OPINION | Beyond the elections

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The October issue of The Atlantic magazine included a number of articles billed under the general theme: “You call this an election?” The stories deal with the corrupting flood of money that has poured into election campaigns; how congressional districts are gerrymandered to get certain partisan results; and the recent history of “anti-voter fraud” efforts, which have targeted black and Hispanic neighborhoods in order to intimidate the voters in those precincts.

On the financing issue, James Bennet asserts, in his article, “The New Price of American Politics ,” that the “growing river of anonymous money [from Super PACs] is a result of the brokenness of our political system; no branch of government made an affirmative decision to let this money in. If it chose, the IRS could demand that the politicking social-welfare nonprofits, as well as business associations like the Chamber of Commerce, disclose their secret donors.”

Bennet mentions that Senate Republicans filibustered the Disclose Act, which “aimed to compel groups to name the big contributors behind political advertising.” He adds that in the infamous Citizens United case, eight of the U.S. Supreme Court justices favored disclosure.

So, citizens of this country will go to the polls on Nov. 6, and cast their votes, as a tidal wave of money from billionaires and corporations has been poured into electoral campaigns to skew the results. However, our votes could still make a difference in some electoral contests:

  • In Minnesota, Republicans in the Legislature put two measures on the ballot this year, which would change our state constitution. They are both very bad proposals.
    The voter ID measure, which would require voters to show a government-issued photo ID in order to vote, has a certain common sense appeal, but it is essentially a solution to no problem. Voter fraud is infinitesimally small in Minnesota and across the nation. The voter ID constitutional amendment — which would require some type of unknown legislative action to implement — is a transparent attempt at voter suppression. If it becomes law, an estimated 200,000 eligible voters — mainly the elderly, students and racial minorities — in Minnesota could be disenfranchised. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled against some provisions of that state’s voter ID law, as they would have applied to the 2012 elections.
    A group known as ALEC, which stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council, has drafted voter ID bills for states across the country. In 2010, Republicans took control of state legislatures in Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin, and then pushed through voter suppression measures. ALEC, which is funded by corporations and right-wing billionaires, has been behind voter ID and other benighted legislation, including anti-environmental, anti-union, and “stand your ground” bills, which provoked an outcry after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
    Vote NO on voter ID, the new poll tax.
  • Vote NO twice: the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is purely an expression of bigotry. Perhaps this type of bigotry, denying the civil rights of gays and lesbians in committed relationships, finds support in various religious ideologies; it’s still bigotry.
    There used to be laws in this country banning miscegenation, interracial marriage. Those laws were finally overturned, rather late in the last century. Our refusal to recognize the right of same-sex couples to marry is the last bastion of civil rights discrimination enshrined in law. In the case of Minnesota, state law already prohibits same-sex unions, so the amendment initiative would just make righting this wrong more difficult in the future.
  • This leads into the presidential race, and the power of the next president to make appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. We don’t want a President Romney appointing judges who would entrench corporate wealth and privilege, à la the Citizens United decision; and deny women reproductive choice by overturning Roe v. Wade.

In Mitt Romney, the Republicans have selected as their standard-bearer one of the most duplicitous politicians I’ve seen in my lifetime. Romney makes Nixon look like a straight shooter.

AJW readers should vote for President Barack Obama.

Over his political career, Romney has taken opposing positions on nearly every issue of importance. He is inherently unbelievable in his pronouncements; however, I am inclined to lend credulity to the views he articulated in front of wealthy donors this past May in Boca Raton, Fla. You likely recall his infamous comments about the “47 percent” of Americans he wrote off as moochers dependent on government largesse. He tried to finesse these arrogant and elitist remarks as “not elegantly stated,” while trying to defend their substance; more recently, he said that the statements were “completely wrong.”

I choose to believe that Romney spoke his true mind on May 17 in Boca. In that same talk, he also derided efforts at a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These remarks were not as widely reported as his views on the shiftless “47 percent.”

Here’s what Romney said in Boca Raton: “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say, ‘There’s just no way.’ And so what you do is you say, ‘You move things along the best way you can.’ You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem…. we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.”

Of course, Romney contradicted his views on this issue in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and on Monday, when he delivered a foreign policy address at Virginia Military Institute (VMI), and said, “I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel. On this vital issue, the president has failed,” etc.

On Tuesday, the New York Times editorial offered that “there is mostly just hot air behind [Romney’s foreign policy] pronouncements.”

The Times editorial also noted that Romney’s views “are either pretty much like Mr. Obama’s or, when there are hints of differences, would pull the United States in wrong and even dangerous directions. His analysis of the roots of various international crises is either naïve or deliberately misleading.”

President Obama inherited quite the mess when he was sworn into office four years ago: the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and two wars. He has done a mainly creditable job, in the face of the unrelenting efforts by the Republicans to see that he fails in every effort to make the government work for the betterment of working people.

Over the next four years, and beyond, we need to implement serious measures to reduce greenhouse gases and remediate the ill effects of global climate change. On the domestic front, the president and members of Congress should address the post-9/11 assault on civil liberties.

Martin Luther King, Jr., in his April 4, 1967, speech at Riverside Church in New York City, took a controversial stance against the U.S. war in Vietnam. His words still speak to our current dilemma, although our foreign wars are not on the scale of the Vietnam War. King warned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Readers of the American Jewish World can gainsay my views here, in Letters to the Editor, which will be considered for publication in the Oct. 26 edition — the last issue of the paper prior to the 2012 elections. The Oct. 26 issue will feature an “Elections 2012” special section, with stories about politics and campaign advertising. The editorial and ad space reservation deadline for the Oct. 26 edition is 12 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17.