Here Endeth The Lesson
William A. Ruha
In the 1987 David Mamet-scripted motion picture The Untouchables, Sean Connery's seasoned street-wise cop, Malone, chastises Kevin Costner's young naive Elliott Ness for underestimating his adversary, explaining to the earnest but ingenuous crime foe that these are street fighters who don't play by the Marquis of Queensbury rules. This is about survival. "You don't bring a knife to a gun fight!" he explains. "The first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson."
For much too long Democrats have been doing battle brandishing little more than butter knives. Year after year, campaign after campaign, session after session, in a spirit of "seeking bipartisanship," Democrats have quietly born the smears, lies, labels and mud slung by the George Bushes and Tom Delays of this world and their well-heeled minions. For over a decade the Newt Gingriches, Ken Starrs, and George Bushes have become increasingly more strident and extreme in advancing and enacting a narrow partisan GOP agenda by any means possible. During this time Democrats have sought to mollify with temperate remarks, modify positions, and seek compromise in a carefully constructed attempt to find a safe moderate middle ground.
Via the latest GOP tactics that ground has now been defined for Democrats: outside of government - a political graveyard.
From the moment they knew they lacked the required votes to win, the Republicans resorted to rolling in the artillery while the Democrats used their knives to butter their bread and politely discuss over the breakfast paper how a recount of the votes would deliver them, remaining ever confident that the normal, regular s.o.p. "rule of law" would somehow prevail.
Good morning! Wake up call! The shift is almost over and the GOP has called in the big guns. The Rehnquist "flying squad" court of anti-civil rights conservatives is voting to send Al and Joe home in a partisan meat wagon and in the process disenfranchise 50 million American voters. Led by the right-wing "Axis ideologues," Rehnquist and Scalia, the five Republican-appointed majority-decision justices have "acted unwisely" in issuing an edict for a veritable legalized coup d 'etat of democracy. This fiat to disenfranchise the majority of American voters employs specious reasoning, misinterpreted law, and protrusive partisan politics that collectively, as Justice Stevens stated in writing for the minority ''departs from the rules of judicial restraint."
What, all fair-minded Americans must ask, is so egregious in the Democrats' request for a full fair recounting of ballots along the lines that this nation has conducted since its founding - individually inspecting and counting each vote? The Republican answer, in the language of their injunction brief, is that "real and irreparable harm to George Bush" will be done because of accuracy. An accurate vote total will reverse his ill-gotten gain and remove him from the coveted seat of power.
Well, Mr. Chief Justice and your associate (in)jurists: as Thomas Jefferson wrote in a 1792 letter to George Washington: "Delay is preferable to error." Let us continue the recount.
The GOP has a pint-sized (and shrinking) 537-vote football and has attempted to bury it and run out the clock by piling on teams of attorneys, paid party activists, PR experts, even the refs themselves in GOP-appointed black robes. It is expected that the Florida legislature and/or brother Jeb Bush can then "legally" declare Dubya the victor.
If George W. Bush is permitted to gain entrance to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next month on the basis of this ideological blatantly partisan intrusion by Reagan-Bush appointed justices it is the signal that at long last, democracy is dead in America. The Constitution will have been torn asunder and rule of law replaced by ruthless seizure of power and suppression of proper impartial legal recourse.
We will live in an outlaw nation led by an illegal president not selected by the majority of citizens but rather delivered to office via an election stolen by party members, political cronies, high-priced lawyers and black-robed partisans adept at legal manipulation and statutory abuse.
His candidacy and campaign - one of the nation's sorriest spectacles of lies, smears, savage attacks, and subtle marketing - led his primary opponent to declare him one who "is taking the low road to the nation's highest office."
His election has been characterized by illegality, fraud, threats, nepotism, abuse of power, legal manipulation, orchestrated mob intimidation, and misuse of the very system of government he and his associates are sworn to uphold and honor.
On January 20, 2001 should he be inaugurated, George W. Bush will not be the 43rd President of the United States, but rather the first President of Artifice, the Chief Executive of Sham, the Commander of Canard. He and his outlaw party have dishonored the highest office in the land, made a travesty of the institutions of government, contravened the principles of truth, justice, and liberty, and made a mockery of the high ideals of this otherwise great democratic republic.
That this may happen in our country, a nation so universally heralded as the very ideal of democracy, will be more than a tragedy. It will be a disgrace. Not since the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 has a seizure of power been so blatant, brutal and undemocratic. This will have been a bloodless, but no less blatant coup d 'etat.
If the coup leader is at last ensconced in the oval office it will be with grave shame that we, the people of the United States, must go forth to face the world and call ourselves Americans.
We must not permit this to happen. It is time for the Democratic Party to stop brandishing butter knives against those who would bludgeon the Constitution to death, shoot holes in the concept of rule of law, set fire to the documents and ideals of democracy.
