During the last general election, I voted absentee from Weimar, Germany, where I had been researching a book on the social idealism of the Bauhaus. This time I decided to go to San Francisco to help my best friend get reelected as a city councilman. Alas, on my trek to Charles de Gaulle airport, I had a cardiac incident so that I stopped in my hometown of Philadelphia to consult with my doctor and take tests.
Between tests I gawked in disbelief at the tsunami of TV ads so meretricious and patently false I wondered if I had wandered into another totalitarian country. Pennsylvania, as one of the crucial swing states, is peculiarly afflicted with such outrageous advertising. But my monitoring of such ads persuaded me that there has actually been a moral collapse in our electoral system. I speak not of the 2000 election with its many Florida flaws and falsehoods.
Nor do I mean the contemptible use of Florida State Police in civies and sidearms, looking for cheating in black neighborhoods with a history of promoting voting. That was so shameful as to question Jeb Bush’s integrity as a Governor.
No, I speak of the outrageous and patent immorality of many of the ads I saw with a mouth dropping open in utter astonishment. These so-called 527’s made one wonder if their contrivers were actually demented. One especially sticks in my mind, blackening the reputation of one Lois Murphy. She was tabbed as not only liberal but RADICAL, leading to the allegation that she supported the Taliban, who were described as kidnappers and rapers of young girls.
This is no mere argumentum ad hominem. It’s argumentum ad animalium. I question the sanity of those who make such ads. Do they believe the American electorate is so stupid that such pseudo discourse could actually help their clients?
In Germany, I had been amused at the Beatification Process of the future Saint Ronald where he was being slowly buried over a week of rituals, cynically contrived to boost the GOP campaign. But then, when I came home to vote, I realized that this debauch/debacle was made possible by Reagan’s abolition by executive order of the "Fairness Doctrine", a sacred buffer enacted to guide the FCC during the New Deal.
I imagined how those electoral billions could have been invested in, say, the repair of disintegrating schools, instead of maximizing the profits of TV station fat cats, and was very sad. They are not only demeaning what is left of our electoral integrity. They are diverting needed funds to rip the country off from its proper responsibilities.
I’m often asked what politics are like in Germany, with a half suspicion that my interrogators expect me to rerun Nazi history. Sorry, folks. Their electoral politics are issue oriented. Only the NeoNazi and former socialist parties betray themselves with American like drivel, and their impact is minimal.
And their evening news does not lead with bleeds. It talks about real issues, ending with minimal sports and weather coverage. In short, America in my judgment has been committing electoral suicide in the last two general elections. McClean/Feingold has turned farcical. Our general elections are much too long, profiting only the TV gougers. Everybody agrees that the elections are ignored until after the World Series, an adequate commentary on our electorate’s immaturity.
Sorry, folks, to have to tell you the truth about our political process. It is corrupt and approaching decadence. Incidentally, my application for an absentee ballot to be sent to San Francisco where I was helping in an election full of false advertising financed by the Getty money of the new "JFK-like" mayor has apparently been ignored.
So due to my cardiac incident in the Gare de l’Est in Paris, I’ll be voting in my own home precinct, depressed at how quickly and pervasively the Election Reform legislation has been corrupted by television money.