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High-stakes election

Don’t gamble with your vote this time

One drawback of writing an op-ed column here behind the “Tofu Curtain” is that most people are usually in agreement with the opinions I express on these pages. This should not be too surprising. People living in western Massachusetts tend to be better educated, more intelligent and, therefore, less susceptible to the deceitful drivel spouted by right-wing talk radio or Fox News.

If anything, I find an opposite dilemma in the Valley. I have heard too many local progressives declare that they will either sit out the upcoming presidential election or vote for Green Party candidate, Jill Stein. The fact that Stein has a better chance of pitching the World Series than getting elected president doesn’t register nor does the fatal example of Ralph Nader in 2000 that gave us George W. Bush. These folks have a fatal tendency to choose righteous purity over pragmatism and validate their decision by saying that within liberal Massachusetts, Obama is a shoo-in.

I’m not so sure. Recently, I traveled through the central part of our state and was surprised to find dozens of lawn signs for Romney and only a handful for Obama. Such complacency could allow a victory for the former, which would have dire national consequences in a down-to-the-wire race.

Progressives forget that Obama is president of the United States, not the chairman of the Gandhi Peace, Love and Understanding Society. As such, he has to deal with military power, shady business and political leaders, plus the harsh realities outside our borders that affect us all.

Obama has been further saddled with a do-nothing Congress whose only goal for our nation is to have him fail, even if this failure harms the American people. Add to this the fact that the next president will likely nominate up to three new justices to the Supreme Court and one begins to understand the stakes involved.

If progressives refuse to vote for Obama, their decision will have only one result: putting Mitt Romney into the White House.

As seen throughout the year and lately at the presidential debates, Romney’s convictions change on an hourly basis. He has flip-flopped so often, we should recommend him a good chiropractor. Although he might be a moderate at heart (like his mother and father were), when you vote for the man, you are also voting for his party, which is more accurately represented by Romney’s choice of running mate.

Paul Ryan has proposed a federal budget so cruel in cuts to struggling Americans that it was roundly condemned last August as harmful and unethical by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It mirrors the selfishness and greed-based morals of his party’s platform. That platform is further degraded by the vicious remarks justifying rape made by some of its candidates, indicating that their views on women are only slightly more evolved than the Taliban.

Antagonistic to women, gays, minorities, unions, immigrants and alternative energy, the Republican Party will “Take American back” to the late 19th century and the heyday of the elitist plutocracy.

From my perspective, this election could be framed as The New Deal versus The Robber Barons and it doesn’t take much brain power to know which party stands for what. In order to compensate for their less- than-popular views, the Republicans will try to win this election by doing what they are best at; namely cheating. Despite no evidence of voter fraud, they have made this a fake issue in order to disenfranchise voters who are likely to choose their rival.

In Ohio, Republicans have placed threatening billboards in minority neighborhoods in order to intimidate residents from voting while Bain Capital controls holdings in a company that owns voting machines. In Pennsylvania, several Republican operatives were caught destroying Democratic registration forms. That’s how this new crop of Republicans plays the game. They cheat.

But this election has revealed to me some unsettling observations as to how the American electorate processes values and information. Besides being swayed by idiotic attack ads that communicate with the most blatant lies and exaggeration, it appears that too many people will base their choice on who can save them a dime on a gallon of gasoline or a few hundred dollars on their tax bill. This rationale for choosing the leader of the Free World seems light years away from John F. Kennedy, who once challenged his fellow Americans to “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Such a vision might seem embarrassing in our current cynical society. But it is sobering to reflect that the ideals of patriotism and sacrifice have been tarnished by which politician is in the pocket of whatever lobbyist and the corporations they represent. If this substitution is a reflection of American principles, then perhaps it is time to measure what kind of country we have chosen to become.

Daniel A. Brown has lived in Franklin County since 1970 as an artist, writer, amateur historian, and photographer. He is a frequent contributor to the Recorder and welcomes feedback at dbrown1793@gmail.com .

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