Sifting through the Ashes, Part 33 – Election Reflections.

Greetings and Salutations…

Now that the smoke is clearing a bit, and the dust settling from the 2020 Presidential Election, I decided to take a look at the event, and explore some of the problems and successes of the event. I saw events which horrified me, and made me question, again, if America as a democracy would survive. I saw events which helped me believe that the structure of the electoral process is flexible enough and strong enough to withstand even some mighty forces against it.

This election was (I hope) unique in the ongoing story of America. It was, in my view, not so much a contest between political beliefs – Conservative vs. Liberal – but, in a real sense a struggle between Good and Evil for the soul of the country. I have written another essay, looking at this in more detail, if one is interested in delving a bit deeper into this subject. At this point in time, though, it looks as if Good has taken the field. The results of the election were a clear victory for Joe Biden, in both the Electoral College, and the popular vote. #3 has spent every day since then filing lawsuits, attempting to get the election overturned, either by lower courts, or, by a case making it to the SCOTUS. This latter course is no surprise to a majority of Americans, though, as, in the past few years, while packing the Supreme Court with Justices that were of questionable qualifications for the seat, #3 made it clear he was doing this to ensure that the SCOTUS would give the presidency to him. However, as of today, only one of the 25+ suits filed has been a victory..and even that one was hardly significant. Every other suit has been nothing but a collection of lies, unsubstantiated rumors, and speculation…all without evidence to back them up. The end result is that Judges in lower courts (both Republican and Democratic) have dismissed the actions as being without merit. This makes it very very unlikely that the SCOTUS will be involved in the Electoral decisions, as they were in the Gore V. Bush case.

Another very positive aspect of this election was that the voter turnout was higher than it has been in 120 years or so. In spite of the Pandemic, threats of violence by the Right-Wing, and generally unsuccessful attempts to limit access to voting by mail, over 160 million citizens cast a vote in this election. I vaguely recall that this works out to about 66% of the eligible voters. That may suck in comparison to other countries, but, as noted it is in the top three or four elections America has held, at least as regards turnout.

A striking image of this election was the contrast between #3 and Joe Biden in the couple of “debates” held on National TV. In both of them, #3 acted more like a petulant child and Biden was very adult. Biden addressed the topics at hand, and generally remained calm throughout #3 kept interrupting him, talking over him, and even arguing with the moderator. He also lied so many times that it took the fact checking sites some time to get all them analyzed and posted. This was in striking contrast to Biden, who, while not without some sketchy statements, did not out and out lie. His dings from the fact checkers were almost entirely issues with the accuracy of numbers, and attributions of statements.

Perhaps, though, the most disturbing aspect of this election was the burst of extreme polarization, and the level of hate for the other side, fueled by the inflammatory statements over the past four years by #3 and, the bat-shit crazy spewings of QAnon. For much of #3’s administration, he has spent more time campaigning for re-election than actually governing. He has embraced the Nazi concept of “The Big Lie” – repeat a lie enough times and it becomes the truth. #3’s lie is that the only way he could lose the coming election was if there was massive voter fraud. This, by the way, is a delusional statement he is still clinging to, today. QAnon, which grew by leaps and bounds during the #3 administration has been claiming that the Democrats are pure Evil. That they drink the blood of babies to rejuvenate themselves, and are in control of a world wide, pedophile ring that swaps millions of children around. And that is just one of their more rational theories! And yet, a painfully large number of Americans take these spews as the Gospel Truth!

Leading up to the election day, there were threats of violence – to the extent that a number of Republicans and Cultists were calling for Democrats to be murdered. There were recorded incidents of the Right-Wing threatening voters who might have voted for Biden and other Democratic candidates. Several Red States took huge, blatant steps to disenfranchise as many voters as is possible. Texas, for example, knowing that the Democrats were far more likely to vote via mail than in person, installed ONE collection box in each county, even through in times past the number of boxes had been based on the population, leading to some counties having a dozen or more collection points. The Post Master General, Louis DeJoy, appointed by #3 because of the size of his contributions and his willingness to do what he was told without question, took actions to remove and destroy hundreds of high-speed sorting machines from large counties around the country. The Social Media platforms, such as Facebook, dropped the ball by allowing conspiracy theory pages and hate group pages unfettered access to the platform for far too long. This allowed them to spread wild lies, and hate speech for too long indeed. All of these actions inflamed the emotions of the fanatical Cultists, the hangers-on, and the like to come out in droves to vote for #3.

Fortunately, the number of Americans who looked at what has been going on, was rather larger than these others, and they came out to defeat #3 successfully.

