Well, I tried to vote for Ralph Nader, but not without some difficulty. He’s absent from the ballot in California due to the very effective efforts of Democratic infiltrators in the Green Party, but our Electoral Overlords thoughtfully provided a blank space where I was free to write in the name of my chosen candidate, and this I did with enthusiasm and conviction: that’ll teach those undemocratic Democrats to try to cheat me out of my choice! Except that when it came time to put the paper ballot in the electronic counting device, my efforts came to naught: the machine, which had been functioning smoothly up until that point, let out with a cacophonous gurgle instead of the contented click it had given off previously, and the ballot popped out – rejected!
The election official tried again: and again we heard the machine protest: Error! Error! Error!
The polling station went into panic mode. The heavily-accented man – East European, or Russian – who had been supervising this procedure was at a loss, and an elderly woman – who had sharply eyed me as I came in, and had demanded to know my exact street address – was similarly clueless. What do to? I was told that we’d have to wait around for some Mr. Fixit guy who’d be showing up shortly, but I wasn’t having any of that: lunch, which I had delayed far too long, was a necessity, and the growling in my stomach tripped off my tongue:
"Well, I can see you’re clearly unprepared to conduct this election," I snapped, "and I don’t have all day to hang around here."
I walked back to my apartment, less than a block away, had lunch, and, somewhat assuaged – never vote on an empty stomach! – I went back to the polling place. Hey, remember me? They did indeed, and, in the interim, had been struggling with my recalcitrant ballot: I could hear the machine groaning and protesting loudly in the background: "Ralph Nader? Does not compute!"
Would I mind re-doing my ballot?
I don’t know that my vote will even be counted – they don’t always count the write-ins. I knew that, even as I printed Ralph’s name in neat all-caps. But, you know what? It’s the principle of the thing. I have the right to do it, and I did it and don’t regret it. Furthermore, I kept my receipt, even though the election official was clearly prepared to toss it: "May I have that?" I inquired, and he dutifully handed it to me. It may take them months to count the write-ins, if they even bother – but you can bet I’ll be checking back, just to make sure.
Early exit polls are showing a Kerry lead, and the futures markets have by now reversed their earlier trend toward Bush, but as Drudge helpfully pointed out, the same exit polls were predicting a Gore win last time around. In short, this may tell us something about the closeness of the race, but nothing about its outcome.
I’m writing my election eve column early Tuesday, because there’s no real need to wait for the results. The War Party wins, no matter which wing of it claims the White House.
And I say "claims" because, as I write, John Kerry is telling people that he has "10,000 lawyers" at his command, and I’m sure the Republicans have more – or, at least, higher-paid ones. It’s amazing how quickly our vaunted "democracy" degenerates into a thuggish wrestling match.
This legal wrangle, which has been developing even before a single person goes to the polls, is interesting on account of the strategies adopted by both sides. The Republicans have been doing their best to suppress voter turnout: they want to put people at the polls who will challenge perfectly legitimate voters, and have gone to court to secure their alleged "right" to do so. They have sent out letters claiming that people who owe child support or who have warrants will be arrested at the polls. They have done everything but call in the National Guard to defeat the growing insurgency against Bushian rule.
The Democrats, on the other hand, don’t want anybody challenging anyone: illegal aliens, out-of-precinct voters, the unregistered, the living and the dead. It’s the "don’t ask, don’t tell" doctrine: In their ideal world, anyone could walk into any polling station and cast a "provisional" vote: Come one, come all – and vote as often as you like!
The reason for this is rooted in the two parties’ traditional constituencies: the GOP, as the Party of the Patricians, seeks to suppress the vote of the Plebeians, while the Democrats take the opposite tack. That is rather crudely put – and certainly untrue as far as my own neighborhood of Latte Liberals is concerned – but nonetheless accurate in a very broad sense. Yet, this time around, there is another element: something very close to a majority clearly opposes George W. Bush’s foreign policy, as evidenced by polls showing roughly half of all Americans now believe the decision to go into Iraq was a mistake, and, more than that, they are up in arms about it. The mobilization of young voters – which was due to Michael Moore and MoveOn.org, as well as independent mobilizations run by various groups, including "Vote or Die" – was a big factor, especially in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other swing states.
