Millions of Americans go to the polls today, participating in the grand charade that passes as our debased version of democracy. Millions of other Americans won’t go. They’re too lazy, or they’ve convinced themselves that their vote doesn’t matter.
This time, perhaps more than in any other election in my lifetime, everyone’s vote matters.
For nearly a decade, the United States has become a nation in thrall to the narcissistic image of itself as a republic built on “family values,” or, “traditional values.” The Republican party, whose cloak of moral superiority has been stripped away repeatedly to reveal comically human perverts and criminals masquerading as brave leaders, has for years sold itself as the political party most “in tune” with the needs and morals of regular folks. Slowly and undeniably, this assertion has been disproved countless times — unless your idea of “family values” means depleting the treasury, shipping off young men and women to the Middle East to perish for no discernible reason, and engaging in the kind of skullduggery that would look convincing in a Dickens novel. It’s time we stop kidding ourselves.
In California, where I live, more money than ever before has been spent on advertisements supporting or opposing various referendums, known as “Propositions.” The quantity and quality of misinformation hurled at the electorate this autumn has been both astonishing and stunning. Most voters here are nearly catatonic from a constant bombardment of special-interest-group-funded TV and radio ads “explaining” why various Propositions will make our state better or worse, richer or poorer, greener or dirtier. Oil companies trot out concerned firefighters to lecture on gas prices; nurses trot out educators to lecture on our children; educators trot out policemen to lecture on oil companies. Billions — not millions, billions — have been spent by companies like Chevron to urge voters not to rein in their profits with a new tax. And polls show that the citizenry, who can’t be bothered to actually read any of the proposed legislation, is wildly confused about who stands for what, and how each Proposition will really affect their future.
This kind of doublespeak, in which meaning is utterly subsumed, has done the trick for Bush & Company for some time now. One hopes that this Election Day will mark a return to common sense — if not sanity — for our befuddled country.