This appears as a post script in the third edition of Fortunate Son: The Making of An American President by J.H. Hatfield, published June 2001 by Soft Skull Press, N.Y.
The election of 2000 will go down in history, of that there is no doubt. What is in not yet known is how the events will be portrayed. History is written by the victors. And that is still in play.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the loser now may later win, for the times they are a-changing.
You can hear the rulers' side of the story already from Brokaw, Jennings and the other voices of the corporate state. Those who tell the rest of us what we are supposed to think are busily portraying the election debacle as if it were no more than a sporting event in which a few novel plays were tried, there was a winner and a loser and all is well. The system worked. Time to move on. But there are other rumblings.
This was a major historical precedent in which partisan politics prevailed over principle; paradox was enthroned by force; and democracy was put to pasture.
Five right-wing Supreme Court justices stopped an election. The majority opinion, as written by Antonin Scalia, declared that "there is no right of suffrage" in a presidential election. Five political appointees who are not accountable to any democratic process thwarted the hand-counting of ballots, which is the legally prescribed way to decide an election that is within the margin of error after machine counts. It is the law in Florida and most other states that hand counts take precedence over machine counts because they are more accurate and reliable. The manufacturers of voting machines readily agree, as cited in numerous mainstream reports (such as Ford Fessenden, "Counting the Vote," the New York Times Nov. 17, 2000, quoting industry officials who state "the most accurate way to count ballots is by hand."). George W. Bush himself signed the law in Texas that says handcounts will always be preferable to machine counts in case of a dispute.
Scalia, who was appointed by Reagan and whose two sons work as lawyers for firms that represent George W. Bush, wrote in his opinion that continuing the hand counts "might cast a cloud on what the petitioner [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election."
Scalia did not deign to address himself to the rights of the people to have their votes counted -- the legitimate way to determine who really won the presidential election. He addressed himself only to Bush, "the petitioner," who filed the suit, and ruled that Bush's right to claim legitimacy is more important than counting the votes to see if Bush really does have legitimacy.
The usurpation of power by the Republican Party in election 2000 defied democratic tradition, law and logic and came down entirely to force. The right-wing justices and the Bush machine reversed the traditional Republican and Confederate cry of states' rights and pushed the federal government into a state matter in which the federal judiciary had no real authority.
A Supreme Court as good as the people would have also held the principle of democracy supreme, and would have done so with great fanfare. In a truly democratic country, the proper role of the court would have been to reaffirm the principle of democracy.
It's not mere conjecture in this case to discuss how it would have been if the roles had been reversed. The New York Daily News of November 1, 2000 reported Bush aides saying that if Gore won the electoral college and Bush won the popular vote, the Bush team had a plan in place to take it.
"The one thing we don't do is roll over," said the aide. "We fight." The campaign had talking points prepared about how unfair the electoral college system is. A massive campaign was planned, with a talk radio blitz, encouraging businessmen to lobby their employees.
"We'd have ads, too," a Bush aide said, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."
If this thuggish seizure of power stands, this generation will go down in history as the one that gave up democracy without a whimper. The 200-year experiment in democratic government will be over.
John Locke's "Second Treatise of Government," JeffersonÕs model for the Declaration of Independence, provides a definition of the abuse of power that is as useful today as when it was written in the 1600s. "...tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right," said Locke, "which nobody can have a right to; and this is making use of power anyone has in his hands, not for the good of those that are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage. When the governor, however he is entitled, makes not the law, but his will the rule, and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but to the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion." [see: http://libertyonline.hypermall.com/Locke/second/second-frame.html]
Locke goes on to say that, "Wherever law ends, tyranny begins" and when one "in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of force he has under his command to compass that upon the subject which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate, and acting without authority may be opposed, as any other man who by force invades the right of another."
The only logic underlying the right wing seizure the presidency in 2000 was the logic of power. To gain its objective, the court abandoned legal principles, consistency, and even common sense.
