Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The right to vote under threat by Tea Party extremists--and the media

I am becoming less and less interested in the political situation in this country, and why not? The New York Times has published a story that should remind people that the Tea Party movement is what many of us tried mostly in vain to expose it as: storm troopers for the Republican extreme right. These racists—and let’s be honest about that for just one moment—are in many minority centers around the country attempting the kind of voter suppression that enabled Republicans to steal the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Claiming that they are only interested in stopping voter fraud, Tea Party activists have engaged in various sleazy tactics to suppress the vote in Democratic leaning areas; in Milwaukee, billboards featuring blacks and Latinos behind bars is clearly meant to confuse and intimidate minority voters, especially first-time voters. In Minnesota, Tea Party activists are establishing “surveillance squads” to follow and intimidate voters. In Houston, a Tea Party group called the King Street Patriots falsely accused a minority registration drive organization of turning in registration forms with incorrect information. Despite the fact that the “Patriots” were exposed in their false claims, that has not prevented one-in-five new registrations submitted by Houston Votes to be arbitrarily tossed by the Republican voter registrar in Harris Country.

Meanwhile, the Brennan Center for Justice has released a report that accuses many states—especially “red” and “swing” states—of deliberately violating the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. States are required by law to make blank registration forms “readily available’ to anyone who wishes to vote, and to “organized voter registration programs.” The “deputy” registration system—which requires people to be “deputized” to engage in voter registration, but in practice was used to prevent “disfavored” groups, like minorities, from participating—was made illegal, but states like Texas continue the practice it in violation of the law. Other states have reimposed the “deputy” system in another name; other states have imposed arbitrary and confusing “deadlines” for turning in registration form, while other states limit the number or force to registration organizations to pay for registration forms. Because of these restrictions, and the general lack of “enthusiasm” among Democratic voters, voter registration is down considerably from recent times; it’s all part of the “plan.”

But voter suppression by right-wing extremists and a dip in voter registration are not the only factors involved in making the mid-term election a potentially dangerous crossroad in this country’s evolvement, especially if the Republicans and their Tea Party brown shirts take control. The “mainstream” media has revoltingly given the Tea Party—which in reality is nothing more than an extremist, racist fringe—the power of a national movement, overwhelming common sense and tolerance, and giving credibility to the worst aspects of the national character. Most news media outlets (like CNN) have allowed right-wing extremists and certifiable lunatics center stage to spout the most mind-numbing lies and proven deceptions—without question or comment. The media has allowed the right to make the most outrageous slanders against Barack Obama without bringing them to account. The media has refused to bring the Republicans to account for its deliberate campaign to demonize and marginalize Obama from even before he took office, and has refused to recognize and debate the deliberate refusal of Republicans to deal with Obama and the Democrats on a single major piece of legislation, when this country is suffering from an economic failure that can be directly traced to Republican perfidy—for purely cynical partisan reasons. Are people this intellectually inept that they cannot see this? Or is the media only feeding them what they want--paranoia and self-serving intolerance? A current Washington Post story only notes that some Tea Party candidates are running into trouble with some of their "policy" views--but apparently not far-right extremists like Sharron Angle of Nevada, probably because her policy statements consist of talking points, and she refuses to answer questions that seek clarification of her positions anyways.

Even in Seattle, the local media usually reflects the opinions and wishes of its corporate masters. When people are not sidetracked by incessant crime stories, discussions on the issues are put in the hands of right-wing activists and "populists." On KOMO, far-right activist and failed candidate for governor John Carlson's "opposite" number was Ken Schram; their "The Commentators" radio show was recently discontinued--apparently because Schram couldn't keep faking he disagreed with Carlson's paranoid white views. They now have separate shows, where both can share the same opinion in different voices; Schram's recent attack on the state income tax on the rich initiative betrays no interest in what is right, fair or in the interest of maintaining a civil society; it is also indicative of the fact that there is no room in the media (even in allegedly left-wing Seattle) for alternative (that is non right-wing) opinions.

Will the forces of ignorance and racism win-out in 2010? I fear so. I wonder how many people in the state of Washington won’t even bother to vote because the mail-in ballots are not even provided with envelopes with pre-paid postage—as other states provide.

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