Friday, November 05, 2004

November spawned a monster

So which of these visions of democracy is real?

The one that Whiskey Tango gives us, the photos of actual people in an actual town, voting in unglamorous actual polling sites, eating and drinking after the polls have closed, waiting for the vote count to come in? I like that vision, and I like how mtnRoughneck's closing line echoes the end of Paul Simon's "American Song," which he himself quoted at the end of a previous post, a post about the uncertainty we all felt after we'd cast our votes and were then waiting for the results. I like mtnRoughneck and I love to read what he has to say in Whiskey Tango.

Plus, that vision gels with the vision of democracy I had on election night, at 7:01 pm, right as the polls were closing in (I'm still not kidding) the Friendship precinct of Oconee County, SC. I'm still, well, not exactly haunted because it is such a good memory, with such good feelings attached--but I'm still seeing images of those Friendship voters waiting gently in line, talking here and there, smoking, looking a little nervous about the new touchscreen voting machines. I still love that sight, and I'm crazy for how it makes me feel about America--not as an ideological place, but as a place made up of people wanting their voices heard. I doubt seriously that the Friendship voters shared my views or votes, but that's not the important part: the important part is people waiting in a fire station line exercise their American right and civic duty.

But then what of this vision of democracy? Thom Harmann points out what I really really haven't wanted to think about: there is no paper trail for this election, and while we are all comfortably accepting its legitimacy, we don't really have any reason to do so, except they told us so.

What else have they told us? That Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and that we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud? That George Bush was elected in 2000? That gays are the great boogeymen and women facing America right now? That Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks? That we would hunt down that criminal and kill him or bring him to justice? That John Kerry would bring down more terror attacks upon us? That we could afford this war? That we could afford these tax cuts?

I am only stopping writing the previous paragraph because I think that you, dear reader, get the point.

So back to Thom Hartmann's editorial. He writes,

The hot story in the Blogosphere is that the "erroneous" exit polls that showed Kerry carrying Florida and Ohio (among other states) weren't erroneous at all--it was the numbers produced by paperless voting machines that were wrong, and Kerry actually won. As more and more analysis is done of what may (or may not) be the most massive election fraud in the history of the world, however, it's critical that we keep the largest issue at the forefront at all time: Why are We The People allowing private, for-profit corporations, answerable only to their officers and boards of directors, and loyal only to agendas and politicians that will enhance their profitability, to handle our votes?

Maybe Florida went for Kerry, maybe for Bush. Over time - and through the efforts of some very motivated investigative reporters - we may well find out (Bev Harris of just filed what may be the largest Freedom of Information Act [FOIA} filing in history), and bloggers and investigative reporters are discovering an odd discrepancy in exit polls being largely accurate in paper-ballot states and oddly inaccurate in touch-screen electronic voting states Even raw voter analyses are showing extreme oddities in touch-screen-run Florida, and eagle-eyed bloggers are finding that news organizations are retroactively altering their exit polls to coincide with what the machines ultimately said.

So which one is it--the legitimate election where the people have spoken, even if I didn't always want to hear what they had to say? or the election ultimately spun to seem real, even to those of us who claim to reside in the reality-based community?

Or am I forced to admit that maybe Jean Baudrillard was right, and I can only ask, which one was "real"?

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