Written by Nikolay Nikolaev; Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Valentina Tzoneva exclusively for SouthFront
Consumers of social networks joke that the “Russian traces” in the presidential elections were the “dead souls” from the novel by Nikolay Gogol.
The US presidential race surpasses the wildest expectations of the fans of the political show. Traditionally, the election campaign in America sometimes crosses the delicate boundary between politics and “reality” format. In an attempt to attract the politically-uncommitted Americans to vote, contenders for the White House sharpen their tone for speaking nonsense and even make personal attacks and accusations against their opponents. Donald Trump, in his usual style, at the beginning of his campaign, crossed the boundary of good manners with an interview for Fox News where he called his opponent a “murderer of hundreds of thousands of people.”
The billionaire continued the series with a promise; if elected president, he would send the “devil,” Hillary Clinton, to jail; announced that she is a “dangerous and unstable liar”; and even recently said that she took drugs.
Although more measured, the former first lady followed suit, describing him as “a pig with lipstick” and his supporters as racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and a “collection of desperate people.” This typical American background, combined with personal hostility between the two actors on stage and the fundamental differences in their views of America and the world, threatens to reveal the dirtiest secrets of American politics.
The United States today is at a crucial crossroads and a choice of direction must be made. Two radically different concepts for the future of the country are clashing: “Hillary for America” versus “Let’s make America great again,” globalism against Americano-centrism. On the one side, is the powerful transnational financial capital, and on the other, the American industry and the middle class; liberal interventionism against the past-glamour of American exceptionalism. In the final of the fierce race between the competitors, they begin to lose their nerves; they call into question the very democratic foundations of the American system: the cornerstone of the whole system.
Are the US elections an “illusion of democracy”?
Republican candidate, Donald Trump, threw a bomb, saying he has serious concerns that the outcome of the November elections will be manipulated. Exposing what he calls “the illusion of democracy,” Trump explained how, in his words, the political process is driven “by a handful of global special interests adjusting the system.” A key role in the replacement of the desires of the ordinary Americans, according to Trump, is played by the media corporations. “Let us be clear about one thing – the corporate media in our country is not engaged in journalism. They represent certain political interests which do not differ from any lobbyist or financial entity,” announced Trump and threw into turmoil the American public. Hillary Clinton, in his words, favours policies that transfer the “sovereignty of the United States to enrich these global financial forces” and that is the reason for trying to put her at the head of the American republic, contrary to the interests of its citizens. “This is reality. You know it, they know it, I know it and almost the whole world knows it,” Donald Trump concluded.
And while allegations of media manipulation are common, despite their alleged monstrous proportions, the suspicions of an electoral fraud scandal are transported in a completely different dimension. In one anecdote that gained popularity, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, calls the so-called Bulgarian election technologist, Tsvetan Tsvetanov. “Ceco,” Borisov starts in his usual style, “Hillary Clinton called me. She is worried about the elections. Go and see what you can do.” After the elections, Borisov called Tsvetanov: “Ceco, what happened in the United States? Did Hillary win?” “Oh, no boss, she is second,” Tsvetanov replied. “How so? Then who is first?” “How what boss? GERB of course!” Tsvetanov said. [Translator’s note: GERB is the leading political party in Bulgaria.]
According to the accusations of a number of influential figures, mainly from the headquarters of Donald Trump, there are electoral technology machinations in the USA, which every Balkan politician would envy. Electoral tourism, inclusion of “dead souls” lists, destruction of ballots, inscription of votes, manipulation of votes by mail and electronic processing – these are no strange things for the American reality, according to some close to the Republican candidate.
The speech of former New York Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, now adviser to Trump, became the butt of jokes on social networks. According to Giuliani, American democratic practice is accustomed to the phenomenon of dead people “voting.” “I remember one occasion when I was a representative of the Attorney General: 720 dead people voted in Chicago in the elections in 1982.” “Dead people usually “vote” for the Democrats, not the Republicans,” the former mayor said, adding that this is repeated and is no fraud in the election campaign by the Democrats. This statement raised ridicule on social networks, where an opinion that proclaimed the “Russian trace” in the presidential race gained fame, based on Nikolai Gogol’s novel, Dead Souls, in which the protagonist Chichikov trades the souls of deceased serfs.
In an interview with television channel, CNN, Giuliani revealed that the electoral system of the United States prohibits large-scale violations, including voting several times by voters, filling up buses and moving to different voting stations.
“I know this first-hand from people in the Camden area (New York). When I ran for mayor of New York for the first time, some people voted eight to 10 times,” Giuliani said. “When I applied for the second time, we released the fire department and the police, so they could record the number of buses (coming to polling stations).”
“I asked Randy Levine, who is now president of the baseball team, the Yankees, what percentage of violations we managed to prevent then. He replied: 75% so far and I am obliged to someone with about 25 000 votes,” the former mayor continues in characteristic style.
No comments so far for now for what has become known at home as the “American Kostinbrodska” affair. “Recently, the electrician, Randall Prince from Ohio, making a tour of the warehouse where he works, found urns with tens of thousands of ballots, which were checked against the candidate for the post of president of the USA, Hillary Clinton.” The American newspaper, Christian Times, reported this. It is entirely possible that the information is misleading and therefore did not get special attention.