The offenses committed in forcing Bush into the White House were nearly too many to catalog, but some things should be retained for the record, before the major media succeed in washing away any trace of the sordid events that unfolded day by day in November and December in Florida. For many, the events of November 2001, were eerily reminiscent of the events of November 1963.
Recall James Baker saying that machines counting votes were more reliable than human beings counting votes, even though it is commonly agreed upon even by the human beings who manufacture the fallible machines, that they are used for speed only and hand counts are more reliable. Baker knew he was lying. And who should know better than he and Jeb Bush about "the possibility of mischief," as if machines could not themselves be employed as instruments of mischief.
Indeed in Florida, machines demonstrably skewed the vote towards the Republicans. Of 174,000 votes disqualified by machines in Florida, a much larger percentage were thrown out in the poorer Democratic precincts that used the old punch card machines than in the rich Republican districts that used optical scanners. The standard rate of error with punch card machines is 2-5 percent. The margin between the candidates in Florida was one-fiftieth of one percent. In some Palm Beach counties the punch card machines threw out as many as 10 percent of the votes, while the optical scanners only invalidated 0.2 percent. That's a ratio of 50 to 1. If the margin between the candidates had been 200,000, it would have been barely within the machines' margin of error. Clearly a hand count was in order. But the Republicans knew they would lose it if the votes were thoroughly counted. So they stopped it.
There was a great variety of voting irregularities that almost invariably favored the Republicans. Any one of a number of them could have been enough to overturn Bush's razor-thin margin. There were absentee ballots that were corrected for Republicans, but not for Democrats. There were military absentee votes that did not meet legal standards but were counted anyway because they leaned toward Republicans, while different standards were applied to Democratic votes. Gore backed down on the military votes because he didn't want to appear to be disqualifying voters. The Republicans had no such inhibitions.
Blacks in Florida were prevented from voting in many ways. Many were improperly removed from voter rolls as felons, even though they weren't. Others were told they couldn't vote without showing identification, which is false. Some polling places in black precincts were actually moved at the last minute. Car pools of blacks were stopped by police and asked for taxi or chauffeurs' licenses. Virtually every trick of old-time machine politics was used to prevent Democratic votes from counting. The resources of the Florida state government were put to use whenever possible to get George W. Bush into the presidency.
Katharine Harris, the official who presided over the election in Florida was the Republican co-chairman of the Bush campaign in Florida and very close friend of George W.'s brother and Florida governor Jeb Bush. In constant contact with the Bushes, she used every means within her power to prevent hand counts from going forward at every step, then threw out hundreds of votes that had been counted because they were 90 minutes past her arbitrarily declared deadline. The Fox News Channel employee John Ellis, who led Fox to be the first network to call Bush the victor, was the cousin of the notorious Bush brothers and had been on the phone with George and Jeb many times that day.
Perhaps the most egregious tactic of all was the deployment of mobs paid and organized by Texas congressman and majority whip Tom Delay to terrorize and harass the election officials in Dade County to prevent the vote count from continuing. Large numbers of Republican congressional aides also descended on Florida to stop the vote counts by force and intimidation.
Every Republican effort was aimed at stopping the vote count at every step, because Republicans knew that the more votes were counted, the more likely the true picture of the will of the people would come through. Every statistical measure, every trend showed that Gore's majority in Florida was coming through about as strong as it had been nationally, where he won by over a half million votes.
Seizure of Power
Election night appeared normal at first, but soon its Banana Republican quality began to emerge. Early on it became clear that Gore's base of support was a great deal stronger than the major media polls had been suggesting for the previous two years. He had a substantial margin in most of the "swing states" where the election would be decided. In Florida, which had been seen as essential by both sides throughout the campaign, exit polls -- which are historically very accurate -- were showing such a strong margin for Gore that it led some of the TV networks to call the state early on for Gore. The feeling on the air at 9 p.m. was that Gore had won. Then a series of very strange things happened.
The networks departed from tradition and showed a live appearance of one of the candidates, which normally doesn't happen on election night until they emerge to acknowledge victory or to concede. Viewers were taken to Austin where the Bush family was watching the returns. There George W. Bush was shown with his parents George H.W. and Barbara, reportedly waiting to be joined by brother Jeb, who had promised to "deliver" the state of Florida, where he is governor.
