privilege.

This is nothing new; President Bill Clinton admitted to causing ‘pain’ in his marriage due to his serial philandering, but at least (and this is the very least) he issued some sort of apology for it. But he, too, took advantage of someone who was powerless by comparison, during his tawdry experiences with intern Monica Lewinsky.

And these are not exceptions; they seem to be the rule.

It might be said (and this writer has said it), that a politician having an extra-marital affair is no one’s business but that of the people involved; it should be of no concern to the voter. But the issues discussed herein are not ‘affairs’: touching a 14-year-old girl is simply perverted. Voters may choose to overlook Moore’s double expulsions from the bench, due to their particular side in the U.S.’s so-called ‘culture wars’, but how any decent person could vote for him now escapes the understanding of this writer.

Donald Trump ‘grabbing’ women by their genitals is not an affair; it is sexual assault. This writer understands the contempt and disdain that voters had for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (his own contempt and disdain for her is not exceeded by anyone else’s), but Donald Trump? Why didn’t the voters look for a third-party candidate they could get behind? There were dozens running.

And when Bill Clinton involved himself with Ms. Lewinsky, it wasn’t an affair; he was arguably the most powerful person in the world, and she was a young White House intern.

The sleaze factor is not limited to sexual abuse and perversion. Money is always at the forefront of the minds of Congress members. For example, Rep. Mike Kelly, (R-PA) sponsored a natural gas bill at the same time that Exxon negotiated a multimillion-dollar deal with his wife, an oil company heiress. The Kellys reaped a fortune as a result.  When Dennis Cardozo, (D-CA) was a member of the House of Representatives, he was instrumental in passing a bill that involved tax breaks for people purchasing racehorses; this does not seem to be an issue that is foremost on the minds of most U.S. citizens. Once those tax breaks became law, he purchased seven racehorses. Unlike the little peons who vote them in, elected officials are able to make laws that benefit them financially.

The U.S. has a population of over 320 million people. Is this the best that can be done? Alabama has nearly 5 million people; could the Republicans come up with no one better to run for Senate than a child molester who has twice been kicked off the bench?

In the U.S., it is impossible to run for office beyond the local level without vast personal funds. While Moore’s finances are not public, he is known to have taken about $1 million in salary from a charity he ran; that is somewhat beyond the net worth of the average U.S. citizen, which is in the neighborhood of $60,000. That sum is certainly insufficient to mount any kind of even statewide campaign, let alone a national one.

So there we are. The rich are the only people who can run for office, and the respectable rich probably aren’t interested in hob-nobbing with the likes of Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and Roy Moore.

Is it time for a third party in the U.S.? Is the pope Catholic? Does the sun rise in the east? But the more important question is this: will it happen? No time soon, this writer fears. As Frederick Douglass once said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” As long as a lethargic populace is willing to pick between a racist, Islamophobic misogynist, and a greedy, money- and power-hungry career politician for president, and will overlook sexual assault and pedophilia, it will never demand that the powers-that-be surrender their monopoly on government. As a result, the quality of elected officials, already in the gutter, will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment not only of the U.S., but of the entire world.

 

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Filed under Human Rights, Political Musings, U.S.

Delegates, Democrats and Democracy

The United States is slowly lumbering towards the big show of its rather perverse version of democracy. Every four years, wealthy egomaniacs announce their candidacy for the presidency, and thus begins the long and torturous route to the White House. ‘Tortuous’, for each candidate, who must sell his or her soul to the highest bidder, change policy pronouncements depending on the audience, accept endorsements from individuals and organizations that a snake would be ashamed to associate with, and somehow manage to look him/herself in the mirror. The farce is ‘torturous’ for any informed individual (a decreasing lot, it seems, in the U.S.) who wants to make a rational decision, and vote for someone that is better described than simply ‘the lesser of two evils’.

One looks today at the Republican Party, and sees a circus clown performing his bumbling tricks for the pleasure and enjoyment of his racist, sexist, xenophobic and Islamophopic followers. And yet Donald Trump, former reality-television star and thrice-married billionaire is the current front-runner for the nomination.

But nipping at his heals like the snarling mad dog he seems to resemble, is none other than Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Despised by his senate colleagues, the powers-that-be in the GOP seem to be embracing him, however tenuously, in order to stem a potential electoral train wreck, which is the general expectation should Mr. Trump be the nominee. Not only would almost anyone defeat him, even the cold, calculating Hillary Clinton (more on her later), but Mr. Trump heading the ticket could easily deliver the Senate and House of Representatives back into the hands of the Democratic Party.

