We are still three and a half weeks from the election of 2012 and it has already made its mark on history. However, the areas in which it has distinguished itself are not necessarily worthy of praise. There are three areas in particular that are prominent in this election; efforts towards voter suppression, the lack of accountability or limitation on fund raising, and the casualty of the truth. These three areas have had a major impact on the campaigns and potentially the outcome.
There has been no subtlety in the efforts of the Republican Party to pass laws within the state legislatures of 32 states to create new barriers to voting. The so-called voter fraud that supposedly prompted the passage of these laws has been shown to be a fraud itself. The courts have thankfully struck down a number of the more oppressive laws, but all too many still stand on the books. The target is clearly minority, elderly and youth voting. The effort is to suppress Democratic leaning voters. This was acknowledged in a statement made by the Speaker of the Pennsylvania State Legislature. In a country that sees itself as the shining light of freedom for the world, this is very troubling.
The Supreme Court ruled and Pandora’s Box opened. The Court ruled that PAC’s could be formed to support candidacies with no limit on fund raising or accountability as long as they did not communicate or coordinate with the individuals campaigns. This ruling brought fund raising and influence peddling to a whole new level. It has enabled a few very wealthy individuals to impact on the political process in ways heretofore thought to be unacceptable. It has potentially placed the entire Presidential Election Process in the hands of the highest bidder. It has brought to the forefront the corrupting influence of money on the electoral process. This is particularly troubling in a country that holds itself up as the shining light of freedom to the rest of the world.
A new industry as become prominent during the past several months. It is the Fact Checking industry. These are the people that will inform us when a speech made by a candidate is based on fact or is simply a lie. There has been so much for these folks to do that they have become a regular part of the commentary after a major speech or debate. Why is it that the candidates feel that they can lie without regard for any consequences? Is the truth merely relative to what facts you accept as real? Isn’t the truth something that is the same for everyone? The real question is, “why aren’t people more informed so that the telling of a lie would not be possible?” Remember, Jefferson said that a key prerequisite for democracy is an informed electorate. We must blame both the candidates and the electorate for the current situation. For a country that holds itself up as a beacon of democracy, we should be ashamed.
As citizens of the United States of American we have an obligation to set the standards for the selection of a President that make us proud. If we see this country as exceptional, than we need to make this process live up to the standards of that exceptionalism. If we want the world to follow our example, we had better be ready to set an example that represents what our democracy should be. The Republicans have worked very hard to corrupt the system to their benefit. If they succeed in electing their ticket, the system will remain corrupted. This is about more than electing a President. This is about moving our system away from the corrupting influence of money, the attempts at voter suppression, and a casual relationship with the truth, to once again be the shining light it has been in the past. Remember that when you cast your vote.