This is the GOP, my friends: the "malefactors of great wealth," as even Republican President Theodore Roosevelt called their titans; the oligarchs and ideologues whose party acronym, G.O.P., Harry Truman said, stood for "Grab, Oppress & Plunder!" This is the party whose anti-progressive history is manifest in its campaign slogans and stances: "Stand Pat with McKinley," "Return To Normalcy With Harding," "Keep Cool With Coolidge" "Repeal Social Security" with Alf Landon; the party of "Your President is Not a Crook!" Richard Nixon, the disastrous deficit-bloating "Reaganomics" that nearly bankrupted America, and the illegal clandestine Iran-Contra deals of George Bush that contravened congressional laws and ultimately led that outlaw president to issue pardons (ala Gerald Ford for Nixon) in his lame duck final hours to his co-conspirators in order to prevent proper inquiry and administration of justice.
In the last eight years we have witnessed this party gain control of Congress and misuse its power to grind the gears of government to a halt while spending hundreds of millions of taxpayers dollars in a single-minded partisan effort to prevent any progressive legislation. It has pursued, propagated and publicized any alleged scandal it could manufacture or muster in order to discredit our democratic leaders and ultimately impeach a president on the basis of a sexual act between consenting adults. Now it seeks to rig the results of the nation's national election and impose in power a minority-elected illegal president under the guise of a supposedly democratic free election that truly expresses the will of the people.
It is time to put an end to this ruthless and relentless campaign of lies, ballot fraud, disenfranchisement of voters, derailment of the democratic process, misuse of the court system for purely political gain, paid riot intimidation tactics against election officials, even deployment of death threats against Democrats. All this from a political party whose leader sanctimoniously and hypocritically promotes himself as the "compassionate conservative; the "uniter, not a divider, who wants to return honor and dignity to the White House and change the tone in Washington to one of civility and respect."
If such moral posturing is employed to justify the most heinous of offenses to our democratic system then by definition we find ourselves in more than a mere political campaign or partisan endeavor, but rather a moral crisis. And in the words of the immortal Dante, "the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in time of moral crisis." We must act.
In the election of 1960 John Kennedy remarked to an aid, "When I started this campaign I merely wanted to beat Dick Nixon. Now, I want to save the country from him." We are now engaged in a like struggle to save the country from one of Nixon's political heirs. A man who has now displayed at least equal contempt for justice and democracy as that displayed during the Watergate days of enemies lists, politically targeted tax returns, break-ins of campaign headquarters, and misuse of the system for selfish political ends. This is no less an attempted seizure of power.
It is time to put down the butter knives and pick up the same weapons the opposition party has been using. It is time to turn our plowshares back into swords; to take off the gloves, to (metaphorically) strap on our holsters and if need be take to the streets and do what our party forebears were forced to do in order to defend democracy. It is time to fight. Like FDR did in '32, and "Give 'em Hell" Harry Truman in '48, and Jack Kennedy in 1960. No more Marquis of Queensbury Rules. It's time to ensure that our boys come back alive and kickin'.
In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and North Carolina (controlled by Democratic governors and legislatures) our party's leaders have an option - however unpleasant and unpopular - to enact the will of the greater majority of voters, that of 50 million United States citizens who chose Gore - Lieberman.
I therefore propose that every Democrat in America - cognizant of the vice president's victory in the national popular vote, and outraged over the GOP's ill-gotten seizure of Florida's slate of electors - write, wire, phone, e-mail, or personally deliver a declaration to the Democratic governors, state senators, and representatives in these states to enact one of two legal options:
1. Appoint Gore electors despite George W. Bush having won the popular vote.
Why? Because a message must be sent to the Republican thugs and hoodlums who will have otherwise disenfranchised the majority of Americans and irreparably damaged our democracy: we will not lie down or stand by or become the new "Silent Majority" who condone your ruthless judicially-sanctioned partisan seizure of power. We will use our legal options as well. Disenfranchise our voters, and we can do the same to yours. Either both sides must play by the book, or we can equally manipulate and misuse our constitutional powers to achieve our respective Machiavellian ends. It's that simple. No more Mr. Nice Guy. No more Ms. Nice Gal. Pushed beyond tolerance, we have now chosen to fight.
As Democrats do we wish to likewise disenfranchise voters? Of course not. Do two wrongs make a right? No. But neither do the dozens of wrongs committed by the GOP justify seizure of government by the far right. The nation's leadership is at stake, the reins of government that direct and influence matters of commerce and policy affecting the lives of billions of people around the world and trillions of dollars in the global economy. This is the sum and summit of it. We are not the minority party, ladies and gentlemen, nor were the votes cast for Democrat Al Gore all across this country in the minority. We have the numbers, let's use them.
I suggest that if the fear of political fallout is too great among our party leaders, that they then choose the second option:
2. Award electoral votes on a proportional basis (as is done in Maine and Nebraska.) Should this option be chosen, in the five states above-mentioned, the Democratic-controlled legislatures can award an elector for each congressional district carried by Gore. By this method, the vice-president would gain another 17 electoral votes: five in Georgia; four each in Missouri and North Carolina; and two in Alabama and Mississippi. Added to his certified wins in Oregon and New Mexico, Gore would total 284 electoral votes, enough to win the election without Florida's ill-gotten 25 GOP electoral votes.
