November 3, 2008
In the end, the decision couldn't be clearer. This is more than just a choice between parties, or ideologies, or policy positions. It's a choice between philosophies and worldviews. It's a choice grounded in moral psychology. We will choose between different portions of our own brains, between our baser instincts and what used to be called "the angels of our better nature."
In the end, this election is a referendum on trusting the electorate. It's a referendum on democracy itself.
One candidate represents collaboration, optimism... and yes, "change." The other represents fear and greed, and his campaign reflects the lower-order impulses that have guided his party and given it success. They've triggered fear in us so effectively for so long that they can't believe it's not working this time. They're still frantically sending memo after memo to our lizard brains: Khalidi, Ayers, redistribution... be afraid! And the more this old strategem fails, the harder they try.
Now they're trying to make us afraid of ourselves. That's what the ACORN con is all about. That's why McCain called it "one of the greatest frauds in voter history" and suggested that its "destroying the fabric of democracy." Sure, it's a calculated diversion, an attempt to delegitimize any Democratic victory and encourage resistance. But it also reflects a fundamental belief, one held deep in the heart of the powerful elite McCain represents:
Be afraid of the voters... voters are unpredictable... voters might do anything. We can't let that happen.
You probably remember Rumsfeld's line: "Democracy is messy." But you may not remember when he said it. It was in response to widespread looting of banks, offices, and museums. That says a lot. To this crowd, "democracy" is a violent mob. Representative government is an unpleasant necessity, not a value or an ideal. The rest of us think "war is too important to be left to the generals." They think self-government is too important to be left to the voters.
To some extent this is nothing more than greed and lust for power, the misuse of conservatism as a cover for naked self-interest. But it also reflects a difference in political philosophy that goes back to Locke and Hobbes. Their equation of democracy with mob rule, so clearly mirrored in Rumsfeld's comment, helps explain why they feel morally entitled to lie, cheat, and steal votes. To them, voters aren't reflections of a democratic ideal. They're suspects, threats, enemies. They're the Iraqi mob looting the Museum of Antiquities.
That's why they've condemned Obama's donors, too -- all 30 million of them. Somebody might have used a phony credit card! Never mind the lobbyists that crowd McCain/Palin's campaign staff, or McCain's apparent violation of his own "reform" laws during the primary. Lobbyists and big-money contributors are "us." But grassroots donors are the unruly mob the candidate will have to please if he's elected. That makes them 30 million "cronies," to go along with that list of 100 million suspects.
Voters are guilty until proven innocent. That's why they hate voter-registration organizations like ACORN. To them, minorities are nothing more than an especially untrustworthy subset of an unsavory crowd. The lines at the polls might as well be a perp walk.
The only thing that makes a citizen more of a threat than voting is "voting while black." That's why they can sleep at night after creating long waiting lines at "separate but equal" polling places in states like Ohio, despite the fact that what they're doing is no different from what was done under Jim Crow segregation. That's why they can live with themselves after creating photo ID requirements in Florida that disproportionately exclude minority voters (who are less likely to drive and therefore to have a driver's license.)
It's also why we fight. Don't let up. Vote. Help others vote. Bring camcorders, cell phones, and cameras to your polling place for some election "sousveillance" (surveillance from below.) Document the intrusions. You can sign up here to help track problems, or you can participate in the Election Protection Wiki described here. And work hard over the next few days to get out the vote.
Democracy isn't a subversive activity. It's our way of life, our highest ideal. They will try to overrule the will of the people on Nov. 4. Don't let them.
Democracy. It's the "real America."
RJ Eskow blogs when he can at: