It's not very often that I miss having a television. I haven't had one for many years, but there is something about the Winter Olympics that really makes me want to watch them. For 20 years, that something has been Kikkan Randall. She's remarkable and I was sure she already had a stack of gold medals. Alaska is so proud of her. Moms are feeling encouraged by her accomplishments. Kids are talking about when they've met her. We're going to need a parade.
There's a new doping scandal at the Olympics. Initially I thought it was a punchline. Doping of curling medal winners. Curling? The rock and the circles with the brooms. You know the one. I would have thought a few beers or a bit of dope would help that sport, not steroids, but I'm not a professional curler. The Russians have had to return medals in two curling events.
Russian Olympians are under sanctions by the International Olympic Committee. They don't get to march with their own flag or hear their national anthems if they win — it's only the Olympic flag and hymn. They are called "Olympic Athletes from Russia." All of this because of a government-sanctioned doping scheme that included not only distribution of drugs to athletes, but tampering and cover-up of samples to "make their athletes appear clean." The Russian Olympic committee was disbanded in December. When an international court of arbitration overturned the lifetime ban on 39 Russian athletes and reinstated 28 of them, Vladimir Putin rejoiced. "This, of course, cannot but give us joy. It confirms our position on the fact that the vast majority of our athletes are clean," he said. His previously banned athletes weren't allowed by the IOC to compete this year. That has been called "unfair and illegal, amoral and politicized" by the prime minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Cry me a river, cheaters.
So this has me thinking about why the Olympics seem to take Russia's cheating seriously, and why the American government isn't. Are games really more important than the state of our democracy? We've gone from "It's a hoax!" to "It's undeniable." to "It's Obama's fault he didn't stop it!" in the span of a week.
We have another election coming in November and no one seems to be doing anything about making our voting process more secure. In fact, Matthew Masterson, the current chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission has been fired. He's been praised by state officials for his leadership on cyber security issues. He was put in place by nomination from former House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama. The U.S. Senate confirmed him unanimously. But, Paul Ryan wanted him out.
This should be a concern to us all. If democracy were a religion, voting would be the sacrament. This should be something we do in remembrance of those who have insured our right to vote — and to continue the American experiment of "We The People."
Election integrity is not about restoring faith in the system. Faith is for church. Checks and balances are what our founding fathers created. When we vote, the agreement we all make is that we cast our ballots for candidates who may not be the victor. We know that. (Trust me, I know this too well.) Taking the risk of voting for a loser only works if you have confidence that the process is beyond reproach.
It is equally vital for the winning candidate that the citizenry will follow their lead. Leadership can only be ordained if the people know their votes counted. That isn't possible right now. We don't know the extent Russia had on our last election, but it takes away the legitimacy of the result.
Even if you thought Putin and his team had the best interest for our country with their meddling, they aren't us. They don't get to decide. In fact, they should be punished for trying. I realize Congress voted for more sanctions, but the White House went against them, saying there was no need.
What I know most certainly is this: voting is a sacred right; a remembrance of those who fought hard and shed blood for a bulletproof idea. Guarding the integrity of elections is essential to our democracy and anything less is blasphemy. It's time we take this to heart.
Go Team U.S.A!
Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.