How to Keep Democrats From
Blowing the November Election
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
May 9, 2006
I know it doesn't make much sense, given how the Republicans seem to be
imploding every day in new scandals and corruptions and reckless policies
-- and with the Administration's approval numbers about to head into the
20s -- but I can't shake the fear that somehow Bush&Co. will keep both
houses of Congress in the November election.
This anxiety was heightened the other day when, in a local supermarket, I
ran into Stephen Rosenfeld, one of the key electoral-integrity activists
in this country.
Since he had been examining electoral chicanery in the 2004 balloting for
more than a year-and-a-half, I asked Rosenfeld if he was close to
finishing up his research.
My simple question released a torrent of information from him about how
the Republicans were able to steal the election in Ohio, and thus the
Electoral College vote that elongated the HardRight's hold on power, with
Bush as their frontman.
Customers who were reaching around us to get to the bread and cookies were
party to the rush of facts about how and why pundits are not now analyzing
the presidency of John Kerry -- but I don't want to diminish Rosenfeld's
thunder by listing the details here, since he (with co-author Bob
Fitrakis) has a book on the subject coming out in the Fall.
Suffice it to say that the information he laid on me, along with what has
been picked up from other electoral-fraud experts -- Mark Crispin Miller,
Ernest Partridge, Steven Freeman, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Brad
Friedman, Alastair Thompson, Bev Harris, John Conyers, et al. -- makes it
clear that Kerry was robbed. In some states, it's likely that the
Republican vote-counting corporations massaged the numbers to create a
Bush "victory." But it's equally clear that, in key locales around the
country, the GOP might not have needed to fiddle with the computer
software since enough votes were stolen from the Democrats by other slimy
HOW TO HIJACK AN ELECTION
As many have noted, the Bush campaign was aided enormously in this
thievery because their campaign co-chairs in key states were also the
Secretaries of State -- that is, the officials in charge of conducting
elections and certifying the vote results: Katherine Harris in Florida in
2000 (with brother Gov. Jeb Bush overseeing her work), and, in 2004,
Kenneth Blackwell in Ohio, Terry Lind in Michigan, Matt Blunt in Missouri,
Glenda Hood in Florida, et al.
It has been widely documented that nefarious techniques were employed in
key states to aid Bush's "victory," such as: removing hundreds of
thousands of likely Democratic voters from the voting rolls; rejiggering
the precincts so that when those voters went to their usual polling place,
they were told they had to go vote elsewhere and when they got to the new
place, they had to vote by Provisional Ballots (in Ohio, thousands of
those ballots apparently are still uncounted!); making sure the voting
machines in heavily Democratic wards were out of commission or
malfunctioning or too few in number for the crowds who wanted to vote,
thus forcing working-class citizens to stand in line for many hours, with
the result that many gave up and went back to their jobs; thousands of
unstamped ballots that were moved around to various precincts; locked
warehouses in which various electoral irregularities were carried out;
dirty tricks to keep likely Democratic voters from showing up (supplying
them with the wrong voting date, telling them that anybody with unpaid
parking tickets would be arrested at the polls, that sort of thing); not
always catching that e-votes for Kerry automatically, either deliberately
or because of technical malfunctions, were being switched into the Bush
column, etc. etc.
With several hundred thousand voters kept from casting their ballots in
Ohio, for example, the ultimate conclusion is that Kerry would have won
that key state, and other close states, had the election been conducted
honestly, absent the dirty tricks and fraud. But, of course, before any
serious recounting could take place, Kerry, despite his promise to fight,
quickly threw in the towel, as had Al Gore four years earlier, which haste
and timidity permitted Bush&Co. to continue on their corrupt, incompetent,
These were shameful, cowardly Dem retreats by the candidates in the face
of fire. Only now are Gore and Kerry starting to behave and speak out the
way they should have during their campaigns, at least about the
environment and civil liberties and the war in Iraq, leading one to
believe that those two are readying themselves for another go in 2008.
TIMID DEMS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
And where were the rest of the Democrats during all this electoral
thievery? Lost and asleep at the wheel, as usual.
One can't escape the conclusion that the Democrats in general still don't
know how to respond to cutthroat aggressiveness and criminality on the
part of the Republicans. The Dems never knew what hit them in Florida in
2000, in Ohio in 2004 and don't really have their oppositional act
together now in 2006, with the midterm election just six months away.
