Winona LaDuke, Published December 08 2012
Letter: Recovering from drama of electionWe just saw some $6 billion spent on the most expensive election in history. I’ve recovered from the drama, and I am trying to get my head straight. I thought I’d take this time to share some thoughts. After all, I certainly know what losing a national election is like … maybe Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan might be interested in my opinion.
What have we learned?
People want to be heard. Florida, the state with hanging chads that cost Al Gore the 2000 election (often blamed on Ralph Nader and me) still has problems. People stood in line for up to seven hours to vote. It was harder to vote if you were dark. According to the Hart Research Project and the AFL-CIO, voting lines were twice as long for African-Americans than for white voters. In general, 15 percent of Barack Obama supporters spent more than a half-hour waiting to vote, while only 9 percent of Romney supporters had to wait.
Restrictions not popular
In Minnesota, the measure to require additional voter identification was defeated. In general, tribal members in Minnesota voted “no” on this measure, 10 percent more than the non-native population. In one precinct with a very high native population, 86 percent of the voters rejected the voter ID amendment. LaPrairie Township on White Earth (Rice Lake) voted two-thirds against voter ID, Twin Lakes (including Naytauwash), almost three-fourths. Similar voter registration laws in Alaska, Florida, Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin were defeated.
Romney won the white male vote. But, it turns out that that is not the only vote in this country. Slightly more women than men voted Democratic, 93 percent of African-Americans, 73 percent of Asian Americans and 71 percent of Latinos voted for Obama, with similar statistics in the native vote. In Naytauwash, in the heart of the White Earth reservation, Obama won resoundingly. And, some 60 percent of youth and some 69 percent of the Jewish community voted for Obama.
Money can’t buy love
It was a $6 billion election. All was legal because the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the 2010 Citizens United case that the First Amendment prohibits government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
- Massachusetts: Scott Brown spent around $27 million, and lost to Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor and consumer advocate.
- Montana: It was the most expensive race in the history of the state. Sen. Jon Tester acknowledged that the native vote was key to his re-election.
- North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp took the Senate seat. Her net vote gain in counties with native communities was high – 4,282 votes. It seems the native vote and moderate politics carried the election.
- Minnesota: There was one place where money did buy votes – or love. Rep. Michele Bachmann held onto her seat by a narrow margin. She spent 12 times more than her opponent, Jim Graves.
Romney and the Republican Party were dealt a pretty resounding defeat – despite huge expenditures of money and a good deal of posturing. Richard Mourdock (Indiana) declared during a debate that he opposed abortion, even in the case of rape. And Missouri Rep. Todd Akin told us that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape is rare because the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down. …” Both lost.
It is time to talk about the real issues of America, not get dragged into the right-wing politics of “trade wars with China,” cutting student loans, cutting social services, outlawing gay marriage and banning abortion. Post-election is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to be better, and to consider that American politics should be defined by the diversity that is America, not by those who have the most money or the loudest advertising.
LaDuke is an American Indian activist, environmentalist, economist and writer. She is executive director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.