For several months, one of my brothers, who is a bit prone to hyperbole, kept insisting that speculation about the election was meaningless, basically because it wasn't going to happen. He was absolutely convinced that the Bush regime would manufacture some excuse to postpone or cancel the election in a bid to stay in power.
However, I did not consider his proposal paranoid (for reasons that should now be obvious to the whole world) and in hindsight, even hyperbole may have been a bit harsh. An educated guess by a concerned and well-informed citizen can't be far off. Even Darwin wasn't exactly sure how natural selection played itself out, and came up with all sorts of intermediate species that turned out not to have existed.
But he was still right. In fact, I basically agreed with my brother, except I thought they would do it in a less obvious way. Then, in July, Tucson-based investigative reporter Wayne Madsen wrote a piece laying out a different scenario: a sort of fudged attack on the West coast rather than an outright postponement. He was off, too. Many of us, though, were only looking for how, not if.
Greg Palast came closest, in his investigative piece released just before the election explaining how Republicans had scrubbed more than a million votes from Kerry's total even before the votes were cast. Bush's goons are a creative lot, and their dirty tricks ranged from the merely ugly — gay bashing, fearmongering, and vicious smear campaigns — to the obscene and illegal: unleashing an army of trained intimidators on poor and minority precincts throughout the swing states.
It is a frightening measure of just how far backward we have slipped: When Ol' Bill Rehnquist was caught participating in “Operation Eagle Eye,” a targeted effort to intimidate minority voters in Arizona way back, he had to deny it twice, once upon his appointment to the Supreme Court, and again during his hearing to be named Chief Justice. You at least have to hand it to the guy for knowing it was wrong.
Nowadays, Republicans run to their Supreme Court to protect such shitty practices, and Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell thinks he's channeling Martin Luther King by requiring that registration forms be disqualified if they are not printed on paper of a certain weight, or if he risked going to jail to protect voter intimidation tactics. We shall overcome, my ass.
In the hindsight now available to us, it's interesting to sift through the rubble of people's bitter disappointment. One friend wrote this: “It's obviously going to be very difficult for Kerry to fight this for any length of time. [any time at all, it turns out]. The strongest argument for fighting — that the Bush cabal controls the machines, the administration of the voting, and the media reporting the voting — is obviously one that the media won't touch, and I don't think Kerry and company have the guts to try to force the issue. (You have to admire those Bush operatives — they make it so that the truth is the one thing you can't say or use against them!)
They'll probably cave into Ohio's “statistical impossibility” argument, because the only way to challenge it is to challenge the numbers they are reporting. The benefit of the doubt will be given to the “respected election officials” of Ohio.
One of the saddest things I heard was a call into the Mike Malloy show late last week. The call was from a lawyer who was going down to Florida to help observe the election. Even though he was part of the effort to ensure clean balloting, he was absolutely resigned to the fact that the Bush cabal was going to manipulate the vote counting, and there was nothing we could do about it.
This hit a nerve with me, and I immediately concluded my friend was right–we learned last time the limits of being polite. This one should be confronted in the streets: marches, protests, civil disobedience, creative and sustainable disruption campaigns, tax or federal obligation avoidance, etc… anything to make it difficult for the bastards to continue to take over the world.
This is a stolen election — the worst thing that can happen in a democracy. Americans have to develop a stomach for the types of resistance and struggle other populations have to resort to in similar circumstances. One thing is probably already clear: it won't have much to do with the Democrats.
I think Americans need to learn from other populations whose votes are regularly rigged. There has to be sustained popular resistance in as many forms as people can creatively imagine. We are no different now than any banana republic with a strongman manipulating the election to his own ends, and we have to learn to react accordingly.
There is a smugness among Americans about the sanctity of our vote that is quite clearly unsupported by history. Many US voters, even lefties, bristle at the notion of international observers poking their noses into our election. In fact, foreign monitors were barred from voting stations in Columbus, OH by republican officials. Jimmy Carter was seen as some sort of weirdo when he claimed in 2000 that his organization couldn't possibly monitor such an election because US voting doesn't meet the minimum standards required by the Carter Center.
Of course, other un-free people respond with strikes, slowdowns, marches, protests, civil disruption, boycotts, antitax campaigns… things that are as varied as the population and spanning a wide range of actions that appeal to different sectors. Think of Dr. Seuss and the little girl who saved her tiny town with a yip or a yop. We should race, figuratively, to the top of every high building and shout WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE!! in as many ways as possible.
Another friend took issue with my stance, saying: “I do think some people were disenfranchised, but what's more frightening is that the American people were willing to vote for Bush. Kerry did a more than adequate job of explaining the deficiencies of the Bush Presidency and offering an alternative.”
This may be true, I replied, though I have to disagree about the fight put up by Kerry and the Democrats. But it does indeed depend heavily on what we mean by “some” (is it more than a million, plus untraceable more scared away through intimidation and fear?) and by “the American people.” 49.99% would indeed be scary; but then, it wouldn't be a majority — an important distinction — and 25 or 30% of a population willing to tolerate fascism is plenty scary for my taste.
Remember those international polls done in various countries saying that the rest of the world was 'overwhelmingly' in favor of dumping Bush? I remember looking closely at them and being surprised that he even polled 35 or even 40% in some places, even though it was in the single digits in some Latin American countries. It is logical that it would be highest in the belly of the beast, and reasonable to think that there will always be an opposition.
But the Germans tolerance for Nazism doesn't absolve Goering and the other propagandists of their smug contempt for their own people, and their outright pride in their success in using fear and threats to cow the populace into submission. Likewise, it can't absolve us of our own duty to recognize and resist fascist tendencies where we see them.
It is also healthy to remember that it's not over by a long shot. The whole world knows this election stinks, and Bush is more isolated than ever. Never forget that the halls of this administration is crawling with criminals, and impeachment and prison are still an option for a population angry enough to notice. Revive John Kenneth Galbraith's unheeded advice from last time around, when he warned that we should never, not for one minute, regard this junta as a legitimate representative of the popular will — and heed it this time.
Also comforting are the Bush thugs' twin Achilles' heels of avarice and hubris. They think they are home free because they got past their own people, and their actions will reflect this dangerous lack of caution. The rest of the world does exist, however, and will not go meekly into that dark night. Iraq is every bit the quagmire we warned it would be, and we are freed from having to split the hairs the Democrats' position required.
And last but not least: We are Americans, too–just as much as any of these jackass republicans–and our voice deserves to be heard through the corrupting fog of bought-off media, brain-dead fellow countrymen, the perfidy of our leaders and the cowardice of our own opposition. Be counted–at the polls, in the streets, in the media, in all aspects of public life. We are here! We are here! We are here!
Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School, greenhouseschool.org. Some of his articles have been broadcast on radio, and translations are available in up to 20 languages. Links to the website are appreciated at danielpwelch.com.