Ohio ain't Ukraine


A couple of weeks ago a college fraternity brother of mine, who just came across my blog, wrote with a question about my support for the demonstrators and a new election in Ukraine:

I see a lot of material there devoted to the current situation in the Ukraine. One certainly hopes the best for those people struggling against a cold war era attitude for a fair and reformed democratic government. Nevertheless, as "blue" voter (in a very blue county in a rather red state), I find the support for protesting close election results in other countries on your obviously "red" website bemusingly ironic. By extension, should all those of us who live in large cities (all very blue in the north and west) be out en masse to protest that things didn't quite go our way?

Still, recalling our debates on theology in college, I refuse to believe that the aims and hopes of Americans are as starkly divided as the manipulators of elcetoral dynamics on both sides would have us believe. But how do we proceed? We have in the past in this country worked through compromise and consensus, even if that leads to such despicable temporary solutions as counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. Despite Bush's first term promise to be a "uniter not a divider," I see little evidence that he means to seek consensus on any issue.

So I ask you to consider if our roles were reversed in this election. What would you do? Should I be marching in the streets like the Ukrainians?

In my friend's mind, the situations are parallel -- both countries elected a president of the party in power by a slim margin, disappointing a large number on the other side, who believe that the victor is part of a corrupt system. Supporters of Yushchenko are protesting, in his view, because "things didn't quite go [their] way."

There are some aspects of the situation in Ukraine that my friend may have overlooked:

  • The runoff election was marked by massive fraud, particularly in the region of Donetsk, where Prime Minister and government-supported candidate Victor Yanukovich was once governor. Yanukovich supporters were bused from one polling station to another to cast multiple votes. Thugs stole ballot boxes and threatened opposition supporters. The Central Election Commission never released results by polling station. The Ukraine Supreme Court ordered a rerun of the runoff election because the runoff was too marred by fraud to make it possible to determine who actually won.
  • The opposition presidential candidate was poisoned with dioxin, probably while dining at the home of the head of Ukraine's Secret Service.
  • The Ukrainian government under President Kuchma has shut down opposition media, and may have ordered the 2000 murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze.
  • According to Jane's Intelligence Digest, 500 Russian Spetsnaz special forces were deployed to the vicinity of Kiev during the election aftermath, at the request of current Ukrainian President Kuchma. Twenty of the Russians serve as his personal bodyguard. (Hat tip: TulipGirl)

I don't remember anything like that happening in the US presidential election. Opposition media outlets, including federally-subsidized NPR and PBS, were going full-blast at the President all the way to the election. John Kerry wasn't poisoned. Thugs didn't steal ballot boxes. "Voter intimidation" was limited to poll workers who didn't smile with sufficient warmth when asking for picture ID. And if there was a busload of voters being driven from polling place to polling place, it probably wasn't full of Republicans.

If Yushchenko had lost a close vote in an honestly run election, there wouldn't have been hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of Kiev. The Orange Revolution is about more than an election. Discontent with years of gross corruption and suppression of basic civil liberties is finally surfacing. Ukraine is a great nation and it could be a prosperous and free nation if the hands of the "oligarchs" are finally removed from the national till.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 19, 2004 11:07 PM.

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