Monday, October 18, 2004

We Don't Live in a Democracy, Folks

I find it slightly amusing but mostly disturbing how so many Democrats and John Kerry supporters--including Michael Moore and MoveOn, both of whom I usually like--are acting as if the Presidential election in 2000 was the first election that was riddled with fraud and abnormalities. Every election in the US is flawed and unrepresentative of most of the people that live in this so-called 'democratic' country, for several key reasons:

1) Most eligible voters don't vote, not because they don't know how to register or they are intimidated by the process, but because they don't think it will make a difference in their everyday lives. In the 2000 Presidential election, only 51% of the voting-age population actually voted, just slightly over half of all citizens 18 years old and older in this country. And Presidential elections usually have much higher turnout that other elections.

2 Many eligible voters don't even register because they have never been informed of what the voting process is, or don't receive materials in their native language, or are confused by the process, or some other logical, logistical reason. I met a single mother once when I was doorknocking against Proposition 209 that said she never voted because she didn't have time to go down to the polls on election day. She'd never been told she could register as an absentee voter and vote from the comfort of her own home.

3) Millions of people living in the US don't have the right to vote because they are:
-in prison
-legal residents but not citizens
-undocumented immigrants

How can we call ourselves a true 'democracy' when our representatives in Congress, in our state legislatures, and in the Oval Office are voted in by a relatively small percentage of the population? And let's not even get into the vast sums of money one needs in order to be a viable candidate for public office--which has a lot to do with our increasingly privatized airwaves and a lack of a real public media. I'd rather call the U.S. a 'democracy-in-progress', 'cuz we definitely don't have this voting thing down.

It's clear that the racist and classist voting rights violations in Florida in 2000--and the subsequent inaction on the part of most Democrats to right these wrongs--gave us our current "President", and therefore the Wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, a would-be constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and a huge threat to a woman's right to choose abortion. But if we do everything we can to make sure that every vote counts in this election, I think we have a good chance to move this country just a little closer to being a real democracy, and to give regular folks some hope in our political process.

If you can, do more than vote or give money to John Kerry (I'm not even talking to you if you're giving money to Bush!). There are so many stories of voter intimidation, disenfranchisement of ex-felons and prisoners, and outright sloppy bureaucracy that it's a wonder any elections are valid in this country. If you can volunteer some time with or give money to groups like Election Protection or Count Every Vote 2004, please do so.

Making a democracy real and functioning is hard work and we all have to be part of making it happen.


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