Thursday, September 08, 2005


Our Orwellian Times

The United States is in its post-democratic phase. Democracy in this country lasted 224 years, which is a pretty good record.

Along the way, it was a principle that was much admired in the abstract, and much abused in practice.

Not until 2000, however, did the system fail--when Jeb Bush, the President's brother, doing his part to secure the desired end result in the election, oversaw a wholesale (and wholly purposeful) disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida. Overall, between 48,000 and 70,000 voters--overwhelmingly poor and black (about 9 out of 10 of whom could be expected to vote Democratic)--were improperly stricken from voter rolls.

That turned out to be decisive.

In the 2004 election, exit polls predicted that John Kerry would win the presidency by a comfortable margin of 8 million votes. Exit polls are considered highly reliable, with a margin of error of only 1%. Yet George W. Bush "won" the election by 5 million votes.

When this discrepancy was analyzed, it was discovered that anomalous results--that is, wide discrepancies between the exit polls and the counted vote that far exceeded the statistical margin of error--did not occur where the votes were counted by hand. Only in precincts where the votes were counted electronically did large discrepancies occur.

Americans largely ignored both of these irregularities.

We've also ignored the high irony of claiming to be "exporting democracy" when we're no longer practicing it at home. (Or rather, we're pretending to practice it but aren't.) Of course, freedom and democracy are not the real reasons we're in Iraq, and never were.

But still.

The Quotidian Meander

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