It is said that fear was a major motivating factor in this election, but not in anticipation of another terrorist attack – it’s fear of Bush, a dread that is more than justified. This, I believe, accounts for the massive voter turnout in some areas. Anybody but Bush really means nobody wants another war.
If the president is reelected, it will be seen as a mandate for war – not only in Iraq, but Syria, Iran, Lebanon – even Saudi Arabia. All will be up for grabs. Bush unleashed is likely to fulfill our worst expectations, and then some. We would feel the effects almost immediately.
What is less understood, however, is that a President Kerry would mean a long-term defeat: it would, in the first place, defuse opposition to the war, as the red-blue factor trumps ideology and the more fervent Kerry-ites jump ship and join the growing ranks of the liberal hawks. The "mainstream" antiwar movement would pull its punches, eager to give Kerry a chance to right the wrongs committed by his predecessor. Support for the war, instead of narrowing, would be broadened.
Secondly, a Kerry presidency will give the War Party plenty of space to reconstitute itself. The claim will be made that, under Kerry, the U.S. faltered and failed to finish the job that the Republican war-hawks started. The neocons will be back, with a vengeance, in 2008 – and, long before that, they’ll be pressuring the White House from the sidelines and in the halls of Congress, demanding that he get tougher, and making it politically impossible for him to do anything but escalate the war.
For the millions of Americans who oppose our foreign policy of global aggression, this election was a throw of loaded dice. Whatever the outcome, we lose. The danger of war, repression, and the gathering threat of terrorism on American soil – all loom larger than ever before.
Isn’t capital-D Democracy wonderful?
One more prediction: The degree of bitterness that accompanies this election is not exactly unprecedented – Nixon was hated in much the same way as Bush II. As was Lyndon Baines Johnson. But this time around, the stakes appear to be much higher, and the atmosphere is potentially volatile. In the event of a Bush victory, I fear there will be a violent reaction from the disappointed ranks of the Anybody-But-Bush League. The loonitarian Left is aching to act out its anger on a national stage, and this election would certainly give them a golden opportunity to do so. Starbucks managers in blue state urban areas should start boarding up their plate-glass windows the minute Kerry’s prospects start going south. No, that’s not a threat, just an ugly reality that can only get uglier if four more years of rule by Bush and the neocons is what we have to look forward to.
Our Orwellian "democracy," much like our foreign policy, achieves the exact opposite of its ostensible intentions. Just as a "war on terrorism" with its "central front" in Iraq empowers bin Laden instead of defeating him, so our "democracy," instead of expressing the will of the majority, quite efficiently suppresses it. The political system, rather than giving voice to popular skepticism of foreign wars and endless interventions, is weighted entirely in favor of the War Party – which is a distinct minority, albeit a wealthy and well-organized one.
An increasingly visible and vocal antiwar movement, a youth movement smoldering with discontent, an unprecedented mobilization of millions of new voters – and an election that will be won or lost by a razor-thin margin. It’s an explosive combination.
Stay tuned for updates ….
It’s 9:30 or so, Pacific Standard Time, and it looks to me like – although the networks are afraid to call it – George W. Bush has the numbers and has narrowly managed to hold on to the presidency. For all the reasons given above, this is an unmitigated disaster for the antiwar movement – and the country.
Although sharp divisions in the country, especially over foreign policy, were underscored this election season, and this is light years away from a mandate for the president’s policies, there is no doubt that the War Party will claim a famous victory. Because Kerry managed to appropriate the antiwar narrative without taking a clear anti-interventionist position, the neocons will rush to interpret the election as a referendum on the war – and all the wars to come. And, believe me, there’s a lot more coming.
If we do, finally, give up the last vestiges of our constitutional form of representative government – in all but name – and take the path of Empire, it will be said by future historians that this, perhaps, was the moment, the turning point, the division between daylight and twilight. God save our old Republic. God save us all.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I have an op-ed piece on the election results in The Australian.