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DOCUMENTS


The Tentacle


November 4, 2008

The Long, Messy Campaign

Roy Meachum

Today arrives as Boxing Day for Christmas and Ash Wednesday for Mardi Gras. Take your pick. The presidential campaign for all intents and purposes ended yesterday. The number of voters who might be persuaded by last minute exhortations is certainly miniscule.

 

Particularly since we have seen the pictures of people lining up at polling places for weeks. The election might have been decided days ago. Never mind, I plan to trudge over to my designated polling place this morning. I believe every vote counts.

 

On the other hand, various states plan on counting absentee ballots bye-and-bye. Maryland's official results will not be known until Thursday next week. Then there's the matter of threatened law suits. We can only hope the Supreme Court of the United States does not let it get dragged into politics. Again.

 

As noted before, 21st century elections are already assuming the "skankier" aspects of the post-Civil War period when the Republicans stood alone on the peak. They pumped up the party's role in "saving the Union."

 

For a while, the modern GOP wrapped itself in a similarly flawed concept claiming the current administration had saved the nation and the world from Islamic terrorism. That was how the Bush-Cheney duo deluded the electorate four years ago. Meanwhile, of course, the corruption being unveiled by officials appointed by this White House reveal what one observer has called the "worst situation than Watergate."

 

Partisanship aside, this has been one of the rottenest campaigns in history, thanks in no small part to the Internet that permits more popular participation. In the 20th century many of the wildest charges and sleaziest statements went unreported. To an incredible degree, the press censored itself. John Fitzgerald Kennedy's sex life was an example.

 

As long as the president avoided direct confrontations, such as being caught in a criminal act, editors looked the other way. They had the power in those times of limited media access. How different now. Anyone with a computer and an Internet service can reach the world with stories that need not be verified – an editorial function that checks for accuracy and truth.

 

We now have the equivalent of those 19th century days when signs were the chief means to advertise. Mobs chanted slogans like "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion." Also signs asked: "Where's My Paw?” And the answer: “Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha!" Both allegations were against Grover Cleveland, who reached the Oval Office as a reform candidate supported by elements in each party.

 

Allegations were raised this year and echoed by the media; they must be considered scurrilous by any objective standard and some persisted all through the campaign. Their Democratic and Republican authors were rarely called to authenticate.

 

Four years back Swift Boats became a classic example.

 

Radical, right-wing Republicans thundered early and maintained consistently that John Kerry did not deserve the medals he earned in Vietnam. They intimated the Democratic nominee was a coward and claimed credit for things done by others. More than politics as usual, this was an attempt to totally destroy an individual and it partially worked. The senator's official opponents hung heavy on fear of potential Muslim terrorism; that carried the day.

 

Even in the 2008 primary, the public was treated to character assassination by deflection; the avowed master was a former president, the husband of candidate Hillary Clinton. Summoning up all his credentials as a very good friend to African Americans, he attempted to discredit Barack Obama. And never mind what that ploy might do to Democrats regaining the White House. The Clintons, between them, made every effort to bar from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the first Black to be nominated.

 

Having failed to snag the nomination Super Tuesday, it was more than obvious Ms. Clinton should have withdrawn. The really nasty stuff from her side came later. Hers was, after all, an attempt by the Democratic establishment to keep one of their own in control. By April, it became apparent people were really taking the campaign's direction from politicians – with only some minor interruptions.

 

Of course I see the entire race through my personal lens. I became a cynic about the former president but only after he moved out of the Oval Office. I found his wife calculating and willing to do whatever to become the nation's first female president. I trusted neither Clinton's integrity.

 

There was scarcely any point to consider seriously a John McCain candidacy. Trusting in the people – Mr. Lincoln's yes, the people – I believed they would understand the grave crimes against the republic. That trust was eminently assured by the economic mess; it makes no difference how it started, the collapse happened on Republican George W. Bush's watch.

 

Whenever the final results come in, I await their story: one version will increase the chasm between workers and their leaders. It will inevitably result in, at least, the total overhaul of this country, or this democracy's collapse.

 

Having voted today, we have no choice.

 



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