Reflections on the midterm elections
Election integrity, cultural wars, and the economy
Conservative and liberal pundits have explained the results of the midterm elections by identifying advantages and disadvantages that each of the two parties had. Working against the Democrats was the economy and the radical cultural agenda of the party’s leftists. Working against the Republicans was the issue of abortion and the "election deniers" in the Party. Because of this balance of advantages and disadvantages, the expected red wave did not occur, and the results are mixed. The Democrats have retained their narrow hold of the Senate. The Republicans likely have retaken control of the House, but by a narrow margin, yet impressively winning by a 6% margin (52.3% vs. 46.2%) in House races across the country. Ron DeSantis had a strong victory in Florida, while Trump-endorsed candidates had mixed results, positioning DeSantis to challenge Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primaries.
I propose in today’s commentary to reflect on the four issues at stake in this year’s electoral game, although we should not lose sight of the fact that the entire process, from a socialist viewpoint, is understood as an “electoral farce.”
Many nations of the world have a structure of citizen identification, in which citizens are expected to carry with them identifications cards that, in today’s technology, can easily include photos. It is normal for police to ask for the identification card when stopping a citizen for running a stop sign, jaywalking, or hustling or bothering other citizens. And it would be reasonable for merchants to expect to see a citizen identification card when processing a credit card purchase. These procedures have been developed in many nations for the common security of all.
Given the level of fraud that exists in the world today, electoral jurisdictions ought to take reasonable precautions against fraud, such as requiring some form of citizen identification when registering to vote and/or when voting. Therefore, I am not entirely uncomfortable with mail-in voting or ballot drop boxes, for they seem like procedures that could be abused by persons with fraudulent intent. These new tendencies tend to be supported by Democrats, who according to Victor Davis Hanson of The Daily Signal, are more effective than Republicans in using them.
There should be universal agreement, regardless of political ideology, with respect to the measures that are appropriate for ensuring the integrity of the electoral process in which the political ideologies compete. However, in the United States, the appropriate measures for protecting electoral integrity have become a part of the ideological debate.
A few years back, some said that the requirement for photo identification is racist, because the consequence of such a measure is that a slightly lower percentage of blacks vote when a photo requirement is in place.
Is this a reasonable claim? In the first place, it is problematic to claim that any regulation that is universally applied to all is discriminatory against some sector, unless particular obstacles confronted by that sector can be identified. Secondly, differential outcomes could be unintentional, without discriminatory intent. If they are intended, in the political culture of the USA today, they are more likely intended against probable members of a political party, and not based on skin color per se.
To be sure, in the South during the era of Jim Crow, the widespread custom was to implement voting procedures in a form that effectively denied the right to vote established by the Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution. And some tendency in this direction continued for a couple of decades following the civil rights reforms of 1964 or 1965. But explicitly anti-black regulations are not the norm today.
In addition, we should recognize that the abuse of regulations by some does not mean that there should be no regulation at all. The integrity of the electoral process requires that the regulations designed to scrutinize voters and prevent fraud be carefully implemented, and that the electoral registrars follows the rules without discriminating against any race, ethnic groups, class, or political party.
In all communities, there are persons who are less committed to particular ideologies and more committed to ensuring the fairness of the electoral competition among the competing ideologies and parities. We ought to identify persons with this orientation in our communities, and call upon them to develop reasonable regulations to prevent fraud and to enforce the regulations with integrity and fairness to all. To some extent, this is already being done in many local communities. We should recognize and appreciate the contributions of these dedicated citizens, and to draw upon their experiences in order to universalize their gains.
Yet another response to differential outcomes in voting is community organization. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were Get Out The Vote campaigns in the black community, explaining to people the voting rules as well as the importance of registering and voting. There were some calls for simplifying the rules, but the emphasis was on calling upon citizens to satisfy voting requirements and to exercise their right to vote. In any marginal neighborhood or community, debate and discussion concerning the exercise of voting rights ought to be a dimension of the organization and development of local communities.
Election integrity should not be matter of ideological division. We all should be committed to the development of reasonable regulations to prevent fraud and to the fair implementation of the rules.
Unfortunately, in the current ideological division, many Republican politicians and many followers of Donald Trump have maintained that election fraud prevented the reelection of Donald Trump. The media and the Democrats routinely dismiss them as “election deniers.” According to some of the pundits, the Democrats in the midterm elections were able to effectively portray some Republican candidates as “election deniers” and extremists who are threats to democracy.
