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.