The candidate asserted that he did not believe the results in Florida. He may have known more than the networks did about why the exit polls would differ so much from the official vote counts in Florida, where his family has had a strong base of support since at least the early 1960s through George Bush senior's CIA activities, involvement with anti-Castro Cubans and his oil company exploits. (The Nation reported a memo from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover dated November 29, 1963, which ordered "George Bush of the CIA" to brief the Cuban exiles about the JFK assassination.) Exit polls measure the testimony of people leaving the polls as to how they voted; the official results reflect the votes that are actually counted. This was to prove to be a much larger discrepancy than anyone outside the political machine of Florida would have suspected.
Republican operatives put pressure on the networks and eventually the state was pulled from the Gore column, put into the undecided column, and then into the Bush column. Florida became the deciding state and Bush was declared the winner.
Because the election was within one half of one percent, an automatic recount was required by law. On the first count Bush was ahead by 1,725 votes. When they ran most of the votes through the machines a second time, the lead was down to 930. The final official tally was 537 votes, which did not include 215 Palm Beach votes for Gore that were counted but eliminated by Katharine Harris because the results came in after HarrisÕ deadline. When the Supreme Court stopped the count, Bush's official lead was down to 154 votes.
Legally either candidate had the right to ask for hand counts, and Gore did so in a selection of counties where he thought he might gain. Theoretically they could have asked for hand counts in all the counties, but it was logical for the Gore team to use the option sparingly and assume the Bush team would ask for the counts in counties that would seem to favor it. Instead the Bush team made a play that was outside of the logic of democracy: stop all further counts and thwart the opponent's rights to have recounts.
Dealing with madness on its own terms
The incidents in Florida came so fast and furiously and Republican tactics were so outrageous, that the implications go beyond the capacity of belief of most Americans, who like to think that their elections are fair, that their democracy is true. The Republicans effectively take advantage of the misunderstanding of their true motives.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that "The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a great lie than a small one." The Nazis took the world by surprise with their outrageous defiance of every customary restraint known to civilization. The crimes of the Nazis were so outlandish and so blatant they were literally unbelievable. They slipped in, subverted legal processes and took power, overwhelming the resistance against their rise to power in the streets, in the media and thanks to friends at the very heights of the German government.
The Media Crowns a President
Television news, controlled by the largest corporations, is useless for anything but for revealing the undiluted view of the corporate state. The major newspapers are a little different story. The major media conform to the basest impulses of the right wing, as long as doing so makes money. But a paper like the New York Times, even within the narrow margins in which it might object to the right wing, is far too genteel in manner to get down in the dirt and deal with the brutish politics of the New Right on its own terms. The Times simply does not have the vocabulary to deal with today's thuggish, hardball politics.
The Times, and all the papers that follow it like little ducks, gave Bush a bye for the presidency. He was never seriously challenged, never subjected to any burden of proof. It was as though his right to the presidency had to be DISproven. Besides his name and pedigree, his purported credibility was that he had raised more money than anyone in any campaign in history. This money-raising prowess established him as "the front runner," and like the heavyweight champ, he would have to be knocked out to have the title taken away.
There were certainly columnists who lived up to their responsibility to subject candidates for public office to a test, but the majority of papers gave George W. Bush every benefit of the doubt, allowed him to win just by showing up. It was hard to imagine what the man would have had to do to incur their displeasure.
The polite conventions of the mainstream media preclude it from calling a liar a liar. BushÕs grandstanding was taken at face value, operating from assumption that the rhetoric sincerely represented his agenda. In reality, the rhetoric is only a sales pitch carefully crafted from market research to gain votes. The real agenda remains hidden.
When George W. Bush made dramatic public declarations of religious devotion, for example, few dared to suggest that it was merely a political posture to secure the votes of the religious right.
