Alternative Election Coverage
Gerrymandering. The word was coined after the redrawing of election districts by Governor Gerry in Massachusetts in 1812. He signed a bill that benefited his party. One of the contorted districts in the Boston area was said to resemble the shape of a salamander. How does this notorious political practice work? Two of the most common gerrymandering techniques are called packing and cracking. In the former, the party in charge of redistricting tries to pack voters from the rival party into as few districts as possible, to minimize the number of seats the opposition is likely to win. In the second, blocs of opposition voters are meted out among several districts, to achieve the same goal. Gerrymandering occurs in countries where elected politicians are responsible for defining constituency boundaries and by doing so tilt elections. To prevent gerrymandering some primitive countries, such as Canada and Australia authorize non-partisan organizations to determine how districts are configured.
Olympic athletes to corporate executives at Volkswagen tell lies. Remember Tony Montana, the mobster in Scarface played by Al Pacino, when he said, “I always tell the truth, even when I lie.” The trick is to be convincing, have oodles of guile and be a smooth talker. In politics lying is an art form. There’s the joke about, How can you tell when a politician’s lying? Whenever you see his or her lips moving. When they are caught in a lie the PR damage control gurus rush in and coat the mendacity in, Well, it was taken out of context or the ever popular he or she misspoke. Lying in politics is strictly non-partisan. Eisenhower about the U.S. coup in Iran, Kennedy about Cuba. Johnson about Vietnam, Nixon on just about everything, Clinton. You get the picture. The list goes on and on.
The discontent in the U.S. is more than palpable. Income and wealth inequality continue to soar. The middle class is getting hammered. Fifty million are poor. Americans are disheartened about the nation’s course. According to a new Gallup poll 82% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track. Another poll from the Associated Press says one in four registered voters have hardly any confidence their vote will be counted. Both major presidential candidates have very high negatives. Many people are fed up with the choices the two major parties dish up. In the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign and the spark it generated, there seems to be an opportunity for progressives to advance their ideas. Interview by David Barsamian. 2 CDs
Franklin Delano Roosevelt must be flipping in his grave as many of his cherished New Deal programs have come under assault from not just Republicans, but from his own Democratic Party. Democrats in the 1990s picked up and adopted Ronald Reagan’s right-wing agenda of deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, so-called free trade deals, crime bills, mass incarceration and cutting programs for the poor. Democrats abandoned the working class and in particular turned its back on unions. They
cuddled up and embraced hedge fund managers and celebrities in their mansions in Malibu and the Hamptons. They watched as wages went flat, people lost their homes and inequality mushroomed to obscene levels. Campaign rhetoric aside, Hillary Clinton will most likely continue with business as usual unless she is pushed hard to adopt a truly progressive agenda.
Interview by David Barsamian.
What’s your favorite flavor? Trump? Hillary? Maybe Jill Stein or Gary Johnson? Or maybe you were one of the 13 million Bernie Sanders voters? A lot of people invest heavily in emotional terms in elections. Hopes are raised to the skies, then there are disappointing defeats or if your candidate wins and assumes office disillusionment sets in. And you say, Oh, man, how could I have been so wrong? Know the feeling? Maybe that emotional investment is misplaced. Often real change comes not from elected officials but from activists and movements that pressure elected officials. Some of the great social and political advancements have come far removed from the ballot box. Think of Mahatma Gandhi. Think of the suffrage movement and the handful of women who began it in Seneca Falls, NY or Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.
David Daley is the editor in chief of Salon and the Digital Media Fellow for the Wilson Center for Humanities and the Arts and the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Ratf**ked.
Ari Rabin-Havt is host of The Agenda, a national radio show on SiriusXM. His articles appear in USA Today, The New Republic, The Nation, Salon, and The American Prospect. He co-authored The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine and Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics.
Ralph Nader has spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of ordinary people. He has run for president four times. Life magazine ranks him as one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century. Founder of Public Citizen, he is a long-time advocate for consumer safety and workers’ rights. He rose to fame in the 1960s when he took on General Motors and its unsafe Corvair car. His book Unsafe at Any Speed not only created a sensation but was instrumental in the enactment of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. His efforts helped create the Environmental Protection Agency. He has exposed the misdeeds of the corporate sector as well as of the political system. In recent years he has been in the forefront of the struggles around NAFTA, the WTO, corporate welfare and single payer health care.
Thomas Frank is a prominent political commentator and the founding editor of The Baffler magazine. He is the author of many books including One Market Under God, What’s the Matter with Kansas? The Wrecking Crew, Pity the Billionaire and Listen, Liberal.
Noam Chomsky, by any measure, has led a most extraordinary life. In one index he is ranked as the eighth most cited person in history, right up there with Aristotle, Shakespeare, Marx, Plato and Freud. The legendary MIT professor practically invented modern linguistics. In addition to his pioneering work in that field he has been a leading voice for peace and social justice for many decades. Chris Hedges says he is “America’s greatest intellectual” who “makes the powerful, as well as their liberal apologists, deeply uncomfortable.” He is Institute Professor (emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT and Laureate Professor of Linguistics and Haury Chair in the Program in Environment and Social Justice at the University of Arizona. At 89, he still gives lectures all over the world. He is the author of scores of books, including Propaganda & the Public Mind, How the World Works, Power Systems and Global Discontents with David Barsamian.