We've finally reached election week for 2016. It seems like this campaigning has been going on forever. I make no apology for being a progressive liberal in my political leanings, quite the opposite of my upbringing...but always hearing the echoes of lessons taught by my somewhat rigid, though fair and objective father. Likewise, I'm not exactly naive when it comes to politics. Long ago, I managed two state level political campaigns and as a retired journalist, I've observed election practices both in and outside the U.S. This year is my fiftieth year of voting eligibility (21 was the required voting age when I began voting) and I've not missed an election in that time. I'm not a newbie. My memory circuits still function quite well and this has to the be strangest election cycle I've seen in my lifetime. While certainly just my "opinion," not fact...I've been reflecting on the events of today and of past elections and thought I would share some of them with readers.
Without a doubt, Internet access, social media, mainstream media and the independent media have a significant impact....this election cycle more than I have observed before. When I say "impact," I'm not attempting to attach a positive nor negative label, but merely noting it is influence. People are influenced by what they read and hear, usually without actually validating the source of the material. Even vote counting on election day can influence those yet to cast a vote, as noted since running results cannot be published until after the polls close.
There are many important issues at stake, this election, as always. State and local issues, as well as candidates at a state and federal level. Here we sit, preparing to vote....facing two presidential candidates, both of whom are probably the most disliked candidates the nation could have. How in the world did we get here? My only conclusion is that they were selected for us by powers greater than the voice of the people. And, once again we are going to vote for members of Congress. A Congress which has a current approval rating of barely 20% of Americans. That rating has been even worse in recent cycles, yet we keep reelecting these individuals, or they would not be spending twenty to thirty years in the same office. What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Have we just become mindless partisan lemmings ready to follow them off the cliff? It seems so.
I look at the two presidential candidates and wonder. I watch their commercials, I read the emotionally charged attacks and endorsements for both. We have one candidate currently facing court charges for running a scam university fraud and sex charges against a minor...not to mention countless other sexually deviant accusations. I look at the other candidate who has had a lifelong history of questionable ethical behavior. And, I'm supposed to be consoled by the fact that neither has been convicted of anything....yet. We sit here in a nation which most of us realize has been taken over by corporations...power, money and influence...those interests ahead of the interests of the people. Yet, one candidate is a corporation, while the other one is owned by corporations. Any candidate who attempts to represent the people is quickly dispatched to obscurity.
I observe conscientious voters who see their vote as representing their beliefs being attacked for finding themselves unable to vote, in good conscience, for either candidate. Demands are made that they vote for the "lesser of the two evils," lest they are otherwise voting for the "most evil." What??
Next, we have the charges of "rigged elections," and "voter fraud." These allegations are made as though they are something brand new and just this election cycle. Wow! Does anyone realize that "rigged elections" began in the 1700's with a process called, "Gerrymandering?" Partisan remapping of voting districts within a state, based on demographics which gives one party or the other unfair advantage in an election. Why have we just started complaining? Voter fraud? We've been fine with it since 2000 when we began using electronic voting machines which are so vulnerable that a kid can hack them. The technology used in them is disgusting, yet nothing has been done to correct the problem. We're still using them and adding even more questionable machines to the system.
No matter which side of the aisle you're on, it seems everyone wants "change." "Change" seems to include endorsements by groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Nation. Change seems to include churches, preaching politics from the pulpit and influencing their voters....in a nation where we are supposed to have division of church and state...the very reason these religious organizations avoid paying taxes like the rest of us. The other side wants change in the reform for issues such as education, employment, infrastructure and social programs. Sounds good to me, but what do we really get? Let's look at the past eight years.
We were promised that Guantanamo Bay would be closed. It's still open. We were promised an end to the war in Iraq...the longest war in U.S. history. We are still there...more U.S. troops and money going in...and we've now added another four or five "war fronts" to the package. There is no profit in peace.....and so long as we are controlled by corporations and a military industrial complex demanding more and more profits, we will continue with a growing defense budget...now greater than the seven biggest budget nations below us. And we're still told that our "defense department is weak." Compared to what?
I look at some of the events going on in this country right now. We have American soldiers attacking American citizens in North Dakota...literally a "war." Why? Because this country refuses to honor a treaty they signed with these people and now, these people are interfering with the profits of a corporation. I'm watching legitimate journalists being arrested and their cameras seized as "evidence" when they attempt to tell the truth....in a nation which claims to have "freedom of the press."
Frustration with lack of transparency by this government and in this country has given rise to "whistleblowers" and "leaks," more often that not from within our own agencies. People, many of whom have put ethics above the safety of their jobs and families...and certainly no way to profit financially. Is every "leak" legitimate? Probably not. Neither is it automatically false. We go so far as to try to blame anyone we can for leaks....including the Russians. Even claiming the Russians are trying to influence our election. Really? And we've never attempted to influence a Russian election, nor the elections in any other nation? Nor attempted to destabilize a government we did not like? Think C.I.A. if you're having a problem with that one. If in fact, it is the Russians.....give us the proof. I haven't seen any proof of anything, regarding anyone....so for me, the jury is still out.
There are so many issues today in this country I could address...there is not a column long enough to discuss them all. Private prisons demanding more "product" to fill their cells...in a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. No useful national healthcare scheme in a nation with the highest medical costs in the world, yet killing more than 200,000 Americans every year from "medical errors and misdiagnosis." I watch higher education being placed further and further out of reach of the average American...and reserved for the elite. Forty years ago, I was able to attend university in California for a total of $90.00 tuition per semester....since the state had the insight to "invest in education for the people." A far cry from today. We paid it back through higher taxes paid from higher wages....it was a long term investment.
I've watched our mainstream media be taken over by some six corporations. There is no independence in media anymore, yet we blame the media rather than the cause. Truth and transparency have been silenced. Government classifies everything....we have no need to know. And when someone does speak up, they are silenced, either by discrediting the individual or source....or with criminal charges.
We're on a long and strange road in this country. We are being divided and directed to fight each other rather than fight the source of the problem. We are entertained with celebrity stories and fluff to cover legitimate concerns. It's a propaganda war. I think back to my younger days....in the 1950's and 1960's....and all the stories we were told about the tactics of the old Soviet Union and how we must fight this kind of enemy of freedom and the people. We were told about their massive military build up and their desire for confrontation and influence in the international community. We were told that the only information the Russian people received...or the rest of the world...was propaganda.
And you know what? Today, we are them. I recall the Soviet government saying they would not have to attack the U.S., as we would crumble from within. I'm beginning to realize they understood us well.
Anyway, this is just my view...and that doesn't make it fact, but it's the way this many years of life has shown me we are heading. Can we pull back from the brink? Yes, I believe we can, but it won't be through the election of either presidential candidate we have today. It will happen when we the people decide to drop the partisan fighting and realize that we are all in this together and we aren't the enemy.
© 2016 Stan G. Kain