“Your Cheatin’ Heart Will Tell On You” — Hank Williams
As the election draws to a close, the parties are already hedging their bets with claims of voter intimidation, voter fraud, reminders of Florida during the 2000 election, Black Panthers guarding polls (Hi, Murph!), voter suppression (Hi, liberals!) and so on and so on.
Who knows what the election holds, and who will be president or senator, or representative, mayor in so those close elections? Certainly not me. It looks like it’s going to be close. Here’s my thing, though, and — oddly for me — it might considered a more Republican view of life. I believe in personal responsibility and morals as guiding principles, plus I don’t necessarily think we need laws for every single thing out there. As a liberal, though, I also believe in fairness and access for all and voting rights for all those people who have been denied in the past.
Here’s what it all boils down to, though: as a human being, I don’t believe in cheating.
In Connecticut, where I live, there’s a close Senatorial race between Linda McMahon (R) and Chris Murphy (D). My daughter was confused as we had lunch today, because people at the polling places and on TV had T-shirts that said “Obama and McMahon”. She thought that Linda McMahon was a Democrat, but couldn’t understand her politics. I had thought it odd, and thought Republicans wouldn’t be happy, but it had never occurred to me that people would be confused. I bet, though, that someone in the McMahon camp did think it through and wanted that result. I think that’s cheating — maybe legal, but cheating, nonetheless.
In Massachusetts, there’s a close race between Scott Brown (R) and Elizabeth Warren (D) for Senator. I like Warren a lot. I like her firebrand style and I agree with her opinions re: the middle class. Still, I have never thought Scott Brown was that bad a guy. He’s just your average Senator — a Republican from the old school… he votes with his conscience and what he believes is for his constituency. His actions, like anyone’s are mixed. Yet, some PAC or another is trying to make it seem like Brown is an evil, vile, Wall Street insider who is beholden to the tea party. He’s not, and to say he is, is lying. If I lived in Massachusetts, I’d vote for Elizabeth Warren, but I wouldn’t vote against Scott Brown. If whatever PAC it is convinces people to vote against Brown and they do so based on lies, that’s cheating to me, too. Others may call it “spin”, “debating tactics”, or “standard politics”, I still call it lying. Furthermore, intentionally lying to get votes is cheating. I don’t care if it’s been done since time immemorial.
In the Presidential campaign, there has been attempts in many states to keep voters from the polls, under the cause of “voter fraud”, but since voter fraud doesn’t happen very often (like nearly never), that’s also cheating — this time by limiting whose vote counts. Lying about voter fraud, and preventing people from going to the polls is also cheating.
On the other hand, I guess, Black Panthers are scaring people at voting booths in California. I don’t think they’re lying, but I haven’t read enough about about it to know. Still, if they are scaring people away, that’s cheating. There are also billionaire industrialists who have told their employees that if they vote for Obama, they’ll lose their jobs. That’s coercion and that’s cheating as well.
Here’s the long-and-short of it: we all know it’s cheating.Nothing I’m saying is a great surprise to anyone. That’s why this is such a big deal. People who claim to represent us and our values clearly missed the boat on this one, if they think that their tactics represent us. In fact, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t despise the tactics and yet they live on.
So here’s my solution, based in personal responsibility and morals, fairness and democracy: If you, as a candidate, win an election by cheating, you should step down. It’s as simple as that. If you, as an individual, help someone win by cheating, you should bar yourself from the political process. If you made a lot of money doing this, you should give the money back and bar yourself from the political process if your candidate won. If you prevented people from going to the polls, no matter how you did it, you should prevent yourself from going to the polls — maybe forever.
Democracy is a great and wonderful thing. People who live in a democracy need to believe it’s real. They need to believe their vote matters. They need to believe they matter. If you can’t play by the rules, you shouldn’t play. Furthermore, if you are to tout “democracy” as the thing every other country needs, then you need to respect it, so people will respect you when you try to sell them democracy as a value. If you can’t represent a democracy, you haven’t earned the right to lead one.
Lastly, there’s the whole psychological thing. If you win by cheating — in anything — you never know if you really won. If you want to lead others, it seems to me you need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror. The job of President or Senator or Representative– or mayor or school board member, or leader of a scout troop — is hard enough and fraught with enough perils. If — down under it all — you don’t believe you have the right to be there, it’s going to stink to be you. Living with a personality that’s a house of cards is no way to go through life on a day-to-day basis. As Edgar Allen Poe pointed out in “The Tell-Tale Heart” and Hank Williams pointed out in his song, “your cheating heart will tell on you”.