As Election 2006 approaches voters are concerned about the war, their personal economic status, immigration and a host of other regional issues. But, disturbingly, there is growing distrust about the country’s electoral process itself. Gerrymandering that puts some districts out of reach for challengers and voting machines that produce results that cannot be verified have fostered a cynicism that undermines national confidence in that bulwark of our democratic republic – – free, fair and verifiable elections.
And it is hardly a positive sign that so-called character issues are often premised on views about abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and gay unions, matters that should, by rights, fall outside the province of government and that are surely not the major biblical focus many evangelicals would have us believe. Some of the most corrupt politicians of our time have wrapped themselves in the mantel of false Christian values, challenging opponents according to their slanted views of morality in campaigns and seeking to hammer their personal views into legislative and judicial victories if elected.
That phony overlay of moral rectitude has allowed many politicians to mask egregious behavior with religious pomposity and has produced a government mired in corruption even as leaders proclaim fealty to family, God and the nation. Some people still say they support President Bush because he is a “good Christian man” despite the fact that his response to the most pressing of world problems is to gin up our arsenal and send young people to die in foreign lands.
And whose definition of morality would encompass this administration’s seeming indifference to the desperate condition of so many here at home? In the aftermath of Katrina did the suffering of the victims left in its wake really touch the presidential conscience and cause him even a moment’s regret that, by allowing political considerations to guide his choice at FEMA instead of seeking expertise in the field, he was complicit in the malfunctioning of that agency and the loss of life among survivors? Religious platitudes and endless “God Bless Americas” in the absence of moral behavior are transparent ploys politicians use to hide the fact that they are entirely derelict in the performance of their duties.
Obviously many elected officials believe they can slink about in the narrow confines of their parochial environs without being called to account for expressing racist, partisan views and covering up non-existent ethical standards by quoting scripture or just being jolly, good old boys. George Allen of Virginia was skewered on the internet and by the national media for his insensitive racist remarks at a fundraiser, and his subsequent denials regarding other similar past epithets, proved him to be not only a proponent of the “Old South” but a liar as well. This man serves in the Senate and may well be re-elected. What kind of voters support men like Allen for public office? Will the American people continue to allow jingoism and phony religious pronouncements to cloud their moral judgment and influence their political choices?
In Connecticut Chris Shays and Joe Lieberman, who both filled the airwaves with positive talk after their trips to Iraq, though most experienced observers disagreed, have begun to talk about the possibility of withdrawal from Iraq – – just in time perhaps to pull some voters into their camp before November 7th. Lieberman of course, having lost the Democratic primary, is running as a putative Independent, but he is for all intents and purposes the Republican candidate – – so much for the political process. And the Shays campaign has taken on a nasty, desperate edge as his re-election hopes falter.
Lieberman was a pontificating presence during the Clinton impeachment process and last year joined Republicans who thought it was appropriate to become involved in the Terry Schiavo matter. Besides being just very annoying, he turns out to be a self-serving pol who seems to see himself as moralist, deal broker and king maker.
For his part, Shays has taken to dismissing conditions at Abu Ghraib as sexual misconduct, not torture, rather than what many analysts have concluded was behavior consistent with ill-defined methods, sanctioned by higher-ups, to break the will of prisoners. He has also attempted, as have other Republicans and pundits, to deflect attention away from Mark Foley’s misconduct by pointing to past misdeeds on the part of Democrats. That nobody died in Foley’s case is actually supposed to mean something.
But what Shays et al fail to understand is that nothing can change current reality; all other rationalizations are irrelevant and leave voters angry and dismissive. For those who aren’t sure there are still decent politicians capable of serving the nation well, it can only be hoped that, come Election Day, significant numbers of people will be energized and optimistic enough about the future of the country to show up and vote for candidates who show discernible signs of integrity.

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