Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The thin veneer of democracy

By Rick Manning

America’s democratic republic depends upon the basic belief by the governed that those who represent them were elected through fair and honest elections.

While the losing side in an election contest can be disappointed, if they know that they lost “fair and square” then that disappointment is tempered by thoughts of what they could have done better, or how they might work harder in the next go-around.

However, if the voter and opposition party believe that the outcome is as straight as San Francisco’s Lombard Street, the very heart of democracy is ripped out.

Voter fraud is as old as the very act of voting has existed, and history is replete with examples of dubious election outcomes ranging from Kennedy’s victory over Nixon in 1960 to the Bloody 8th Congressional District in Indiana in 1984, where Republican Rick McIntyre won a recount by 484 votes only to have the results overturned by the Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, to the Washington state governors race in 2004, when Christine Gregoire’s team forced multiple recounts until they finally got into the lead and could secure the victory.

And who could forget local Florida officials desperately trying to interpret voter intentions and hanging chads in the 2000 Bush v. Gore election.

Through all of these isolated instances, however, the basic principle that voting counted and the outcomes were not pre-determined has held by a thread.

In other countries this is not the case. In 1984, while travelling in Mexico, my tour guide asked what I did for a living. I replied in my best Spanish, that I ran political campaigns for a living. The tour guide, steeped in Mexican politics, replied, “Why bother, it is all fixed. They should just give the money to the farmers.”
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