At the same time that he was saying that Jesus had changed his heart, he was presiding with pride over weekly executions, never stopping to consider an act of mercy, even when the condemned man's court-appointed lawyer had slept during the trial. They are all guilty and they've all had access to the courts, he pronounced with simple confidence.
During one of the debates he gloated over his chance to justify Texas' careless system of capital punishment by linking it to a brutal racist murder. "You know what's going to happen to those guys?" he beamed, "they're going to be put to death." He displayed his customary disregard for the facts, because only one of them was really condemned. Still, who in the official press would stoop so low as to point out the contradiction between his professed love of the teachings of Jesus, and his enthusiasm for executions?
The press rarely critically examined Bush's claims. They passed on his branded product "Compassionate Conservatism" without questioning its meaning, or how it was contradicted by Bush's record in Texas. Lies, manipulations, distortions and obfuscations from the Bush campaign ran deep, but he was rarely called on them.
Bush wasn't really challenged about his drinking, the lapses in his military record, how he got to the front of the long waiting list for the Texas National Guard, his tacitly admitted career as a cocaine abuser. He was never asked point blank to spell out his arrest record, which includes at least three that have not been denied, with strong evidence of more. Most reporting never challenged his claims about his accomplishments as Texas governor. Little serious consideration was given to the fact that that until he became a minority partner in a baseball team, his entire resume consisted of losing more of other people's money than most people will ever see. Most of his past was "his." He was not to be disturbed with too many questions about his prolonged childhood. The Republican childhood, we have gathered by now, lasts until about age 40.
The TV coverage of the race treated it like a sporting event, avoiding any tendency to go beyond its most superficial aspects. The country is crying out for attention to major issues like corporate welfare, the corruption of government by money, lack of affordable health care or housing for many working people, ever-widening income disparity, large numbers of people forced out of participation in the economic system, an unregulated weapons industry, the assault on abortion rights, plans to feed the Social Security system to Wall Street, a growing prison-for-profit system that is corrupting the justice system, covert and overt acts of terrorism committed by our government abroad, to name a few issues, and yet we see TV pundits devoting precious air time to discussions of whether a candidate "looked presidential." The New York Times' biographical series on Bush was more a starry-eyed rendition of a young prince than a challenging analysis to inform voters what was happening to them.
After the coup was over, the Times jumped on the Bush bandwagon with a new series of myth-building presentations. The Sunday before the inauguration, a front-page story on the Times portrayed W as suddenly transformed into a deep thinker. A front-page picture showed him with his finger pointing to his cocked head, a picture that seemed to be an attempt to show the man engaged in deep thought. The article said, "During his long campaign," Bush "seldom came across as a self-reflective man, the kind who ponders his place in the world or his trajectory through history."
The article went on to say that during an interview at his ranch, this President-elect had "shot to his feet to retrieve the book he was reading..." a book on John Quincy Adams. Bush said he was reading it because his dad had been calling him "Quincy" and he said, "If he's going to refer to me as Quincy, I might as well find out what the fellow was all about."
Even when the Times is making great efforts to convey him as a man of powerful intellect, he comes off like a knucklehead. This son of a president reached the eve of his own presidency before it ever occurred to him to find out about the only historical precedent to the father-son presidency he was seeking.
What is really remarkable about the article is not Bush, but the Times. What is the Times trying to tell us? Once it was settled that W was going to be president, the Times seemed very concerned with making it believable. Contrary to previous belief, Bush has in fact read a book. It says so right there in the Times. And they couldn't print it if it wasn't true.
Back during the campaign, when asked by a student to name his favorite books when he was in school, Bush had said "I can't remember any specific books." But now with this scene in which W "shot to his feet," we are led to believe that maybe he is, after all, "a self-reflective man." Oh Georgie, we hardly knew ye.
But even with the weight of the New York Times' authority behind it, it is not believable that Bush has suddenly gained a great deal of character, intelligence and competence.
The New York Times Magazine in that pile was even more of a giant snow job for Bush, with a slick Madison Avenue portrait of him on the cover and a caption saying "America, Inc.: The MBA President."
