The impatience across much of the media is palpable.
Oh groan. That’s not going to change the election results. The consensus “truth” writhing just below the surface of the mainstream, eyeball-rolling disapproval of Jill Stein’s call for and financing of a presidential vote recount in Wisconsin (and perhaps in Pennsylvania and Michigan) is that the political and media consensus has already established who the next president is. Like it or not.
And “election integrity” is apparently set in stone, here in America, the oldest democracy on the planet. We took care of that a long time ago. No matter that touch-screen voting is unverifiable and absurdly vulnerable to hacking and the struggle for power brings out the worst in people. No matter that the Republican Party — the political party that lost the vote but won the election — has a long history of passing voter suppression laws aimed at non-white Americans. The federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, striking down one such law in North Carolina, for instance, accused state legislators of targeting African-Americans “with almost surgical precision.”
Nonetheless, in mainstream media land, questioning the results of a presidential election has a sort of unpatriotic stench to it, almost like burning the flag. Once agreement congeals and the winner is declared, that’s it. The election’s over and it’s time to move on.
To which I say: “Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got it!”
These are the words that George W. Bush’s first cousin, John Prescott Ellis, uttered 16 years ago — in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2000 — while he was serving as the election anchorman for Fox News during its coverage of the Bush-Gore election. Ellis, who was a freelance Republican political adviser, had been on the phone throughout the night with both George and Jeb Bush, according to an account of the incident at History Commons, and shortly after 2 a.m. had discussed the state of the Florida vote with Jeb. The vote was excruciatingly close and considered by everyone else as still too close to call, but the two cousins determined otherwise in their phone chat.
Ellis announced Jeb’s victory declaration to his coverage team and, within minutes, Fox News declared Bush the winner of the election. What happened next, as noted in the History Commons account, remains painfully disturbing: “The other networks hurriedly, and inaccurately, follow suit.”
Bush’s lead was miniscule and dropping, but the other network executives, fearing their coverage would look wimpy, jumped on the bandwagon one by one and joined Fox in declaring Bush the winner.
The Associated Press refused to make the call, pointing out that Bush’s lead was steadily dwindling. “But the television broadcasts drive the story,” the History Commons explained. “Network pundits immediately begin dissecting Bush’s ‘victory’ and speculating as to why Gore ‘lost.’”
The effect of this was to turn Al Gore — winner, like Hillary Clinton, of the popular vote — into a sore loser, to the extent that he challenged the highly controversial and questionable Florida vote totals.
In other words, the American president is essentially determined every four years by a sort of quick-draw consensus of corporate media conglomerates, not by a cautiously precise hand count of the votes that have been cast — votes that, in any case, only partially represent the will of the American electorate, thanks to ongoing voter suppression that trims the American electorate to suit the wishes of those in power.
The Green Party-driven vote recount in Wisconsin and perhaps elsewhere, while hardly addressing all the problems assailing our democracy, at least challenges the bogus consensus by which the president is currently determined and acknowledges the ideal that every vote counts and every vote matters.
Indeed, the value of every vote ought to matter more than who wins and who loses. And mandatory, routine recounts might waylay the entertainment spectacle of election night, turning it into something with deeper purpose and significance than, say, the last game of the World Series. In a real democracy, voting and governing are not separate entities but a manifestation of the ongoing partnership between the people and their chosen leaders.
And “the people” means everyone. As Greg Palast notes on Truthout, “just as poor areas get the worst schools and hospitals, they also get the worst voting machines.
“The key is an ugly statistic not taught in third grade civics class: According to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the chance your vote will be disqualified as ‘spoiled’ is 900 percent more likely if you’re black than if you’re white.”
The Green Party recount would re-examine “spoiled” and discarded ballots along with those that were counted. Perhaps there’s a lack of election-night excitement to such work, at least from the perspective of a TV channel executive, but I’d rather have a functioning democracy.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is available. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his website at commonwonders.com.
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