On occasion the Democrats display a bit more starch in their spines, but
in general liberals remain locked in a more naive frame of mind, from an
earlier era, when elections, no matter what their deficiencies, were more
or less on the up-and-up and fair-mindedness was the operational mode for
politicians: Elections were held and the declared winners got to rule, but
they governed by taking into account the legitimacy of the opposition
minority. Those days are long gone, thanks to Rove's bullyboy tactics.
The Democrats just don't want to deal with, or don't know how to deal
with, the reality that in the Bush/Cheney/Rove era the Republican
leadership has a singular goal in mind -- to win, by whatever means
necessary -- and that it has a meticulously worked-out system for victory
that violates every rule and tradition set up in years past. The lasting
legacy of Karl Rove.
And yet the Dems are planning their first weeks in office post-November,
as if all they need to do is to watch the GOP sink further in the polls
and then waltz into control of the House and/or Senate.
PERMANENT CAMPAIGN, PERMANENT WAR
Why am I so snarky here about the Dems? Because there is a too-long
history of Democrats tending to gear up once every two and four years for
an election campaign, refusing to face the fact that the Republicans are
in campaign mode every minute of every day, with the goal of decimating
and destroying their political opposition. It's the permanent campaign
which, not coincidentally, ties in to their permanent war ("the war on
terrorism," a war against a tactic) that serves as the underpinning for
their domestic and foreign agenda.
The end result has been an increasing slide into a homegrown kind of
American fascism: a desire by the HardRightists for one-party rule; Bush's
fondness for dictatorial governance; his 750 "signing statements," where
he asserts that he can override laws passed by Congress whenever he so
chooses (see Charlie Savage's mostly-ignored Boston Globe story,
"Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws: President Cites Powers of His Office,"
and Bob Egelko's
"How Bush Redefines the Intent of the Law"); his conviction that he
has a blank-check to initiate wars of choice; his authorization of
torture; his ordering the NSA to spy electronically on millions of
American citizens; his attempts at neutering the Legislative and Judicial
branches of government, etc. etc.
And permitting all this to pass beneath the public radar is a cowed,
cooperative mass-media, whose reporters serve mostly as stenographers
rather than as true journalists holding government officials' feet to the
fire. Clearly, if a Democratic President had behaved himself as Bush and
Cheney have done -- lying in order to foment a war, breaking the law on
innumerable occasions, leaking classified information for political
reasons, authorizing torture, etc. etc. -- he would have been impeached
and removed from office with extreme haste before he could do any more
damage to the Republic.
WHAT ORDINARY CITIZENS CAN DO
So, if all this is true, with Karl Rove (assuming he's not indicted
shortly for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Plamegate case)
unleashing his campaign and foreign-policy "surprises" during the next six
months, what do we ordinary citizens do about the situation? Specifically,
what can we do about the reality of a corrupted election system?
Thankfully, many citizens and public-interest groups have become involved
in the electoral-integrity issue, both on the national level and in
various key states, challenging the reliability and transparency of
e-voting machines and vote-tallying procedures, suing voting officials in
civil courts when honest elections and verified means for re-checking the
votes are not satisfactory, etc.
But angry citizens are ignoring another powerful avenue to counteract
election fraud, and the increasing chances for more such illegality: They
should demand that their state attorneys general and local district
attorneys bring criminal charges in their jurisdictions against the GOP,
Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, et al. Were this to happen, the "discovery"
process might well yield an abundance of incriminating documents that
would have an enormous impact on national politics. Example: the
phone-bank sabotage case in New Hampshire, where GOP officials with ties
to the White House were convicted of interfering with the Democrats' phone
system in that state just prior to the 2004 election.
But whether all these good-government moves will be enough to guarantee
honest elections in November is up in the air, especially with many
Bush-appointed judges on the federal appeals courts. The point is that by
and large these legal moves are being initiated by citizens and organized
groups, not by the Democratic Party.
(I have been following the suggestion of Ernest Partridge and others: I
return solicitation letters to Democratic Party headquarters with a strong
note saying I will send no money until the Democrats decide to fight like
an opposition party should for honest, transparent, verifiable elections.
