Monday, October 30, 2006

If Votes Don't Count, Is It Democracy?

With U.S. congressional mid-term elections a week away there are renewed concerns about the electoral chicanery that marked the 2000 and 2004 votes.

If you're in a tight race, try to prevent as many as possible of your opponent's supporters from being able to vote. If that sounds sleazy and vile, well it is.

The correct term for it is "voter suppression" and The New York Times calls it "silent disenfranchisement." Remember Kathleen Harris in Florida in 2000 and her role in keeping thousands of black voters away from the polls?

The British paper, The Independent, questions whether this will turn out to be America's "dirtiest election ever" and cited these examples:

"Uproar has surrounded a key race in San Diego, where a Vietnamese immigrant, Tan Nguyen, is trying to unseat the Democrat incumbent, who is Hispanic. He has resisted calls to pull out of the race after an investigation found his campaign had sent letters to thousands of Hispanic voters warning them not to vote on 7 November if they were not legally in the US, suggesting they could face deportation.

"In Pennsylvania, a Democrat House candidate has been running attack ads on the Republican incumbent questioning his "family values" after an ex-mistress accused him of choking her.

"Several Democrats, meanwhile, have found themselves victims of spots funded by an Indianapolis businessman, Patrick Rooney, who says they want to abort black babies. "If you make a little mistake with one of your 'hos, you'll want to dispose of that problem tout de suite, no questions asked," a voiceover on the advertisement declares.

"In New York another Democratic candidate for the House, Michael Arcuri, has been struggling to recover from ads suggesting that he used taxpayers' money to dial a phone sex line. It turns out that an aide did dial a sex service once by mistake.

The demonisation of the Democrats


An ad by the National Republican Campaign Committee accused House candidate Arcuri of using taxpayers' money to dial a sex line. "Hi, sexy," a comely actress declares. One of his aides indeed dialled a sex service from campaign headquarters, but only by mistake.


An African-American running for Senate, Mr Ford was the subject of an ad by the Republican National Committee revealing his attendance at a Super Bowl party sponsored by Playboy. It features an actress in skimpy clothing winking and urging Mr Ford to "call me".


Congressional candidate Dr Kagen was accused by the Republican Party of Wisconsin of having links to a serial killer and child rapist, a claim set out in an election mailshot. In fact, he was linked only to the man's lawyer, who had once done some legal work for him.


The incumbent Republican senator George Allen has published excerpts from Webb's novels which contain graphic scenes of prostitution and child abuse. The Allen campaign claims that the passages show a "continued pattern of demeaning women".


Republican TV ads alleged Kind "pays for sex" after he opposed an effort in Congress to end funding of sex surveys by the National Institutes of Health. The ad implies this meant Kind wanted "to pay teenage girls to watch pornographic movies with probes connected to their genitalia".

Is there a limit to this sort of thing, some point beyond which these lowlifes won't venture? If there is, it'll be one defined by voter backlash but I don't see that happening in the U.S. I hope we won't get to the point where our politicians get away with this garbage unpunished.

Remember when Kim Campbell paid the price for an ad mocking Jean Chretien's appearance? Let's just hope we stick with those values.

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