Nhe presidential election is over.
Now it’s time to start analyzing what went wrong–and plenty did go wrong.
Clearly John Kerry, the anointed candidate of the Democratic Leadership Council, was the wrong person to take on Bush. Having boxed himself into an untenable pro-war position during the primaries, having essentially endorsed the president’s war budget and tax cut mantra, he was unable to articulate a position significantly different from the president’s on the deepening quagmire in Iraq or the economy. And having set himself up for the inevitable attack by Vietnam-era revisionists by hyping his Vietnam war service at the DNC, he opened himself up to inevitable attacks on his patriotism and integrity.
But even given those congenital weaknesses, there was more at work here in the stunning Democratic loss, not just of the presidency, but of more seats in both House and Senate.
Consider that Pennsylvania and Ohio are virtually carbon copies of each other. Neighboring states with a similar history of deindustrialization and massive loss of blue-collar union jobs, they share the same demographic: large urban black populations, broad swaths of conservative white rural areas, a large ethnic Catholic population, and a significant evangelical population. Yet Pennsylvania went decisively for Kerry, and Ohio went to Bush.
What is different about these two states? In Pennsylvania, the state electoral apparatus–especially in the heavily Democratic areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh–is in the hands of Democrats, while in Ohio, the election machinery even in many urban centers, is dominated by Republicans. (Ohio Republicans also succeeded in placing an anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot.) In Pennsylvania, there was virtually no organized effort to disenfranchise Democratic voters. In Ohio, efforts to disenfranchise minority voters were rampant and blatant, from the attempt to bar voter registration forms that weren’t on cardstock, to the assigning of Republican registration challengers at every election site. People, particularly in low-income and minority areas, were unconscionably forced to stand in line, often outside in a cold rain, for hours to get to vote. No one knows how many such voters simply gave up and went home. All these efforts at vote suppression were deliberate. The same thing happened in Florida, New Mexico, and other key swing states–especially where Republicans were in charge.
The narrow Bush win–touted as a mandate by the White House, but clearly anything but, considering that this is an incumbent president seeking election in the midst of a war, who by historical precedent should have been a shoe-in–tells us that the public doesn’t trust this administration, but that the Bush strategy of hyping terror and terrorizing the public is working.
A key reason it’s working is that the corporate media-including the so-called alternatives, NPR and PBS, are playing along. Every new threat suggested by the Department of Homeland Security, every arrest of some Muslim charged with being a terrorist, is trumpeted by everything from Fox TV to the New York Times and Talk of the Nation, then forgotten.
Meanwhile, important news that might raise legitimate doubts about the real extent of the terrorist threat, or that would suggest that the administration has led the country down a wrong and dangerous road, is downplayed or simply buried. For example, few papers or broadcast networks even reported that the American military has been visiting a virtual holocaust on the Iraqi people, with some 100,000 civilians–mostly women and children– evidently killed at American hands since their “liberation.” Few papers note that it is highly unlikely that the many bombings and attacks on Iraqis and American forces attributed to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are actually the work of this Jordanian terrorist, or that he may actually not even be alive.
Most Americans, who get their news from the major television news programs or from their local papers, don’t even know that Secretary Of State Colin Powell has said that the U.S. is losing the war in Iraq, or that many to top US generals think the U.S. war in Iraq is unwinnable.
Most Americans don’t know that Republican efforts to minimize minority voting managed to keep several million minority voters from registering this year, as in 2000.
The number of such deceptions, distortions and cases of the purveying of blatant pro-government propaganda by what once proudly called itself the Fourth Estate, is so great that it is no wonder that half the voting public believes that the president is a competent, intelligent and honest leader, when the opposite is clearly the case.
If democratic government is to revive in America, the media will first have to be resuscitated. And the public will have to rebel against being spoon-fed the quasi-official line that is currently posing as news.
It’s not as though there is no alternative.
While it is routinely dismissed as “The Internet” of “internet gossip” by the official media, in fact the Web is now awash with highly reliable sources of alternative news and information, from webcasts of news reports from the likes of Pacific broadcasting to the web pages of foreign newspapers like the Independent or Guardian, or quality internet publications like Slate, Salon, In These Times or Mother Jones. For those who don’t have time to troll the web, there are also sites like AlterNet, Buzzflash or Truthout, that provide a daily index of alternative news reports.
So spread the word. The First step towards a revived political process is good information.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org