In truth, there were a number of problems with the 2020 presidential elections. In “Biden’s Inexplicable Victory,” published in Chronicles on October 1, 2021, Patrick Basham notes that the Census Bureau found five million fewer voters than the number of ballots counted in the 2020 elections (won by Biden), the largest gap every recorded in post-election surveys. In contrast, in the 2016 elections (won by Trump), the Census post-election voting data was equal to the number of ballots counted. In addition, in the 2020, the magnitude of pre-election polling error was unprecedented. Furthermore, the registration-by-party figures, generally a reliable predictor of presidential elections, showed massive Republican gains in competitive states in 2020.
In general, Basham reports, Trump performed much better in 2020 than in 2016, increasing his numbers in swing states and in blue-collar counties as well as among blacks and Hispanics. In 2020, Trump’s vote total was 12.1 million higher than four years earlier; not since 1892 had an incumbent president gained votes yet lost reelection.
All of this could be explained by a higher vote total for Biden, driven by a high level of dislike for Trump in some sectors. But Basham doesn’t think so. He quotes Seth Keshel, a former U.S. Army military intelligence officer, whose analyses led him to conclude that Biden’s national popular vote total was 8.1 million above what it was mathematically possible for him to attain.
At the same time, there have appeared from time to time articles in The Daily Signal, which reported on problems in the election procedures in various states. In general, the articles were persuasive in suggesting a basis for a genuine level of concern with respect to the voting practices of the nation.
I am not an “election denier.” I believe that in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections, it was reasonable to raise questions and to submit appeals. But as time passed, there did not emerge sufficiently clear evidence that the presidential elections had been stolen by the Democrats.
However, I am opposed to the ideological manipulation of the issue of electoral integrity, either from the left or from the right. We should all support electoral integrity, even in the context of an elite-supported electoral farce, as the best available foundation (in the current historic moment) for civility, and for the level of legitimacy that would be necessary for the conduct of reasonable public debate, which itself could led to structural and cultural reforms with respect to the electoral process and with respect to other important issues that the nations confronts.
Both political parties have shamefully failed with respect to the economy since 1980. They have pursued policies that have stimulated investment in financial speculation and in production in other countries. Both parties have failed to develop policies that are designed to strengthen national production. In their betrayal of the nation, both political parties have been in cahoots with the big corporations, for which financial speculation and factory relocation were the most profitable in the short term.
In the context of the superficialities of the electoral farce, the strength of the economy is measured on the basis of the statistical rise and fall of employment and inflation in the preceding months. The party in power is credited or blamed according to the results. In the 2022 midterm elections, the Democrats were blamed for the bad shape of the economy.
The superficial focus on the rise and fall a couple of economic indicators blocks a meaningful and necessary public debate on the factors that have induced the economic decline of the nation relative to other imperialist powers and the emerging powers of the Global South. If such a constructive public debate would occur, perhaps one of the parties or a third party would be able to formulate a coherent plan designed to increase the productivity of the national economy and therefore the economic resources of the nation, making possible more effective attention to issues of health care, education, and housing.
The cultural wars
The damage that has been done to the nation by wokeness is profound. With respect to both race and sexuality, the woke has adopted a post-modern discourse that is alien to the implicit philosophical beliefs of the majority of the people, and that could not possibly provide the philosophical foundation to any stable society. It is a discourse that is premised on the assumption that empirical, historical, and moral truths can be constructed on the basis of one's subjectivity, feelings, and lived experience. In contrast, the implicit philosophy of the majority is a synthesis of modern science and traditional religion, in which it is assumed that there are truths with respect to nature, history, and morality; and that the duty of human beings is to seek to discover these truths and live by them.
Because the post-modern woke framed its discourse in the modern core belief in the democratic rights of all, the people have found it hard to effectively challenge the woke. Certainly, no one wants to be seen as someone who denies the rights of others. But the people are beginning to find their own voice, rooted in their traditional premises based in liberal democracy and biblical religions.
With respect to race, the woke's post-modern approach involves the construction of a false historical narrative that abstracts from historical and global tendencies to portray the nation as the irredeemable incarnation of the social sin of racism, ignoring the nation’s foundational commitment to liberty and justice for all, and dismissing as unimportant the effective alliance between the African-American movement and the U.S. federal government to provide the legal and cultural foundation for significant changes in the nation since 1965. It is a discourse that begs the question, if it is true that the USA is irredeemably white supremacist and racist, then what should be done? What possibly can be done, if the concrete legal and cultural steps taken by the nation since 1965 count for nothing, if the white people of the nation are inherently racist? What does your “analysis” imply for the future of the nation?
I have written in previous commentaries on the anti-racist theory now in vogue. And I have written on the insightful critiques of black conservatives, who maintain that the anti-racist theory, in emphasizing the victimization of blacks, promotes the particular interests of black professionals and the black middle class, to the detriment of the black poor and the nation. (See various commentaries in the USA section of the Thematic Index).
