Only it wasn't the US this time- it's Mexico. And the timing was amazing, considering how the political left has steadily gained power throughout South America. As the words "too close to call" dripped from the reporters' mouth, I could feel the cold, heavy grip of conservatism grab hold of the Mexican people again.
Perhaps it's an omen for our own upcoming elections. After all, it seems like our so-called liberal opposition party has stumbled through each of our congressional and presidential races since 2000 in an almost scripted fashion. The mainstream media played along, making democrats look like untenable dolts who were unable to tie their shoes much less run the country. While democratic candidates certainly made terrible campaign errors, the constant mewling of the press about how weak the democrats were certainly made it easier to skew the balloting towards the republicans. Already, pundits are saying that the midterms are "too close to call," but express confidence that republicans will retain power. How's that for some subtle inducement? And if that's not enough, Democratic Congressional leaders are shoveling tons of money into the campaign coffers of democratic candidates unwilling to commit to any position. Is it possible the same scripts are in play?
Fortunately, we have some options to buck the system of status quo politics. If we want change, we'll have to create it. Let's involve ourselves in the electoral process, well beyond the voting stage. Midterm elections generally don't bring out as many voters as a presidential election, so it's vital to stress the importance of midterms on your friends, families and neighbors. It should also be noted that for every well-financed, non-committal candidate, there are ones who are speaking to the electorate's concerns. Host an event at a nearby library or your backyard for those candidates, and invite everyone you know to meet them. Read the Brennan Center Report (http://www.brennancenter.org/presscenter/releases_2006/pressrelease_2006_0627.html) to learn more about how easily voting machines can be manipulated. If we want hand countable paper ballots, than we need to make nuisances of ourselves to local, state, and federal electoral officials, and Secretaries of State. Don't relent until each of your counties conforms to this system. Are Republicans trying to keep people away from the polls by fear and intimidation? Be there for those they disenfranchise-offer them lifts to the polls and make sure no one assails them. Perhaps there are people in your area who're unable to vote because they can't get away from work, or they have no childcare assistance. Are you apart of a DFA or MoveOn.org group? Maybe as a group you can rent a van or two, and offer rides to the polls early in the morning and then drop off those people off at work, and pick them up later. For those in need of childcare, partner with state certified childcare services for the day to give mom's an opportunity to vote. Are there precincts that have less than an adequate number of voting booths in your county? Start attending meetings of county electoral boards, and press them on supplying enough booths to accommodate those precincts. And the most important aspect is to be vocal. Keep the Ukraine's Orange Revolution in mind while rallying support for the elections you want. There are a number of avenues for you to pursue- write a newsletter, blog, or letters to the editor to your local newspaper(s). Contact your nearest alternative weekly paper-they'll always interested in running stories on citizen activists willing to put everything on the line for a cause.