I expect I'll have a thing or two more to say about the election this week. Today, let me just highlight a couple of things I'm watching:
The election matters. Whether you believe that every person should stand or fall on his own, or instead that governments are formed to promote the general welfare, this election will be a referendum on your philosophy. I have a clear bias: I believe public governments do many things better than private concerns can possibly do—and some things that private concerns absolutely should not do. Police powers, for example, I believe absolutely must remain public powers. And yesterday's New York Times provides a stark example of what happens when people stop paying for the police:
The shrinking of Sacramento’s police force has been extreme; the department has lost more than 300 sworn officers and civilian staff members and more than 30 percent of its budget since 2008. But at a time when many cities are curtailing essential services like policing — the Los Angeles Police Department said last week that it could lay off 160 civilian employees by Jan. 1 — the cutbacks in this sprawling city of 472,000 offer a window on the potential consequences of such economizing measures, criminal justice experts say.
In 2011, [Sacramento Police] Chief [Rick] Braziel said, the cuts, in his opinion, went past the tipping point. While homicides have remained steady, shootings — a more reliable indicator of gun violence — are up 48 percent this year. Rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and vehicle thefts have also increased, though in smaller increments.
Complicating matters, the cutbacks have coincided with a flow of convicted offenders back into the city as California, heeding a Supreme Court ruling, has reduced its prison population. Once released, former inmates have less supervision — the county’s probation department also suffered cuts.
The right won't take defeat like grown-ups. For the past week or so, I've noticed right-wing pundits saying things that imply the president's re-election would somehow not be legitimate. James Fallows has a concrete example from the Fox propaganda machine:
Imagine going to vote for your presidential candidate and pushing the button on a touch-screen voting machine -- but the "X" marks his opponent instead.
That is what some voters in Nevada, North Carolina, Texas and Ohio have reported.
Fox News has received several complaints from voters who say they voted on touch-screen voting machines -- only when they tried to select Mitt Romney, the machine indicated they had chosen President Obama. The voters in question realized the error and were able to cast ballots for their actual choice.
"How can we be sure our votes are not being stolen electronically?" asked [one voter].
The irony, of course, is that there was evidence of inaccurate counts—towards McCain—on Diebold voting machines in 2008, which looked especially bad because Diebold's CEO had been an outspoken McCain supporter. And the actual incidents of actual voting malfeasance that we've seen this year have been perpetrated by Republican operatives. Which brings up my last point.
Authoritarians do not go quietly. The U.S. right wing has a deep authoritarian streak, a deepening attitude that ends justify means, and a justifiable, existential terror at the increasing diversity of the United States. They've spent the last 15 or more years building up a cocoon around themselves against the harsh reality of, well, reality. (And what happens in a cocoon? The caterpillar dissolves itself and emerges weeks later as a pretty but short-lived being whose only goals are to reproduce and die.)
As the Republicans' deepening insanity has become apparent to more and more voters, they've become even more unhinged. Remember, they invented modern dirty tricks under Nixon's CREEP. Their entire electoral and governance philosophy has become to win, not to govern. Mitt Romney can invent new stories like Scheherazade (and for similar reasons) because he truly doesn't care about what he's saying, only that he win.
Look, whether or not the President gets re-elected on Tuesday, the United States will continue in relative peace and prosperity for at least a couple of centuries more. A Romney win, I really believe, will amount to a rear-guard victory by a losing side. Almost nothing can prevent the U.S. from becoming more diverse and more tolerant over the next few decades, though the Republican Party, with even a little more power, can seriously sabotage us until they're finally expelled at the polls.
If you're a U.S. citizen, vote, if you haven't already. If you're not a U.S. citizen, then on behalf of the People of the United States, I apologize for the insanity. Sometime on Thursday morning we'll stop fretting about the 2012 election, and then you'll have at least a week off until we start the 2016 campaign.