The article marveled that he "actually does have a plan: to sell, delegate and get out of the way." If the role of the president has now been reduced to that of a salesperson, then what is he going to sell? For whom is he selling? And who is really running the country?
It's not that hard to figure out who's bidding he does. The contributors who amassed and spent the greatest fortune ever spent to secure a political seat are not very great in number. About a hundred of them account for most of those millions. You can count on him getting right to work to pay them back for their patronage. The restrictions on using the national parks for oil companies and other big corporations will be relaxed right away. Weapons merchants always do well under a Bush. The administration will escalate the war in Colombia. The major media began priming us for a new war in Iraq shortly after the election was finalized.
On New Years Day CNN blasted images of an Iraqi military parade, projecting the view of Iraq again as the godless menace we knew back in the last Bush administration. A few days later, CNN had prepared its logo for the Gulf massacre as "The Unfinished War". Soon Cheney began making warnings to Saddam Hussein. Within a month of BushÕs taking office, the first attack on Iraq was launched.
The adoring Times writer, James Bennett, paints a revisionist history of Bush that runs counter to what is known about him, but is essential if you are going to try to make him believable as president of the United States, "Leader of the Free World."
No matter how much they repeat "the president the president the president," it is not believable. The Times' commitment to democratic principles is not believable either. After the job was pulled, the abandonment of principle by the major media left a very sour taste. I can't see those "Expect the World" commercials now without a sense of revulsion in my gut.
I canceled my subscription to the Times after the election, except for Sunday. I don't mind fluff when it's supposed to be fluff. I was already getting most of my news on the Web. The headline links at bushwatch.com give me a good cross section of the international online press, with a spin closer to my preference. I still read selections from the Times, but don't have to see as much of the nauseating Bush public relations spin.
The Sunday after the inauguration, the Times published another front-page lovefest of Bush. "Bush's Transition Largely A Success, All Sides Agree." All sides? If I had been getting my news strictly from the major media I might believe that. But I know better. I was in Washington on January 20.
A Personal Experience
Inauguration Day was a cold, windy, muddy day, extremely uncomfortable, but I wouldn't have missed it. Thousands of people came out to stage a peaceful demonstration against the outrage of Bush's ascendancy to the presidency.
As I was getting up at 3 AM to catch the bus by Penn Station, I wondered if I might be really crazy for going to a demonstration against the incoming administration. I remembered stories of past demonstrations: The "Bonus Army" of World War I veterans who marched on Washington DC and camped there in a "Hooverville" to compel Hoover to pay their veteran benefits early. General Douglas MacArthur routed the group, beating men and women, gassing the encampment, which held many children, and then burning the primitive shacks the veterans had built. I knew someone who was at the Kent State massacre; he stood right next to a friend who was killed, and narrowly missed being killed himself. I got Bush's message with all those executions in Texas. I know these guys are very serious and extremely brutal. And I remembered the contingency plans to suspend the Constitution and intern thousands of people that briefly surfaced during the Iran Contra hearings.
About an hour before departure time, with only a few people waiting to go to the demonstrations, another wave of doubt swept over me. What if we were the only people? We had no way of knowing. No one did. A few of us went inside the terminal for a while to get warm. When we came back out to the sidewalk about 4:30 AM it was crowded. Buses were pulling up to the sidewalk, filling with people and moving on. Long lines formed and people wandered around trying to find the right bus. Our group alone had 14 buses and there were a number of other organizations leaving from the same area. There were also other pickup points in the city and many other groups had organized to make the trip.
