Fear and Voting in the USA
By Susan J. Douglas
In These Times
I listened as his voice cracked. At a major national conference, a colleague from another university—an eminent historian—could barely contain his anguish as he referred to the recent detention bill and its gutting of habeas corpus. A few hours later I listened to two young people who work in the film industry talk about how they fully expected this election to be stolen. Driving through Oakland, Calif., I saw a movie marquee urging people to demand paper ballots from electronic voting machines so there’s a record of their votes. In my classes I have been asking my students why they don’t follow the news, and they say, “Why bother—it’s all spin and you can’t believe it.”
As the news media finally begins to turn its attention to the congressional elections, we are getting a focus on the trees, but not the forest. Will Rick Santorum win or lose? Will the Republicans pay for the public’s opposition to the war in Iraq? But when you talk to a range of everyday people, it’s the forest they’re concerned about: Will our system of constitutional democracy survive? And for many, this election is a crucial, desperate test. Because the evidence is that this administration and its allies will do anything—anything—to stay in power.
Can you remember a time when people were so terrified (not an overstatement) about the future of the republic? Everywhere they look they see collapse. The legitimacy of the entire infrastructure—Congress, the presidency, the news media, the electoral process—is in question. When can you remember an onslaught of so many books, issued almost weekly now, that seek to save the nation by documenting the incompetence and duplicity of Team Bush and its various arrogant, power-grabbing, anti-democratic adventures? Fiasco by Thomas Ricks, The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind, How Bush Rules by Sidney Blumenthal, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, The Greatest Story Ever Sold by Frank Rich, Hubris by Michael Isikoff and David Corn, the list goes on and on. Even Bob Woodward, sensing a change in the atmosphere (and his fortunes), has produced the mea culpa State of Denial. Most of these books have been or are bestsellers. Yet there is a disconnect between acknowledgement (finally!) of the Bush crowd’s past deceits, along with the lax journalistic scrutiny of them, and outrage about what they are up to right now, today, in further abrogating our rights.
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