No action, no donation. Similarly, many progressives are telling
MoveOn.org much the same thing: stop being so timid; electoral integrity
and confronting electoral fraud needs to be front and center for
progressives. We can have all the good candidates and popular policies in
the world, but if the opposition is running the vote-counting mechanism,
goodbye honest elections and the chance to defeat the GOP and begin to
restore America's traditional values to our political system.)
DIEBOLD MACHINES DANGEROUSLY VULNERABLE
New revelations about electoral integrity and fraud, both good and bad,
keep breaking all the time. As I write this, more states have become aware
of built-in problems with computer-voting systems and are being forced, at
least temporarily, to consider more secure methods for voting and
Brad Friedman reports:
"We've now been able to gather a great deal of
additional information concerning details about the story we first
posted yesterday on the official Pennsylvania state warning issued about
the new 'security vulnerability' discovered in all Diebold touch-screen
electronic voting machines.
"That warning, which has now brought a lock-down on all Diebold systems
in PA, where early voting is about to begin prior to their upcoming May
16th primary election, was reported by the Morning Call yesterday. The
warning says the serious security vulnerability could allow
'unauthorized software to be loaded on to the system'."
ADVICE FOR DEMOCRATS
Many liberal pundits and thinkers are out there, many based on the
internet, with solid ideas and suggestions for how the Dems might position
themselves for victory in November and in 2008; for just one, see the
important new book "Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise
of People-Powered Politics," by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga ("Kos") and Jerome
Armstrong. But it's not clear if the party establishment is open to what
its base is telling them on the Iraq War, on corrupted elections, on
domestic spying and so on. If such Dem leadership blindness and deafness
continues, this ignorance and timidity will guarantee a continuing series
of losses at the polls, despite recent public-opinion surveys indicating
how poorly the Republicans are viewed in the country, including, most
importantly, by those calling themselves conservatives.
Perhaps the worst crime of the Democrats these days is their failure to
recognize that ordinary citizens, including many of those moderate
Republicans and independents, are way ahead of them in wanting a quick
exit from Iraq and in approving impeachment hearings. That Dem timidity
does not give evidence of a robust opposition party, willing to fight for
what is best for the country; many moderate Republicans and independents
may choose to vote for the devil they know than one about which they're
uncertain and apprehensive.
So what can you and I do to alter this picture of Democratic lassitude and
possible defeat in November?
As with BuzzFlash.com's handy list,
You Can Do," the first and most important task is for all of us to
educate ourselves on what's going on, and then spread the word, light
fires of activism in our friends and neighbors, organize ourselves
politically (whether running ourselves or becoming active in the campaigns
of Dem or third-party candidates), relentlessly demand that our elected
representatives stand up for the Constitution and not roll over when the
Administration continues its illegal rampaging at home and abroad,
constantly call the mass media on their biases and deficiencies and lack
of investigatory coverage of the Bush Administration, and support the
nation's largest and most effective alternative press: the progressive
websites and bloggers on the internet.
GOP IS COLLAPSING FROM WITHIN
Finally, liberals should truly comprehend the import of a good share of
the conservative Republican movement abandoning the extremism of the Bush
Administration. All those conservative generals and Bill Buckley are just
the tips of the iceberg of resentment and appalled anger at what
Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove are doing to the once-respected Republican Party
and to this country in terms of our stalled economy, the humongous
deficits being racked up, the unending wars of choice our young troops are
dying in (with Iran fast approaching as the next reckless-insanity theater
of war), the ever-expanding levels of corruption in the Republican Party,
the outsourcing and privatization of so much of traditional, established
government functions -- outsourcing even to potential enemies abroad!
These moderate and conservative Republicans are ripe for making alliances
with progressives, populists and libertarians in opposing the dangerous,
reckless policies of the Bush Administration. If the Democrats are smart,
they would devise ways to lure those folks into the impeachment camp. Aye,
there's the rub.
If the kinds of changes discussed above are not made, and the Dems lose
both houses of Congress in November and still no radical changes are made
in how to approach the 2008 presidential election, it may well be time for
serious consideration of a third-party alliance. In short, 2006 may be the
Dems' last reasonable shot and they'd better not blow it. Let's put our
activism into hyperdrive in the next six months and make sure they don't.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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