“It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.” Joseph Stalin
Just as voting is political, so is vote counting. It will never be free of politics.
Can there really be bi partisanship in the creation and use of a voting system, a system that doesn’t cast votes but rather counts votes. As Stalin once said, “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”
The focus on vote casting has been the focus of one of the political parties. The focus on vote counting has been the focus of the other political party. One party has been busy focusing mainly on getting people to the polls, improving polling locations, updating voting devices, making sure all votes were from by legal voters. The other party has been focused on counting votes resulting from all the efforts of the other political party. The former has been promoted as patriotic which used to be a unifying idea. These were all the visible actions a citizen might make to tell the world their voice was important in the political process. Images of the pledge of alliance in elementary schools of the 50s.
Vote counting seems to be the final “big gun” of the other party fires as a means of finally taking out the current administration. Over the four years of the administration, other attacks against the administration had not worked. There was a long investigation of the leader of one of the two parties that fell through in a spectacular flame out. The economy was booming, and the nation was recording records in many areas. The party leader was an outsider to politics. Coming to politics from business and some would say celebrity. Things looked unbeatable for the leader in the next presidential election.
But then, in March of election year, there was the global pandemic. Perhaps it was created by global allies of the vote counting party in America. Perhaps it was truly a surprise to everyone in the world. Whatever the case, the vote counting party saw the pandemic as an incredibly useful tool against the current administration.
Certain actions were taken. Perhaps the most noticeable action was that leaders of the vote counting party did was create (rather than report) fear of the new pandemic in citizens. Fear was matched with a directive of isolation from local and state leaders. A health issue or a political one? The two parties were divided in these two opposing mega-perspectives for viewing the new post virus period of time we are moving into.
The pandemic served as one of the most useful tools of the party that focused on the counting of votes rather than the casting of votes. Systems were set in place and tested before-hand. A meme was placed into culture that the election would be close. At the same time, most of the media worked overtime to provide out of whack polling that showed a landslide for the vote counting party. Many members of the vote casting party were somewhat confused by the mixed signals of the other party. A close election or a landslide? Two messages seemed to be given.
The vote counters are concerned about the populism of the current leader of the vote casting party. The leader creates more votes for himself through the pandemic summer through appearances in stadiums across the nation. In the summer, there are long boat parades in support of the leader of the vote casting party. A passionate following of his supporters have developed over the past few years. The head of this party is a huge populist leader of common citizens in the nation. There seems little to deny this. Millions love him and fill stadiums to see him.
There was never a greater show of popular support of a president than given to this particular leader of the vote casting party. The candidate for the other party hardly had more than a couple hundred (at most) show up for small rallies. The difference between the two was incredible based on the enthusiasm for the current leader and the lack of enthusiasm for the leader of the vote counting party.
The pandemic had given one party an advantage by being able to convince many that the current administration was to blame for the seriousness of the pandemic. But many in the other party questioned the very seriousness of the pandemic in the first place. It was no longer just a conflict of the content of messages but rather the context of mediums, with messages just fluttering around in them.
* * *
At no time in history has technology been able to isolate people so effectively into social media silos where they only receive a certain “news” about all of their environment. At no time in history did the strange disease called politics infect an entire nation more so than the pandemic did. Families are split up. Husbands and wives have huge arguments over the two parties. Both of them were usually from the same party in my memory of my own mother and father.
The two parties become an opposition in personalities represented by their leaders. The two great symbols of Freedom and Equality seem to stand in opposition more than ever before. These two great symbols of Freedom and Equality that are the paradoxical dual founding symbols of America. Now, in opposition at perhaps their greatest opposition in the nation’s history.
Now, the old political parties seem left behind as politics becomes a new religion, a new way of seeing the world. Two views of the world in competition more than ever in our history.
* * *
Now, almost two weeks after the election, the vote casting party still questioning the vote counting party. Suddenly, perhaps really aware that this has been a (the?) secret weapon of the vote counting party. Controlling the activity where they focused on today when the other party focused on vote casting.
As one might suspect, the vote counting party knew that they would be able to win the election based on their new control of vote counting, something that had been in long term testing over the years. They were the vote counting party after all. They needed to send the meme of a contested election out into the public sphere in order to set the scene for what they considering a huge turnout night to the current leader of the nation from the vote casting party.
Now, the legal battles are in progress with suits filed in various states by lawyers for the party of the current administration that lost in the election according to popular and electoral votes.
After all those battles that the leader of the vote casting party had, the biggest battle he would have is by the vote counting party. In effect, the vote casting party was too busy looking for followers during its years in power. It never really worried or thought much about the counting of one’s followers or voters. He was considered crafty in a number of ways, yet he didn’t seem to concern himself much with the final counting of his followers through their votes.
* * *
The quote of Joseph Stalin again comes to mind. As he observed, “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the votes.”
This distinction offers a unique perspective of looking at the world. A way of looking at a division of people between actors and observers (counters) of the actions of these actors. The distinction well-states the situation of the digital economy. In her groundbreaking book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff makes this distinction by noting the digital system works by matching the actions of capitalism with surveillance of these actions. This surveillance action of the economic system is similar to the vote counting action of the political system. The vote counters represent the surveillance Zuboff talks about.
As I suggest at the beginning of this piece, the act of voting and counting the vote have come to define the two parties in peculiar new ways. The issue of creating one vote for each individual is the great elephant in the room. Yet, it will be quickly forgotten in the next few months.
The vote counting party rises to power over the vote casting party. Their power will be difficult (perhaps impossible) to dislodge as long as the nation uses votes to determine the leadership of the nation, as long as one party casts votes and the other party counts votes.
Will the vote caster party come to realize the existential situation they find themselves in? The act of voting when one party counts the votes becomes little more than a meaningless ritual from the past rather than a force for determining the future. And, from a realization, will a new party emerge?
* * *
America has fought many enemies throughout its history. Yet one-party control of vote counting might prove to be its biggest enemy. It has brought down the most populist leader in recent American history. There seems no reason it can’t also bring down a nation divided between vote casters and vote counters.
Now, almost two weeks since the election, the vote casters are challenging the vote counters. The real winner of the election is the vote counting party. Things might change but it is difficult for the vote casting party to challenge the vote counting party. Vote counting is in the wheelhouse, the territory, of one party. It is a system they’ve been working on and perfecting for years. It is their secret weapon, their “big gun” to deploy when attacks against the vote caster fail.
Is this division into vote casters and vote counters the final act that puts an end to that experiment called American democracy? Has the end of the nation come from this unusual, rather surprising area? Has it come from a silent, almost invisible attack from within the system rather than from some loud, visible attack outside the system? And, might it be a great irony that what finally destroys the democracy comes from voting, the key act that created democracy.
Ultimately, the attack comes from a place few suspected it would come from: the traditional American system of voting. This democratic system was not killed as much as it was simply voted out of existence. It might be maintained as a useful meme by the vote counters for the sake of pacifying the vote casters who still believe all votes count equally. But it is gone as a method for determining the leadership and future of the nation.