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General News    H2'ed 2/2/17

Jonathan Simon: Votecounts As 'Alternative Facts'

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It would be hard to exaggerate the sea change we are undergoing or the danger we are in. I don't see any point in trying to be upbeat about something that promises to be a national and global tragedy. To me, it is all the worse for most likely being the product of a cheap electronic trick--or rather a long string of cheap electronic tricks. It is one thing to come under the thumb of fascism or tyranny by conquest or genuine public choice; it's another thing to arrive there by fraud. The Right has pulled out every stop to take over this country but, if the evidence we have access to is to be believed, would have failed in the attempt absent computerized votecount manipulation.

Nonetheless, as fraudulent as it may be, where we are right now is all too real. Our choices may very soon come down to France 1789 revolution or Soviet Union mid-20th century knowing and quiet submission. These are both awful choices. But, if the Catch-22 (any legislative reform of the current electoral/political process has to come via the current electoral/political process) holds and the bastards can't be voted out, I don't see other viable paths. As a nation, we collectively lollygagged and the horse has left the barn (and commandeered a tank).

the guillotine, tool of the French Revolution
the guillotine, tool of the French Revolution
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Millions of people mobilized on the day after Trump's inauguration, and in fact their numbers in Washington far exceeded those attending the inauguration the day before. Does the national and international outpouring, with 673 cities across the globe involved, change the equation at all?

Perhaps but, as Zeynep Tufekci noted in today's Times, social media makes it a lot easier to quickly gather big numbers than it once was. As a result, while something like the 1963 March on Washington was the culmination of a year or so of organizing and movement building, the post-inaugural rallies and marches are more like a beginning point (Tufekci likens it to Rosa Parks's single act of defiance).

Where it goes from there depends on many factors, and the precedents here are not promising. Ten million people came out on the same day to tell George W. Bush not to invade Iraq; he dismissed it all as "like making policy based on a focus group" and the anti-war "movement" effectively disappeared. Mass public protest, without more, is a slow and rather clumsy tool when responding to the kind of centralized blitzkrieg of decisions and actions we are now witnessing. Then you have the Occupy model--promising at first, but effectively leaderless, easily infiltrated, totally dissed/undermined by the media,and ultimately swept away in one weekend, with unfulfilled promises to return.

The fact is that our only effective right of review is electoral. Protests feel good but change little. Polls register approval or disapproval, enthusiasm or outrage. We follow them obsessively. Why? To tell us how the election is going to go. We've been there, done that, have we not?

The good news is that the energy, the outrage, the resistance are out there. Bigly. Hugely. And probably getting bigly-er with every new burst of depravity (though there is a real danger that, with sufficient repetition, the depraved becomes the new normal, and fatigue sets in), and every new reminder of how awfully much is wrong with this picture. The media are even covering it more or less straight up (in contrast, recall how the massive Bush inaugural protests in 2001 were disappeared by the press), having been provoked into a shooting war by the lye Trump keeps flinging in their eyes.

Ultimately, though, unless that energy translates into not just votes, but votes that are counted accurately and honestly, it will have little political impact. In the election of 2014, the Republican Congressional majority went into November with an Approval Rating of 8 percent (you read that right, 8; Obama's rating at the time was in the mid 40s). They returned 220 out of 222 US House incumbents who sought re-election, and actually gained 13 seats net. When you have a better than 99 percent re-election rate on the back of an 8 percent Approval Rating, you stop worrying about public opinion. "Hey, let them protest, let them send us letters and petitions, let them tell the pollsters we're bums! Don't they get it? We have electoral immunity!" All the more so in our New Age of Alternative Facts, where nothing is trusted. Except of course the results spit out by the computers that count our votes.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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