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Hullabaloo


Saturday, March 19, 2016

 

Crisis of confidence

by Tom Sullivan

The loss of confidence in this country for its institutions and distrust among citizens for each other has really reached toxic levels. Enter Donald Trump and supporters who seem bent on making the country great again by burning the place to the ground. But those levels of distrust are present now across party and ideological lines. In this primary season especially, everyone seems hypervigilant for the stab in the back from allies and quick to read the worst intentions into any statements or government actions. Not without some priming.

After Ronald Reagan declared that government is the problem, his fans worked assiduously at proving it. With success. For thirty years or more, Republicans have worked at undermining confidence in American elections by promoting the idea that widespread fraud is at work undetected. Since 1982, the RNC has been under a consent decree prohibiting it from implementing its own voter fraud prevention measures — or voter suppression, if you see them through jaundiced eyes. In 2012, the last time (of which I am aware) that the Republican Party tried to get the 1982 consent decree voided, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit essentially laughed them out of court. Again. So they have turned after years of such rejection to state legislatures to accomplish the same thing through voter ID. Through relentless propagandizing, they convinced a large swath of the country that the threat from the elusive zombie voter is real and justifies such restrictive measures.

On Tuesday, there were some lines at the polls here in North Carolina and other issues with the new voter ID law. It will be worse in November.

In a story on America's longing for something lost, the Washington Post cites New Hampshire students' reactions to the primary and debates. A 19 year-old Bernie Sanders volunteer commented on the perception of corruption and mistrust:

“If you look at Republicans or Democrats, you are looking at 10 years of things people don’t trust,” Brown said. “Before, we could trust our government, but then we had the NSA wiretapping, and while the world is getting bigger, our politics are getting so much smaller and more corrupt.”
That perception is nonpartisan. After brisk turnout caused an early voting site here to run out of Democratic sample ballots, locals took to radio and social media to speculate that it was because the fix was in somehow. Against somebody. By someone. On Primary Day, the slightest problem set off alarm bells. There were problems, but now people are seeing random errors as evidence of dark conspiracies.

I mentioned to an out-of-state volunteer that the conspiracy meme seemed to be spreading and was itself becoming itself an issue. The Board of Elections was excellent and doing its best under the state's confusing new rules. By the way, I bragged, with John McCain up by 3,000 votes in North Carolina on Election Night 2008, our county had delivered the final 17,000 votes that put Obama over the top and turned the state blue. We were late reporting because a data transfer glitch had delayed uploading the votes to Raleigh.

The young woman sitting nearby looked up and made air quotes, "Right. 'Glitch'."

Head : desk.