As American Democratic Party officials scramble to figure out how to re-enfranchise the millions of Florida and Michigan voters they recently disenfranchised, the world yawns and changes the channel.
Unfortunately for democracy, the vote is intangible, invisible, inaudible. If the vote were a person, we could clearly see that it has been bloodied beyond recognition and is gasping for breath on life support. Instead, corrupt systems beholden to moneyed interests supply it just enough air to prevent it from dying; barely maintaining the illusion that your voice and my voice count for something.
Most parents know that if you are going to threaten a punishment for misbehavior, you’d better be ready to follow up with that punishment when the misbehavior occurs. Why did the Democratic Party think it could threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters in Florida and Michigan because their state leaders decided to move up their primaries? Has disenfranchisement of voters become that passé?
Apparently so. One has to wonder if the 2008 US presidential elections will be certified free and fair by international observers. If the dirty tricks of Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 are any indication, the vote is in for another thrashing. But here’s a prediction to remember in November 2008: don’t expect to hear about it from the US mainstream media.
Certainly the US has a lot of company pummeling the vote. In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf “won” re-election in October after imposing a state of emergency. By most reports, the Supreme Court had been prepared to rule unfavorably on his ability to stand for election when Musharraf dismantled it. The December assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto sent democracy further into question and delayed parliamentary elections. Her husband, Asif Zardari, was elected in her place has now agreed to work together with rival, Nawaz Sharif, but both are restricted in what they can do by the replacement Supreme Court hand picked by Musharraf.
Over 1000 Kenyans lost their lives in the violence that erupted after opposition leader Raila Odinga accused President Mwai Kibaki of stealing the December Kenyan presidential election. Now a commission will investigate the election. If history is any predictor, the commission will find no wrong-doing.
When Cameroonian president Paul Biya announced in January that he will seek another seven year term — in violation of the constitution — students called strikes that turned violent. One student said, “We have been voting and our votes have never been considered.” The only olive branch offered was a reduction in prices that had soared recently.
This month, hand-picked Russian successor Dmitry Medvedev soared to a 70% victory in a well choreographed election to “succeed” President Vladimir Putin. Former chess grand champion Garry Kasparov, having recovered from a beating he received from authorities at an unsanctioned December protest, urged world leaders not to recognize Medvedev. “This election is the imposition of Putin’s successor. It is one hand-picked candidate replacing another. If the leaders of the free world accept Medvedev they will be approving and giving credibility to this farce,” said Kasparov. The US, among others, has recognized Medvedev.
Also this month, Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper filed a $2.5 million libel suit against the Liberal party for accusing him of knowing about a bribery attempt that could have toppled the minority Liberal government in 2005.
These are just a few examples of how the vote has become meaningless to a growing number of people around the world. We say the vote is sacred, yet we batter it on a regular basis. Perhaps the death blow will be when Barack Obama is squeezed out of the Democratic nomination, or alternatively, when he is elected president and still nothing significant changes.
It’s time we realized that we’re past the point of being able to resuscitate the patient. What’s required now is to put it out of its misery and start over with a fundamentally different election system.
No election system that allows wealth to overlap with power will ever be truly democratic. We must get to the core and push apart the corrupting elements that have turned our world into one giant corrupt blob.
I have proposed a system that will do just that because it sizes votes proportionally to income — with poor, working and middle class people receiving larger votes. In the same vein as the separation of church and state, vote sizing is a unique and creative way to differentiate between power and wealth.
We’ve witnessed again and again what happens when wealth and power collide; when corrupt leaders and so-called think-tanks dictate policy. We move at a snail’s pace on environmental issues like global warming, as well as healthcare, education and other basic human needs. Yes, vote sizing is radical. But just ask yourself, “What would be different if ordinary people truly had a voice?”