I like Paul Krugman. His “The Great Unraveling” is one of the books that best represented the myriad of reasons why this country should not vote for George W. Bush's re-election. Today, in his election day NY Times op-ed, Krugman says “this is democracy, America's great gift to the world, in action.”
On this day, it is important that U.S. citizens be excited and that they believe that Mr. Krugman’s assertion is true. The United States, the whole world, need the biggest voter turnout in recent American history. Everyone agrees that, the larger the turnout, the higher the chances for Mr. Kerry to be elected to the highest public office in the modern world. If the threat of four more years for the incumbent is averted, the world will draw a collective sigh of relief. Then, we should roll up our sleeves and do everything in our powers to try and restore a semblance of true democracy, rebuilding it from the ground up.
In the heat of the power struggle that has entangled the nation for the last few months, we seem to have forgotten that true democracy affirms every citizen's equal right to participate in the electoral process. What we have seen, particularly over the last few days, is a nation not only fiercely divided, but one ready to trample the principles on which democracy itself is founded. The problem of voters being disenfranchised, particularly among minorities, is still rampant in many states. Voting machines prone to malfunctions are being sent to select precincts in order to close the gap in favor of one of the candidates. Delivery of absentee ballots has been intentionally delayed to prevent votes from being cast or counted. Widespread voter registration fraud has been reported in many of the states perceived as key. The Republican party has been accused of planning the disruption of the voting process in predominantly black districts, by challenging voters at the polls in order to bring the process to a standstill or to chase exasperated voters away from the polling stations. True, the stakes have rarely been so high, but this is not a picture of democracy in action we should be proud of. If this situation endures, our democracy might suffer irreversible damage, and only cable news channels will have something to cheer about.
For the first time in the history of this country, international observers have been invited to monitor the presidential election. A nation that prides itself on being a beacon of democracy, for all the world to follow, should have more confidence in the transparency of its own democratic process. No matter who is elected, we should hope that the first order of business for the next administration would be a critical, independent, all-around review of the electoral system in this country, to prevent the process from being further debased in future elections. Failing to take such a step would just reinforce the view of the large number of voters who still refuse to participate, for they believe that this democracy is just a pageant: the gift of American show-business to the world.