With respect to sexuality, the woke seeks to legitimate homosexuality and transgenderism, promoting a sexual libertarianism that goes against traditional religious teachings of self-constraint and is at variance with religious understandings of the natural laws that govern the universe that God created. The woke, going beyond calls for tolerance, seeks to impose full acceptance in education, employment, the culture industry, and everyday communication, including the indoctrination of children in schools. The executive branch of the federal government, in support of the woke agenda, utilizes government agencies to enforce interpretations that were never intended by the Congress.
The emergence of the woke is a stunning phenomenon that has roots in the historical failures of the U.S. left since the late 1960s. And the people, learning to embrace greater tolerance with respect to race, gender, and sexuality, were unprepared for the phenomenon. Silenced initially by their confusion, the people are beginning to recover their own voice, and they are beginning to increasingly express their rejection of the woke agenda. As this increasingly conscious rejection unfolds, the solid place of the woke in the left wing of the Democratic Party will become an increasing liability for the Democrats.
In a previous commentary, I noted that abortion is a complex issue, without doubt the most difficult of the issues that are at stake in the cultural wars. The debate on abortion places the right of a woman to choose what to do when confronting an unexpected pregnancy against the right to life of an unborn human being. In moral terms, as an issue that places rights against rights, it is difficult to decide. (See “The Constitution & political legitimacy: Reflections on abortion and religious beliefs,” August 26, 2022
But it is also a politically difficult question, because a political solution on one side or the other does not guarantee acceptance by the opposing side. Certainly, a law absolutely prohibiting abortion would provoke a network of illegal abortions. I believe that a middle ground is necessary, prohibiting abortions beyond a certain gestational age, and developing structures that provide viable alternatives to abortion, yet emphasizing the free decision of women prior to the defined gestational age. I have maintained that Cuba has taken such a moderate approach, and has avoided conflict over the issue. (See “Reproductive rights in Cuba: An example for the divided USA?” October 7, 2022).
The June 24, 2022 Dobbs decision of the U.S. Supreme Court stoked the divisions over the complex issue of abortion. The Court overruled Roe v. Wade, maintaining that the Court in the Roe decision had usurped authority that it did not constitutionally possess. In the Dobbs decision, the Court declared that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion,” and that the regulation of abortion should be decided by the elected representatives of the people in each of the states.
If concern for the legitimacy of the political processes of the nation had priority over winning ideological battles, the reaction of the Democratic Party and the media to Dobbs would have been different. Instead of expressing indignation with the Court, they would have stressed that the ruling of the Court was not so much a ruling against abortion as it was a ruling against the deciding of the question by the Supreme Court, sending the issue to be decided in each of the fifty states. They would have called the people to responsible and constructive discussion of the issue in their states, with the expectation that the states would develop different solutions, in accordance with federalist principles.
Perhaps the Democratic Party was politically motivated. Perhaps in framing the decision as an attack on abortion rights by Republican-appointed justices, they were hoping to gain an advantage in the midterm elections. If so, it worked, according to the pundits. But it worked in relation to ideological and political battles, by employing a strategy that contributed to the further delegitimation of the institutions of the nation.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen maintains that the nation needs a presidential candidate capable of rallying both sides of the red/blue divide behind a cohesive message, and in this regard he is entirely correct. He indicates that that there are signs in the midterm election results that the electorate is ready for this, given its disdain for and fear of the extremes of the left and the right. He maintains that Ronald Reagan was a model for this, providing a coherent message that took the nation beyond the divisions of the late 1960s and 1970s.
It is true that Reagan took the nation in a new direction, and he was not the first to do so. Woodrow Wilson was able to persuade the Congress to enact laws that were designed to regulate and control the big trusts that were a legacy of the Robber Barons. And Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal responded to the Great Depression. Thus, in times of crisis, leaders have emerged that have put forth coherent programs that unified the people toward a new direction in response to the crisis.
We should be aware, however, that each of the three proposals had their limitations. Wilson’s well-designed package was never implemented, cast aside by the needs of World War I, as the nation took the first steps toward the development of the military-industrial complex and the Cold War. For its part, the New Deal was not sustainable in the long run, inasmuch as it was overly dependent on state deficit spending and on the superexploitation of the labor in vast regions beyond U.S. borders. And Reaganism was ethnocentric, class-biased, and imperialist, culminating in neoliberal self-destruction.
This time, we need a leader who can unify the people around a sustainable coherent plan that redirects the nation toward improving the productivity of the national economy and developing cooperative relations with the nations of the world, participating in the construction of world-system that is more just and politically and ecologically sustainable.
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