Title: Down for the Count
Rating: 4 Stars
This is another example of an unexamined life not worth living. From childhood, we’ve been drilled with what a great example of democracy the United States is and how much better we are than other countries. We look with disdain upon the electoral skulduggery that takes place in Russia. We look at countries that stain their voters’ thumbs and scoff at how primitive they are.
And then you read something like this book. You see the shameful history of our elections. You see the crude attempts at voter suppression that are blatantly racist. You see how the two party system, at the end of the day, is treating the whole electoral process like it’s some kind of game where if you don’t get caught, it’s not cheating. And even if you do get caught, as long as no judge overturns the results, it’s a win.
For the history geek, the early history of voting is interesting. It discusses the rise of machine politics (think Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed) and makes the interesting case that such politics actually played, as corrupt as they were, an important role in an 19th century city with no civil support structure at all for the poor, unrepresented, and/or recent immigrants.
It makes the case that 1896 was possibly the most momentous election in our history. This was the first election in which corporate interests (represented by Mark Hanna) realized its power in the face of mass populism when William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan.
Of course, entire chapters are devoted to two of the most controversial elections in history, Rutherford B Hayes and George W Bush. In both cases, naked political ambition clouded any attempts at all to get to some true expression of the will of the people.
Post 2000, it delves into the extreme partisan gerrymandering resulting in Republican majorities in state governments despite the fact that majorities actually vote Democrat. It discusses the entire debacle of electronic voting by exposing how easy it is commit fraud, how susceptible to failure they are, and the lack of paper backup leaves no recourse to suspicions of fraud.
Even my state, Washington, gets its own call-out with the Gregoire / Rossi election where King County, after several recounts, still continued to mysteriously find lost ballots to count. Yes, the Democrat party is not immune to this either.
It really is a jarring and depressing read. It ends with the usual list of recommendations that have no chance of ever coming to pass.
I close with something that I found interesting. I post very truncated review of my books on GoodReads. I use it as a way to keep track of the books that I’ve read and provide a very quick summary to jog my memory some time later when I look at my book list.
For the first time, and much to my astonishment, I was the first person to rate this book. Somewhat shocked, I checked and it turns out that this book has only been out for a month. That kind of explains it, but it still seemed odd to me that, even if it has been out a month, since it’s not a tough read, I would have expected it to have already been reviewed.
I did a little more digging and it turns out that this is actually a re-release of a book called Steal This Vote, which was released over 10 years ago. That made more sense, but when I researched that book, even that release had only a little over 30 ratings. I went to Amazon, and again, it had a little over 30 ratings.
How can this be? For instance, Gone Girl, has over 1.3 million ratings. Clearly, it’s not reasonable to expect that much, but in over 10 years, 30 ratings? This is actually a critical issue. The United States is dangerously teetering to a time where it can’t even make a pretense of being a democracy.
In all seriousness, vote corruption and voter suppression, way more than some semi-organized, quasi-military terrorist group, could very well be the existential crisis that destroys our grand experiment.
And apparently absolutely no one cares.