On Chris Matthews' Hardball last night, Matthews gave a closing comment about those who trust democracy enough to offer themselves up to its abuses in every election cycle. His comment lauded those who put themselves on the line for the opportunity to serve the public. I found much to agree with in what he said, and a good deal to differ with as well.
While those who trust democracy in offering themselves for public service are to be praised, not everyone running for office trusts democracy to that extent, and many display a decided distrust of democracy. They are easy enough to pick out.
A candidate's trust in democracy is measurable by the way that their campaign is conducted. When they are running their campaign on a shoestring without professional campaign staff, it tells you that their level of trust is high, both in democracy and democratic principles and in their confidence in their own ideas. Often the value of their ideas can be measured by the number of volunteers who are willing to offer their own time and effort to see that those ideas get a hearing in governance.
This is not to say that a well-funded campaign cannot evince a trust in democracy, but the idealist's campaign nearly always does.
Conversely, there are candidates whose level of distrust in democracy is clearly evident. The symptoms of that condition are as easily picked out, because in spite of the candidate's efforts, they are almost impossible to conceal from anyone who is looking for them.
Those symptoms include inordinate amounts of cash, to be used in an effort to buy the election. In this election cycle, the first since the Supreme Court edict regarding the Citizens United case, we have hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions being funneled through money laundering operations such as American Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The sources of these funds are jealously guarded from public disclosure, but you can bet your bottom billion that the candidates receiving those funds know exactly where they came from. The candidate being in the dark about those facts would defeat the object of the exercise, which is to buy a candidate and make sure that he stays bought. If he didn't know who his new owner was, he might cast an errant vote, and that's not what he was purchased for in the first place.
There is also the ultimate in cynical distrust of democracy that is demonstrated by efforts to manipulate the electorate in casting its votes. These are mostly techniques to reduce turnout for the opponent by voter caging, leading to illegitimate challenges to individual voters at the polls, or, as we see happening in Nevada this year, cynical campaign commercials featuring appeals to the opponent's supporters to stay home on Election Day.
Other ways to depress turnout require confederates in control of the voting apparatus so that the allotment of facilities to conduct the election can be skewed to reduce availability of those facilities in selected areas to make voting more difficult and increased in those areas that the fraudulent candidate sees as more solidly in his favor.
Then there is good old-fashioned election fraud. In this age, the intention to engage in election fraud is frequently telegraphed by the dishonest candidate's admonishments against, or intention to oppose, voter fraud, a crime that is astonishingly rare, but played up by those who wish to deceive the electorate
The methods for election fraud are many, but in this day the most common is the manipulation of data streams from those eminently hackable electronic voting machines, especially those without a paper trail to provide a check on the electronic results. Of course, election fraud has always been with us, sometimes elevated to an artform as in the electoral depredations of Tammany Hall.
It's what inspired Josef Stalin to say, "It's not the people who vote that counts, it's who counts the votes." We may safely conclude from this that Josef Stalin didn't have much trust in democracy.
Up to now, I have been leaving it to the reader to conclude who does and who does not trust democracy, understanding that they are well capable of rendering that judgment, but to refrain from naming names seems like an act of ignoring the elephant in the room. We all know that these various cheats and frauds are those that are predominantly employed by Republicans in this century, so I might as well make the general statement, Republicans do not trust democracy, and they have good reason not to.
They understand as well as anyone that the direction in which they intend to move the country is one that is unacceptable to a free and open society. To trust in democracy is to take part in their own destruction, and they will not countenance that without employing every dirty trick, telling every lie and violating every public trust and every applicable law to advance their narrowly selfish aims.It is up to us, the People of the United States, to perpetuate our democracy, our values and our society by stepping into a voting booth and choosing candidates who do trust democracy. By doing so we can make our democracy worthy of the trust that we all place in it.