Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Democracy in Action

The entire farce is making me thoroughly gloomy this time 'round. Neither set of candidates will be any good even by the standards of elected officials.

It doesn't help that even those Americans who share most of my values still think this is a great system and that democracy will get us out of the hole we're in. Here I'm referring to the current financial situation as well as to the slow encroachment of civil liberties, which is far more advanced in Europe than here, but I believe it is only a matter of time before we catch up. For the past several decades, the entire Western world has been governed by elected officials, and our freedoms and our money has been steadily chipped away at. Politicians buy votes by promising that they will give special privileges to those who vote for them, or steal money from the productive and give it to the shiftless. That is how democracy works. "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." George Bernard Shaw said that. Ironic, considering that he himself advocated a system which robbed Peter to pay Paul.

But otherwise sane Americans close their eyes to all this and insist that by voting for good people, we can get all of the current disasters fixed. Never mind that democracy is how we got into this fix in the first place. Aside from the fact that even the handful of "good people" we've had in office in the last couple of decades have been, to say the least, very severely flawed, the policies proposed by both candidates will only make the situation worse. At least usually my party gives us someone who says he'll roll back all the entitlements and pork. The realistic know perfectly well that he can't even if he tries, but we like hearing it. But this time 'round, we're offering candidates who aren't even making the right promises.

It's becoming increasingly amazing to me that my fellow conservatives still believe that the decay of Western civilization, found throughout what was once christendom, can be reversed with a vote. I keep pointing out to them that there is only one partial case where it was at all. During the Reagan-Thatcher era, some of the creeping socialism was beaten back, though they didn't manage to do anything about abortion-on-demand or no-fault divorce or unrestrained immigration. And what's happened since? All their reforms have been reversed and the tide of socialist economics and speech policing and racial preference and excessive immigration has become a tsunami, and in addition we have a new menace: radical Islam, including sharia in the secular courts.

I keep having vague fantasies about moving somewhere else, but where? At least left-wing Americans can threaten to move to Canada if an election doesn't go their way or if laws they don't like get passed - though they never do seem to actually move there. They stay right here, whining about how terrible it is while they sip their lattés. Where do conservative Americans move to? Or conservative Europeans, for that matter? There is nowhere for us.

Of course, as a Jew, I could move to Israel, and the day when I do so might yet come. The way things are going, pretty soon my chances of getting blown up in a pizzeria will be about equal here as there.

Today I went to the "early voting" centers, which a lot of states have these days to ease the crush around the polls on election day. For blocks around people were having to park illegally, and the lines! I read that on Monday, some people were in line for as long as eight hours. Allegedly this is because of computer troubles that slowed things down and the lines are moving more briskly now, but they're still incredibly long. I have to wonder how many people are looking at this and wondering if adding their vote to the more than 100 million others is really worth it.

I resolved that in the future I'll avoid this with an absentee ballot, and then this very morning GoV links this:

10,000 absentee ballots in Gwinnett are flawed

The original ballots, designed to be filled out by hand, are flawed because of a printing error. The circle beside the candidate’s name is too thick and somewhat misshapen, and consequently an optical scanning machine won’t be able to read the votes on Election Day.

The county discovered the problem last week during routine testing.

Gwinnett had already mailed out 19,700 flawed ballots before it realized the problem.

Of those, 10,000 have already been marked and sent back by voters, said Lynn Ledford director of Voter Registration and Elections for Gwinnett County.

The printing mistake was not apparent to the naked eye, Ledford said.

The elections office will now have to transfer the votes from those 10,000 ballots onto new ballots so an optical scanning machine can read them, Ledford said. If more of the flawed ballots come back, that number will increase.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said correcting the errors could be complicated.

“[Election workers] are going to have to take the bad ballots, take a look at what each choice is, and mark that choice for the second ballot,” Sorenson said. “There will be two sets of eyes on each ballot.”

From 200 to 300 election workers will be dedicated to this process, he said.

Guess what county I live in?

And how trustworthy are these "200 to 300 election workers" going to be?

Then I wielded my political power as the citizen of a democracy in another way, by taking the advice of GoV and writing a letter to the Belgian Embassy about the Bart Debie case. I am not going to summarize the case; the two links I posted do so admirably, and you need to read them. I sent an email. Hopefully a lot of people will email, write, and call, and maybe this outrageous sentence will at least be commuted. Nonetheless, it felt inadequate. How much good did it really do?

This appalling miscarriage of justice would not have been possible even a couple of decades ago. Maybe not even one decade ago. Thanks to the internet, I routinely come across left-leaning Europeans, some of them fairly sane people, who say all sorts of condescending things about how those benighted Americans are backward enough to think that laws against "racist speech" interfere with our freedom of speech. Can you imagine, we actually believe that being told what we may and may not say is being told what we may and may not say! And we are skeptical that those who would deprive us of our right to say things that someone, somewhere might interpret as racist would not then choose to deprive us of more of our free speech. We can give them an inch without them taking a mile, honestly! But it is these allegedly well-meaning laws against "hate speech" that have made this atrocity possible.

Notice that this former policeman who was convicted of making racial remarks which another man confessed to making when Mr. Debie was not even present has been denied the right to vote. How long before other such excuses are used to deprive dissenters from exercising our only hope of salvation under the democratic system, the vote?

Even if elected government worked, which it doesn't, the days when Westerners can rely on their vote being counted among the millions of others are numbered.

1 comment:

Aaron Davies said...

I recently moved to Singapore. It was less out of politics (though that played a small part) and more out of boredom and simple economic interest, but a serious culture-con would probably like it even more than I do (which is a fair bit)--I lean more Objectivist/Libertarian, and view stringent morals laws as a burden to put up with to get a low-crime, mostly laissez-faire society; I expect you'd find them a feature.