American independent bloggers and activists from civil society, in criticism of electoral machinations, however, brought a number of facts and evidence to light. Most popular in Bulgaria is the case in December 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote of the electorate, but the Supreme Court of the country stopped the recounting of votes in Florida and thus de facto handed over power to George Bush Jr. The suspected violations in this state, where the governor then was Jeb Bush, George’s brother, were never dissipated. Unconfirmed were the reports that the electronic systems for the census set 2 000 votes in advance for Bush. Those interested America could have turned the matter to the Chief Scrutineer, Katherine Harris, who was also co-chair of the campaign of George Bush. That same Katherine Harris further complicated things by refusing to respect the results of Palm Beach, because the census missed the deadline by several hours. According to Time magazine, the rejected results of Palm Beach could have turned things around, giving Gore an advantage by 192 votes (crucial for Gore to become the president). Again, in Florida and again with Jeb Bush, four years later, more than 60 000 ballots disappeared. In 2004, the Electoral Commission in Broward County, near Miami, said that it sent 60 000 ballots by mail, but of those only 2 000 reached their intended destination. It is too unbelievable for 58 000 parcels to simply disappear, the then spokesperson of the US postal service said, and inspectors investigated the mystery for a long time.
The election of George Bush as president in 2000 was accompanied by another unusual event – a record number of invalid ballots. In practice, the majority of the two million disregarded ballots are valid votes. Under the American legal system, voters can submit their votes in the ballot in every possible way with the clear understanding for who the vote is. Specific signs, markings or deletions do not make the ballot invalid.
The Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection and Dean of the Law Faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, Christopher Edley, conducted an investigation into the case. It turns out that the optical counting machines with which they voted automatically rejected ballots which read “Al Gore,” as the algorithm treats “Al” as a random mark. And while in “white” areas citizens who made an error received another ballot with instructions on how to correct it, it turns out that in areas populated by African-American voters, they did not have that opportunity. According to the study, 54% of the discarded ballots were votes of blacks, but then they only make up 12% of voters. What can you do? Coloured people just do not like Bush. Subsequently, the disgruntled “returned the favour” by throwing eggs on Bush’s limousine and even stopped the ceremonial parade.
While Tsvetanov gave further explanations about the sacks of the 2011 election, his American colleagues will remain in the history of curiosities of the 2012 elections. The voting begins with a banal story of a captured video, which shows how workers in New Hampshire were handed out ballots to vote on behalf of deceased people. The novelty, however, is the illegal removal of inspectors from the Republican Party from a number of polling stations in the country. What kind of unhealthy interest could these conservatives have to question the fairness of the elections? Consequently, it turns out that in 21 unobserved areas in Wood County, Ohio, 100% of the electorate voted for the Democratic candidate, Obama.
Maybe the anomaly of votes in Wood County is explained by the Democrats with a turnout of 108% of registered voters. A similar situation is in our favourite Florida. There is only one constituency it appears that voted slightly less than 113%, and another – from 175 554 registered voters, 247 713 people (141%) voted. The record-holder in Florida, however, is the electoral division in St. Lucie, where the turnout was 158.85% of voters. What can you do? Florida loves elections!
In fact, it is not a secret for anyone that US law gives ample opportunities for rigging the election results. Unlike most countries in the world, the American system allows voting by any document with a marked surname of the voter. Pictures are not at all necessary, and even a receipt for payment of water bills at the local American Department of Water Supply works. Attempts by Republicans to allow voting only with an identity document with a photograph is meeting resistance from Democrats; as many as 10% of voters do not have such a document. Of course, it violates civil rights in the US, according to the Democratic Party.
Another curiosity is the opportunity in the US to register voters on election day. Loopholes allow buses with voters to tour the American expanses, to go sightseeing and vote in between. Claiming that they have recently moved to the area, citizens have every reason to be enrolled on the electoral register and vote. When Republican representatives in the legislature of Maine introduced a restriction of registration on election day, outraged civil organisations initiated a referendum in which the ban was dropped.
The idea of advanced voting would have raised real fear in Bulgaria. It is doubtful whether in our country the legislative proposal to vote a few days before election day with ballots stored for safekeeping in ‘Arena Armeetz’ would gain popularity. Laws in the United States, however, permit this, and in the elections in 2008, two-thirds of voters preferred this option. But the preliminary voting carries risks for replacement of ballots or other intervention on the polls. The opportunity to vote by mail is risky; it was among the reasons for annulling the presidential elections in Austria.
According to studies, more than half of the supporters of Donald Trump are convinced that their votes will not be properly counted on election day. We cannot know whether the fears that the elections will be falsified are real, or a consecutive election gimmick. It is a fact that Donald Trump and the leading figures in his election headquarters such as Rudolph Giuliani, Catherine Pearson and Jay Mercury publically expressed similar doubts. There is no evidence of falsification, as the elections have not taken place, the representative of Trump, Catherine Pearson, explained to reporters. “However, such a risk is completely plausible. Concerns about possible fraud in the elections will unfold for a long time.”
The Republican candidate called on his supporters to be cautious and admitted that he can believe in the honesty of the elections in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania) and Chicago (Illinois) only if ”he forgets all that he has learned in 40 years in politics.” The Republican Party has recruited volunteers to monitor the elections since the beginning of August. “From my point of view, I can lose only in case of fraud,” Trump said and he will not allow people to vote “five times” in Pennsylvania.
According to analyst, Michael Khazin, the current presidential elections in the US, with the revelations of the candidates to the public, are a marginal situation for the American political tradition. Statements such as Trump’s speech that former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is the “inspirer and founder of terrorist group, Islamic State, are, in his words, a perfectly memorable event. The masks of hypocrisy and double standards are falling and in the United States forces are obviously trying to prevail; they are at the heart of the foundation, which became an example in the whole world for “American exceptionalism.”
“The American Dream,” progress and democracy, the freedom and limitless possibilities of the human spirit are the ideas that inspired generations of progressive people all over the globe. All this shows that we are moving towards a different world in which no one is interested in watching the decor.