Now, though, after the votes are mostly counted, and it is clear that Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the United States, we still have a divide in the country. I recently heard that 75% of the Republicans firmly believe that this election was some how “stolen” by the Democrats. This, in spite of election officials all over the country – both Republican and Democratic, telling them that there was no significant voter fraud and that this was one of the most secure elections held in modern times. The Right Wing is so brain-washed that they refuse to believe anything except what #3 says…a classic symptom of cult behavior.

All that having been said…I want to answer the question “What would I do to fix some of these problems?”

  1. I would legislate the Fairness Doctrine into law. Before Reagan killed it, the rule was simply an FCC Guideline. Of course at the time, the FCC actually had some teeth, so this guideline was treated like Gospel and followed. These are different times, though, and so the change is necessary.
  2. I would wipe all “Citizen’s United” laws from the books. This legislation, pushed through by big business and oligarchs, has done more damage to the American political system than one would have imagined. It has opened the door to an unchecked flood of campaign contributions that approach bribes in their influence on elected politicians.
  3. We must restructure the rules under which PACs operate. For example, right now, it is very easy for a PAC to collect money from anonymous sources for a candidate. This is fraught with danger, as it opens the door not only to the ultra-rich in America gaining undue influence over the structure and makeup of the government, but, also allows foreign powers to pump laundered money into the Candidate’s pocket. Part of this issue would be dealt with if Citizens United were swept from the books.
  4. The IRS should focus more on the churches. It is my opinion that ANY church which pushes a specific candidate, or actually campaigns for them is no longer a church, but rather a PAC, and so should be dealt with under those laws and regulations. Christ calls the Church to be In the world, but not OF the world. Being an active voice in trying to put a ruler in place is very much “Of the world”.
  5. The issue of Gerrymandering is a serious problem in both state and National elections. We must take action to ensure that we get back to the model of the voters selecting their candidate, instead of today’s reality of the candidate selecting their voters. There are a number of articles out there explaining how all that works, so I shall not repeat it here. However, there are many excellent computer mapping programs that can redraw the districts in a more even-handed way. The end result of this would be a far more responsive government, as the Representatives would know that they did not have a guaranteed seat for as long as they wanted, but actually had to please a majority of the people to keep it.
  6. ANY candidate for high office should be required to release full, unredacted copies of their income taxes from the current year, going back 20 years. If this is not forthcoming, they should be removed from running.
  7. The length of the campaigns should be cut down a LOT. #3 started campaigning for the 2020 election the day after he took the Oath of Office, in 2017. I would like to see it be no longer than 120 days before the election. If a candidate cannot lay out their positions in that time, in a clear fashion that demonstrates they are the best for the office, then, more than likely they are blowing smoke up one’s skirt, and attempting a scam.
  8. The issue of debates should be addressed too. The Second Presidential debate was rather less of a train wreck, because the committee that runs them decreed that the candidate’s microphones would be muted at times, to allow the other candidate to speak without interruption. I am sorry to say that upon watching the debate, I rather thought the mute was not used often enough. There were TOO many times when #3 would interrupt Biden, or talk over him, or make interjections about what he was saying that made it a challenge to hear and understand the point being addressed. Of course, if we had two adults, with training in college debating style up there, this would have been less of a problem. Biden, for example, never interrupted #3, and when he wanted to respond he did it through the moderator. There were a couple of moments when Biden exclaimed at a point where #3 was lying his head off, but, in general, they were rare indeed.
  9. I would like to see the candidates evaluated for both mental and physical health by an independent team of doctors, pulled from the top hospitals in America. The Results of these examinations should become part of the public record. Should a person be excluded from running for extreme mental or physical health reasons? I am not entirely comfortable with that, although, after the past four years, I could certainly see the validity of the argument.
  10. We must get back to a place where the standard of discourse is truth. This administration has run on lies, and too many of them have been swallowed by the public. I do touch on this issue, and some other important things in this essay The fact that #3 has spoken over 22,000 lies over the past four years has shaken the trust that is vital for a government to function. If we are to survive as a nation, we must get back to a truth-based government. I know that there will still be lies, ranging from “Pants on fire” to moderate spin, but, the constant barrage of contradictory lies has got to go away and never return.
  11. I believe that for Presidential elections (at least), paper ballots and voting by mail should be a preferred option. The results of the 2020 Presidential election demonstrated the value of both of these changes. Mail in voting, even in non-pandemic days, would certainly increase voter participation..and for a Democracy of ANY stripe to work properly more, rather than fewer, people should have access to easy methods of casting a vote.

There are so many twisted aspects to the current administration that I am sure that there will be a library shelf, if not entire book case, filled with analysis of the successes and failures, and, the damage these did to America as a society and as a country.

God Help Us All Wear the mask…and be safe.

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