The airwaves are awash in ominous voiceovers. The scent of prevarication is in the air. And my mailbox and inbox are chock-full of claims, counterclaims and febrile fantasies of an America that's never existed.
It must be election time.
You can't tell the candidates without a scorecard, so let me check my notes and see if I have their bios straight. U.S. Senate candidate Richard Carmona is a potentially homicidal maniac who terrorizes women and children by attempting to break into their homes in the middle of the night.
Tempe congressional candidate Kyrsten Sinema is a pagan, hippie, socialist, anarchist, radical left-wing activist who hates America, stay-at-home moms, the armed forces, families and apple pie. (OK, that last part is speculation—her pie preference is a private matter.)
Mitt Romney is a spoiled, selfish, trust-fund cult member who wants to fire you and put stadium lights and a traffic signal in your daughter's uterus, while Barack Obama is a Muslim, socialist, terrorist, illegal-alien dictator. Check.
Politics, like gardening, is an exercise in shoveling shit and reaping harvests. Unfortunately, most politicians aren't interested in metaphorical flowers, food or anything that might enhance the lives of the regular folks they're supposed to represent. It's more about the money that grows on trees in the gated estates of the wealthy and powerful.
For the rest of us, it's becoming increasingly difficult to tell the shit from the Shinola. There are many reasons for this, but prominent among them is the absolute abdication by the mainstream media of their sacred role as truth-tellers.
Oh, sure, "fact-checking" is all the rage, but it's a hollow exercise that rarely rises above such meaningless mumbles as "both candidates stumbled" or "he reached a little on that one" or, my favorite, the candidates "misspoke."
Truth be told, the fact-checkers often get the facts wrong, too. And the talking heads long ago traded in the concept of holding candidates accountable for a role that more aptly fits their vacuous perspectives: They're merely horse-race announcers who value the appearance of impartiality more than the integrity of democracy.
Regardless, the show must go on. Democratic horses are sticking with their usual Beltway jujitsu of embracing kinder, gentler versions of Republicanism, while the Republican strategy is more straightforward: 1) lie, and 2) cheat.
When you've got billions of dirty dollars at your disposal, it's a relatively easy thing to lie so often and so loudly that people come to believe you.
And when you control the levers of the electoral process, as Republicans do in many battlegrounds, it's relatively easy to zero in on people who are most likely to vote for your opponents and prevent many of them from doing so. Republican officials in several swing states—including Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, a partisan hack if there ever was one—are raising voter suppression to a high art.
In such an atmosphere, it's hard to muster any enthusiasm for participating in our democratic process. But if you're looking for inspiration, try Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez was just handily re-elected for the umpteenth time despite ongoing U.S. interference and a relentless smear campaign by hostile corporate media.
The talking heads say he's an evil dictator, so he must be cheating, right? Not according to the highly respected Carter Center, led by Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who made this pronouncement: "Of the 92 elections that we've monitored, I would say that the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world."
So, how does Chavez win? It's rather simple, as laid out by Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Chavez nationalized Venezuela's lucrative oil industry, took the huge profits that were once hoarded by corporate executives, and used them to provide access to health care, cut poverty in half, double the number of people going to college, and generally make people's lives a whole heck of a lot better. No wonder democratic participation there is nearly double what it is here—people actually get something out of it.
Watching the two-headed Obamneysaur trip over itself in its rush to demonstrate obeisance to the fossil-fuel industry during the second debate was enough to crush any Hope for such Change here, but there is the tiny chance that I'm wrong. Despite my cynicism, I'm a compulsive voter—for spite, if nothing else—and Obama is my default choice. (Hey, once you vote black, you never go back.)
So, please, please vote, and help prove me wrong.