There’s a lot that Caribbean Americans find difficult to understand in American politics, compared to politics in their home countries. Some still cannot understand the combined system of primary and general elections; others cannot understand the lengthy ballots involving elections for US senators and House representatives, state governors, state legislators, circuit and county court judges, and school board members.
Dishonest becoming characteristic of American politics
But, what is most disconcerting to Caribbean Americans is the dishonesty fast becoming characteristic of political campaigns in America.
Some Caribbean Americans have commented that the dishonesty being displayed in campaigns for the upcoming general elections is much worse than experienced in Caribbean politics. One individual said the dishonesty in some local campaigns is reminiscent of the “tribal-like politics that prevailed in Jamaica during the late 1970s.”
Dishonest campaign ads
Topping the list of the dishonest campaign techniques is the lies and negative attacks candidates cast at their opponents in TV campaign ads.
While most ads placed by businesses are subject to “Truth in Advertising” laws this doesn’t seem applicable to political ads. The ads wantonly attack an opponent’s character, and continue unheeded serval times daily. Despite criticism about the nature of some of these ads, they continue paid for by politicians who boldly state they endorse or pay for the ad.
There has been outcry against a particular ad placed by the Ron DeSantis for Governor campaign that claims his Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum is “running from the FBI” implying Gillum is being investigated by the FBI for alleged corruption. Despite counter ads from the Gillum campaign and numerous fact-checking done by several entities rubbishing the allegations, the ad continue airing in several Florida markets.
Another ad targeted at another Florida Democratic candidate, Debbie Powell, seeking to be elected to the US Congress claims she took campaign money from a contract killer.
Several voters complain the preponderance of political ads provide little or no information about the issues candidates stand for. This is a bad situation; one that discourages rather than encourages voting.
Political ads should be subject to advertising rules
Political ads should fall under the same criteria as commercial advertising. Voters shouldn’t be subject to false, misleading, and baseless allegations about candidates in campaign ads. Elections have serious consequences. It’s wrong to deceive voters into electing candidates based on blatant lies placed in ads against their opponents.
Wanton attempts at voter suppression
Another shock to the political culture of Caribbean Americans is the wantonness in which the rights of voters are suppressed in several instances. Recently, there are reports of thousands of voters in Georgia being removed from that state’s voter’s list because the name on their voter ID doesn’t match that on the voter’s list. There are also reports in Georgia of votes of people who voted by mail being revoked at the rate of one in ten votes for various reasons. Still in Georgia, a group of senior citizens were taken off a bus about to take them to vote as the authorities claimed the bus was part of an election campaign.
There have been other reports of voter suppression in other states, and impediments to deter people from registering to vote.
It’s sad that 53 years after the 1965 Voter Right Act, the rights of voters can be suppressed by rules cooked up by electoral officers in different states. Lawsuits are needed to be filed against these practices to restore indelible voter’s rights in every state in the union.
Democracy should not look like this
It’s disgraceful that in America, allegedly the world’s most Democratic nation, much effort is taken to suppress voter’s rights, and deceive voters into voting incorrectly. This isn’t what democracy should look like.
Another deception pertains to allegations from both side of the political divide re the so-called caravan of people fleeing Honduras and Guatemala heading toward the USA to seek refuge. Republican leaders allege the caravan is motivated by Democrats supporting illegal immigration. There are even allegations Democrats are offering hundred-dollar bills to people in the Caravan to assist them along the way. On the other hand, Democrats are accusing Republicans of organizing the caravan to place illegal immigration up front in the election campaign.
Similar to communist bogey in Jamaica
This seem very similar to the Communist bogey in Jamaica in 1961 when the Jamaica Labor Party announced a Russian ship in the Kingston Harbor was indicative of Russian communist influence in Jamaica if the People’s National Party was elected. The lie worked. The PNP led by Norman Manley lost an election it was widely expected to have won.
American politics seem to be rapidly declining into the realm of Third World politics. The elusive heavy voter turn-out will only be secured if voters trust the political system and the candidates seeking their vote.