“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”
—Joseph Welch (Army-McCarthy Hearings – June 9, 1954)
I consider myself a skeptic. Not a cynic, but a skeptic. Perhaps that is a distinction without a difference, but I shall attempt to make it nonetheless. A skeptic questions the “facts,” a cynic questions the game. My attitude to the great game we call “America” is inexorably moving from one of skepticism to cynicism.
We pat ourselves on our backs (and rightly so) for our democracy. It’s, as “they” say, the best money can buy. But that has always been the case. America has never been a democracy where “vested” interests didn’t have the inherent advantage. In 1789 when the American Constitution was adopted, only white, male property owners, by and large, were eligible to vote. People of color, women, and any white men without property were out of luck and out of the process (democracy). It wasn’t until the 1820s that voting requirements started to change nationwide so that all white men could vote.
“Thems that got” have always worked the system (our democracy) to their advantage. Understandably, they want to keep or increase what they have. This translates into tax advantages, outright government largesse, as well as less regulatory oversight — whatever can be secured by preferential access (political contributions/lobbying) and achieved through the political process.
The question becomes one of balance. How do we balance the legitimate interests of the individual vis-à-vis the equally legitimate interest of the state (working on behalf of us all)? It is at this juncture that my skepticism is moving to cynicism. The game (America) is becoming increasingly rigged (thumb-on-the-scale preferences on behalf of the rich).
I feel the cynicism in America growing much as the songwriter Leonard Cohen articulates in his classic song, “Everybody Knows”:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed Everybody knows that the war is over Everybody knows the good guys lost Everybody knows the fight was fixed The poor stay poor, the rich get rich That’s how it goes Everybody knows.
We saw it in 2000 with the Supreme Court election of George W. Bush. We see it in government subsidies for America’s petroleum corporations. We experience it in a revenue code that taxes labor at higher rates than investment income. And corporations, according to our conservative Supreme Court, are now people when it comes to speech and political contributions.
But nowhere is our democracy so clearly under attack as by Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout. Republican-controlled state legislatures all over America are following Florida’s example of reducing early voting and making new voter registration initiatives so onerous (fines) as to be unfeasible.
I called Mike Ertel, supervisor of elections for Seminole County, and asked him if voter fraud was a problem, or was rampant in Florida. He stated unequivocally that it was not. Florida legislators (Republicans I say) were/are employing fear of a non-existent problem to change early voting hours as well as registration drives. Ertel declined to speculate as to the motivations. One result: The Florida League of Women Voters has stopped registration drives.
There is no widespread voter fraud in Florida. Republicans are attempting to suppress black, Hispanic, poor and elderly voting. Why? To skew elections in favor of the Republican Right.
As Welch once asked of McCarthy, I now ask Florida Republicans: “Have you no sense of decency?”
The answer is apparent.
Jepson is a 24-year resident of Florida. He’s fiscally conservative, socially liberal, likes art and embraces diversity of opinion. Reach him at Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US