So let us look at the candidates of the oddly-named Democratic Party, and at the party itself. Nominating a presidential candidate isn’t quite the straightforward process one might expect: in a purer form of democracy, voters would elect delegates to represent their candidate at the nominating convention. For example, if Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wins 70% of the vote in, let’s say, the state of Washington, it would be expected that 70% of the delegates from that state going to the convention would vote for him.

But no, that is not how ‘democracy’ works in the Democratic Party. The party has what it calls ‘superdelegates’, party bigwigs who can vote at the convention for whomsoever they choose. There is a reason for this strange rule; it was clearly stated by Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. Said she: “Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grassroots activists”.

Well, there you are. Kingmakers will still be kingmakers, after they have given the little people the illusion that they are participating in the democratic process. As early as October of 2015, the former secretary of state had locked up hundreds of these ‘superdelegates’. By November, before any primaries or caucuses had been held, it is estimated that she already had secured about 15% of the required delegates. Wasn’t there some president who once said something about “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” not perishing from the earth? Oh, right; Abraham Lincoln, but that was a long time ago. And look what happened to him, anyway.

As of this writing, Mrs. Clinton has 469 superdelegates pledged to her; Mr. Sanders, 31. Yet the total of elected delegates is much closer: Mrs. Clinton has 1,279, and Mr. Sanders, 1,027.

Those ‘grassroots activists’ of which Ms. Wasserman-Schultz is so disdainful are not taking this sitting down. Washington Congressman Rick Larsen, pledged to support Mrs. Clinton, sent out a ‘Happy Easter’ message to his constituents. Some, in reply, told him to enjoy what will be his last Easter in office. Mr. Larsen responded thusly to one of his constituents: “I am supporting Secretary Clinton regardless of how people characterize it. She will be our best foot forward this fall and be the best President of all the candidates.” So the people speak, but those with power don’t listen.

These superdelegates are not only thwarting the will of the people, they are supporting a candidate who represents the very worst of the 1%. Wealthy herself, she has refused to disclose what she told to her Goldman-Sachs audience, one that paid her $600,000 for her pearls of wisdom. One can only imagine how pleasing her words must have been to them, since they were worth such a large sum of money.

One of the staples of the Democratic Party platform is unqualified support for Israel, increasingly denounced throughout the world as a brutal apartheid regime, yet called by the U.S., ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. Once again, we see that the Democratic Party has either very little understanding of the term ‘democracy’, or very little regard for the intelligence of the voters.

Israel, with separate laws for Jewish-Israelis and non-Jewish-Israelis, with illegal occupation, extrajudicial executions of men, women and children, with numerous, continuing violations of international law, is a democracy in the eyes of the Democratic Party. And there are no sacrifices the U.S. won’t make for its Middle Eastern, ‘democratic’ counterpart. Two sentences from the 2012 platform say it all:

“President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to

Israel’s security. For this reason, despite budgetary constraints, the President has worked with Congress to increase security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office, providing nearly $10 billion in the past three years.”

Note the phrase, ‘despite budgetary constraints’. It is apparently acceptable to cut food stamps, leave Detroit to go bankrupt, watch the infrastructure deteriorate and see public school students’ accomplishments fall far behind their international peers, as long as Israel gets its billions from the U.S. taxpayer. One would think that U.S. tax dollars should go to U.S. citizens. But no, for the Democrats (and certainly the Republicans) it is better to go to Israel.

So, one might ask: ‘where is democracy in the Democratic Party?’. Certainly not in the nominating process, and, it appears, not in the party platform, which is the heart and soul of the party.

This is not to imply that, while deficient with the Democrats, democracy is the foundation and backbone of the Republican Party. This is hardly the case for the party that makes no bones about ruling the world through violence; the Democrats, wishing to accomplish the same thing, simply cast those words in more politically-correct terminology.

The tiresome primary session drags on. Mr. Sanders’ enthusiastic voters and volunteers naively believe that if only Mr. Sanders can keep winning primaries, he will be the Democratic nominee. How sweet and child-like! They have not learned yet that the performance is made up of actors playing their roles; it is almost interactive theatre, where the audience has some participation, but the conclusion is foregone before the curtain is raised.

And in the tragic-comedy of U.S. elections, it seems that each year becomes more desperate then the last. This writer wishes the voters luck in determining this year who is, in fact, the lesser of two evils. For his part, he will vote for a third-party candidate. Any Republican or Democrat who wins will be a disaster for the world, and he wants no part in installing such a resident in the White House.

Originally printed on Counterpunch.

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