Generally speaking, those getting on the buses seemed to be intelligent, earnest people. There was a powerful sense of unspoken camaraderie in the group, an unspoken understanding that all these people shared a simple outrage over what had happened. Though the media, predictably, would portray the demonstrators as weirdos, malcontents, rabble rousers, low-lifes, criminals, drug-fiends, communists, anarchists, etc., in fact I saw a broad spectrum of the population. If there were lowlifes and rabble-rousers that went to demonstrate that day, I didn't see them
They were mainstream Americans, educated, law-abiding, working people who took up the cause to protect the democratic tradition they believed themselves to be heirs to. We were told in grade school that freedom was not automatic, that it required eternal vigilance to maintain, and that there are always men who will try to usurp power. Tyranny uses many disguises. It cannot succeed if it looks too much like what is expected. But when a judge said that the constitution does not declare the right to vote for a president, a lot of people's antennae went up. Many people recognized for the first time that however patriotic the right-wing rhetoric, these men do not believe in democracy.
As we drove into DC around 10 AM I wondered, how would the locals treat us? Would Tom Delay have his hired intimidators out again like he did in Dade County? Would the people in Washington snarl at us, ridicule us? We were homeless for a day, we had no protection. We were setting ourselves up to be outsiders. As we arrived in the parking lots near the stadium, disgorged from the buses and hit the streets, there was some uncertainty. No one knew exactly what would happen, just as no one knew on November 7.
We grouped at Dupont Circle where Votermarch.com and Democrats.com had organized a series of speeches and performers before we would begin to march. The organizations had permits, but we were very limited in what we could do. The authorities had done an effective job of keeping the protestors fragmented so not many could gather in the same place. Some among us were hearing reports that the parade route had become unsafe.
At the appointed time we walked in a long line two abreast along a route mapped out according to our permit. When we emerged from the park and encountered the real life of the city, I was amazed to see that people were literally cheering us. People waved at us, stuck their thumbs up and blasted their horns. They raised themselves out of car windows to salute us. There were many who looked with detached interest. And there were a few mink-coaters who appeared to be knocked off balance by our presence. One fur-clad lady with a Bush-Cheney button pranced by us defiantly as if it had been an act of great bravery, as if we were bayonet-wielding mercenaries ready to kill. Few of the demonstrators noticed her.
A 30s-ish broker-type yelled from a car, "Protest this," and flashed his middle finger. That was about the extent of the negative response that I observed. As we walked on our route near the back of the White House I saw rows of police vehicles from all over the south, many with horse trailers. One horse trailer in particular I noticed from Birmingham, Alabama. It flashed me with nostalgia for Civil Rights marches I have only seen in films. In Birmingham they know all about this stuff.
We gathered in the rain in a field off to the back of the White House where we had been authorized to stand. It wasn't very close. You could barely see the building through the trees. There was a street between us and the mansion. David Lytel from Democrats.com called out a series of questions into a loudspeaker. "Did George Bush win the majority?" he asked. The crowd roared, "NO!" "Does he have a mandate to enact a right-wing agenda?" "NO!"...
While we stood in the rain, some black limos drove by on the street between us and the White House. When someone said one was Bush's, a thunderous BOO! erupted from the crowd. It was only one small group of protestors among many, but the virulence of that reaction was powerful, disturbing in its intensity. I realized clearly that this is not the people's president. Of all the people we had seen that day, hardly any had appeared to have any enthusiasm for Bush, or any antipathy for the protesters. Even the police seemed sympathetic.
The report in Salon.com said, "The hate was palpable." I knew exactly what the writer was talking about.
Calling a coup a coup
The right-wing coup ("a sudden, decisive exercise of force") could be seen as a last desperate attempt of the Nixon-Reagan generation Republicans to hold on to backward-looking, colonial, white-supremacist America.
Like Quayle, W is "an old man's idea of a young man." He barely seems to have noticed resistance to the Vietnam War. There were people protesting, he remembers that. And it was annoying. He knew he wouldn't have to go. What could all the fuss be about?
The gang in possession of the presidential palace showed that it could exert sheer force and prevail over logic and principle. But they may be unpleasantly surprised by the malignancy of perverted justice. They have the tanks, the police, the brute force. But they don't have the people and they don't have the truth. The tide of history is against them. They don't have legitimacy, and no matter how hard they spin through the media, people are not stupid.
