A DAY AT THE RACES

6 11 2008

I spent election day as a paid poll worker, showing people how to use touch-screen voting machines.  I found this extremely ironic, but played by the rules and kept my amusement and skepticism to myself.  I was working in a mostly-black precinct in a mostly-Democratic county in a mostly-racist (excuse me, I mean Republican) state.  There was no reason for anybody to mess with the machines or the voters where I was, and everything went smoothly.  No votes were flipped, only two people were turned away for not having enough ID, and only one person was asked to cast a provisional ballot, out of 156 votes cast that day.  We all thought it would be much busier, but once we studied the voting rolls and discovered that about three-quarters of the eligible voters had voted early, we realized our hardest job of the day would be staying awake and alert.  Election day was strictly a mop-up operation.

The lack of voting “problems,” i.e. hacked voting machines, and the paucity of complaints about disenfranchisement seems to have been a nationwide phenomenon.  Obama won in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.  The first two states were the most recent sites for election night robberies, and Virginia was widely considered to be this election’s equivalent.  My sense is that Repugs could see the writing on the wall and so didn’t try to flip votes, since the likely consequence of trying to cheat in an election you lose is investigation and punishment.

Here in Tennessee, the Green Party’s results were encouraging.  Chris Lugo tripled the number of votes he drew in his 2006 Senate run, going from about 3,000 to over 9,000, while first-time candidate John Miglietta fell about 500 votes shy of Ginny Welsch’s 3600-vote pinprick in the leg of the mighty Jim Cooper.   Oh well, Ginny spent a lot more money.  Are people hypnotized by brand names or what?  My precinct polled 2-1 for Obama, but gave Cooper a landslide and split evenly between Republifascist Lamar Alexander and Obama Democrat Bob Tuke–sorry, Chris, you only got 3 votes out of the 155 cast yesterday up where I live.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that people can think voting for Obama is voting for “change we can believe in” and not see that supporting Cooper and especially Alexander is shooting that change in the foot, if not the kneecap.  Well, you know what I think about the likelihood of serious change under Obama’s leadership.  As I quipped to a friend of mine, all those “Change” signs will take only a few modifications to be perfect for panhandling–like, “Change I can believe in–but bills would be better,” or something like that.  Mr. Obama faces a challenge at least as serious as the one faced by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, perhaps more serious because, at that time, we still had domestic oil production, a manufacturing infrastructure, a population accustomed to and capable of hard physical labor, and medical costs were not out of hand.  That’s just the top of the list.

Speaking of the top of the list, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney got almost 2500 votes in Tennessee, which shows the value of getting on the ballot–in 2004, GP candidate David Cobb was a write in and only 33 people wrote him in.  (Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin each got one write-in vote in the precinct I worked.)  Ralph Nader, who is thought of as a Green by most people who aren’t in the Party, increased his vote in the state from just shy of 9,000 four years ago to just shy of 12,000 this time.  If there’s a mathematical continuity of increase for Chris and Ralph, Chris can expect to be elected to the Senate in 10 years, but Ralph Nader will be 138 before he carries Tennessee, even without factoring in the dip from the 20,000 votes he garnered as the Green Party’s nominee in 2000.  I hope he lives that long.   Gotta love ‘im when he says:

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

In a post-election interview, Nader was bold enough to say that Obama could be a great President or “an Uncle Tom” for the powers that be, which caused the interviewer to launch a totally misguided attack on him.  Hey, Rahm Emmanuel is going to be White House Chief of Staff–what part of “Uncle Tom” don’t you understand?  Nationwide, Nader got about 539,000 votes, and Cynthia McKinney got about 119,000.  Too bad we couldn’t have figured out a fusion ticket.

I went to an election-night party at Green Party candidate John Miglietta’s; the room was full of people with Obama t-shirts, social activist-types who supported Miglietta over Cooper but viewed Obama as “one of us” and who felt that his election was an affirmation of their values, permission for them to press ahead with their programs and agendas, conveniently ignoring the facts of Obama’s career that Nader so eloquently set forth.  I think that’s the good news about Obama’s election.  Whether he supports them or not, the activists are going to cut loose, and that is going to shake things up for the better in this country, but  I suspect there will be a lot fewer “Obama” shirts at our next election party.

The bad news will come as it sinks in that America has been financially castrated by not just the eight years of the Bush junta’s’s ripoff reign, but by the seeds sown in the supposedly Democratic Clinton years:  the deindustrialization caused by NAFTA and the WTO, the investment bubble blown due to the Democrats’ collusion in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the military buildup that is silently sucking America dry.  I think my activist friends are going to bump up against the reality that there is no money for social programs, because the rich got to the trough first and emptied it.   Whatever the rest of us do, we will have to figure it out on our own and among ourselves.  Me, I’m glad I always liked gardening.  It’s probably going to figure large in my future.

In the shorter term, once-and (likely) future candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo have announced that they are starting a Green Party PAC with their leftover campaign contributions.  The PAC will enable them to keep raising funds even though the election is over.  This will provide seed money for the next round of Green Party candidates here in Tennessee.  I hope they are many.  Whatever Obama turns out to be, we are going to need a lot more sane, grounded people in politics.

music:  Brother Martin, “Green Party Figure”


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