Market research conducted nationwide in 2000 by the advertising and public relations firm Yessawich, Pepperdine & Brown showed that the country has seen an "erosion of trust." Only 25% believe TV news, down from 55% in 1990. Only 19% believe newspapers and only 12% believe magazines. Only 6% said they believe advertising. People see through the media and politicians now. At the height of the media frenzy over impeachment, a vast majority of Americans were impervious to it.
The control freaks have done a remarkable job controlling the spin of the public dialogue with highly sophisticated public relations and propaganda campaigns, but their ability to control opinion only goes so far. The truth is powerful. Everybody knows the Republicans bullied their way to power.
The reason the information war is waged so furiously by the major media is that people confer legitimacy with their belief. Throughout history great empires and institutions ingrained as deeply as slavery have fallen by the wayside when a majority of people no longer believed in them.
What kind of precedent the 2000 election will be is still in the making. If it proves that the Supreme Court can suspend the democratic process, then it will be the functional end of democracy in America. The corporate state will be fully realized, with a board of directors that has pulled all decision-making power from a disenfranchised public. The power of rulers stops only at the line drawn by the people. A power granted is not likely to long remain unexercised.
But if the election of 2000 sparks a new level of democratic awareness, it may be seen as a historic moment when the American people reasserted their democratic rights and reaffirmed the principle that guided the American revolutionaries.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," said John Philpot Curran in his "Speech upon the Right of Election" in 1790. "It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."
It was only a little over a decade ago that the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Bloc collapsed. There was a lot of crowing in the United States that "capitalism won" and it was "the end of history." But what fell was not socialism, it was authoritarianism. Maintenance of illegitimate authority is difficult in the information age. The same forces are acting against authoritarianism in the U.S.
The Bush power grab was an extension of the previous, failed putsch represented by the impeachment fiasco, when the same right wing forces harnessed every governmental resource under their control in their battle to bring down the Clinton presidency. They spent $40 million to catch Clinton for some illegality and in the end all they had was a sex scandal that they parlayed into perjury by forcing him to submit to questions about an embarrassing private matter under oath.
One of the most aggressive impeachment advocates Bob Barr (R-Georgia) introduced a bill in the first week of the Bush II administration that will reverse executive orders of Ford, Carter and Reagan banning political assassination as an instrument of U.S. policy.
The administration has appointed Richard Armitage to serve as Deputy Secretary of State under Colin Powell. Armitage was denied an appointment in 1989 by Bush Senior as Assistant Secretary of State because he had been named by Oliver North as one of the officials in charge of illegally transferring weapons to Iran and the Contras and because of his involvement in other scandals. He served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Reagan administration and has an extensive history in CIA covert activities. It appears that now that the campaign has served its purpose, Compassionate Conservatism is showing its true face, a resurgence of the brutal, predatory policies of the of the Reagan/Bush years.
But knowledge is irreversible. When the democratic majority wakes up to the fraud that is being perpetrated upon it, it cannot return to the state of unknowing compliance. Even the once invincible 1000 Year Reich lasted only 12 years. Force can take power and can hold it for a while. But the truth is powerful. There is still a democratic spirit in America and it is expressing itself not through the major media, but through the Internet.
Events in 2001 reminded me of one morning when I was feeling depressed after voting irregularities had turned an election in my home town. An old man gave me a pep talk. "Don't let it make you apathetic," he said. "They can always fix a close election, but they can't fix a sweep."
The brute force of the new Republican Right cannot be met in kind. Anyone who tries to confront the Republicans head on will be sadly defeated. They have shown that they are not afraid to resort to any tactic to achieve their objectives. They dominate by being more outlandish and more brutal than their opponents.
But it is not necessary to get down on their level to defeat them. Whether we are truly endowed by our creator with unalienable rights or not, this is the global village and the entire world watched the shenanigans in Florida. You can only play The Emperor's New Clothes so long before you get to the part where somebody calls the bluff.
To beat them at their own game would be to lose, because what we are fighting for is a lawful democratic society, not -- like the right wing -- power at any cost. Those who believe in government by the people are the majority and have the right. When this is translated into meaningful political action, they will win.