The Democrats can advance the claim that a proportional allotment of electors in these five states is appropriate considering the Republicans wholesale seizure of electoral votes in Florida via its GOP governor, secretary of state, state senate, and state representatives. Their legal stall tactics, and ultimate recourse to Republican Reagan-Bush-appointed justices all have collectively denied the democratic process in that state and through this means, sought to disenfranchise the majority of Americans and seize control of the presidency.
Republicans retaliation would be limited as only two states having electors pledged to Gore (Michigan and New Jersey) are GOP-controlled. Should Bush's forces manage to apply the proportional rule in those two states, the Texas Governor would gain but 13 new electors, insufficient to overtake a Gore majority.
Moreover, the Bush forces would face a legal conundrum of challenging the action in those five states while defending its enactment in the Florida Legislature.
Nor should Congressional options offer solace to the Republicans. While Congress ultimately determines which electoral slate to accept in case of a dispute, a tie in the new 50-50 Senate would be broken by the sitting vice president, Al Gore.
With the House dominated by Republicans and voting to accept the Bush slates, the governor of the state with the disputed electors is charged with deciding the validity of a given slate.
Presently in Florida, Gov. Jeb Bush might well determine who becomes our next president. But if Democrats choose equally to enact this tactic in their own party-dominated legislatures, Democratic governors will have the deciding voices: Don Siegelman in Alabama, Roy Barnes in Georgia, Ron Musgrove in Mississippi, Bob Holden in Missouri, and Mike Easley in North Carolina.
Should Bush choose to seize Florida's 25 electoral votes through legislative and gubernatorial fiat, Democrats in these five states face no legal or political impediment to doing likewise for their party's candidate by appointing a slate of electors for Gore.
This proposal is doubtless not the most popular or even perhaps the most palatable of solutions, but it is in the final analysis that position to which the Democratic Party has at last been driven by the relentless blatant extremist measures of the Republicans. And so, the time has come not simply to react, but to act in order to enact.
At stake are America's democratic ideals and doctrines that collectively comprise the soul of a nation and the administration of these that constitute its functioning body. For unenforced laws are merely unfulfilled promises, and absent the power to enact them, the people are made dispirited, mute and impotent. We voted on November 7th. Our will was expressed. We cannot now idly stand by and permit the principal democratic power of "We the people" to be taken from us by guile, legal legerdemain and partisan political theft. Do we retain control of this democratic government or abandon it to those who have shown by their words and actions that it is merely an instrument to be used to their own selfish advantage for political gain and personal aggrandizement? Do we choose to live under the rule of an illegally ensconced political party who neglects the will of the people on its path to "Grab, Oppress & Plunder" the public treasury for private interests? Or do we act?
It was the founder of the Democratic Party whose words perhaps inform us best. Thomas Jefferson, writing to Henry Lee in 1824 said, "Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: (1) those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. (2) those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist; and in every one where they are free to think, speak and write, they will declare themselves."
We, the people declared ourselves on November 7th. Can we now permit ourselves to be denied? Or shall we deliver ourselves and our democracy by those means remaining to us as final legal, just and ethical recourse?
Please join with me in writing to the Democratic State Legislatures, Governors, Representatives, Senators, and party officials in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and North Carolina to prevent the tyranny the Republican Party would otherwise impose. Ask that the Democratic slate of electors be sent to Congress for certification, that the democratically elected candidates for President and Vice-President be inaugurated in January, 2001: Albert Gore Jr., and Joseph Lieberman. To do otherwise is to bring a butter knife to a gunfight. The shift is almost over, and we need to return home alive.
Here endeth the lesson.
List of State Officials
Governor Don Siegelman 334-242-7100 FAX: 334-242-0937 State Capitol, Room N-104, 600 Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36130
Speaker of the House: Seth Hammett 334-242-7668 firstname.lastname@example.org State Capitol, Room 519-A, 11 S. Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130
Senate President Pro Tempore: Lowell Ray Barron 334-242-7858 State Capitol, Room 726, 11 S. Union Street, Montgomery, AL 36130
Governor: Roy E. Barnes 404-656-1776 FAX: 404-657-7332 State Capitol Bldg. Constituent Services Room 111, Atlanta, GA 30334
Speaker of The House: Thomas B. Murphy 404-656-5020 FAX: 770-537-4177 State Capitol Bldg., O.O. Box 332, Atlanta, GA 30334
Senate President Pro Tempore: Terrell Starr 404-656-7586 State Capitol Bldg. Room 321, Atlanta, GA 30334
Governor: Ronnie Musgrove P.O. Box 139, Jackson, MS 39205
Speaker Of The House: Timothy A. Ford 601-359-3300 FAX: 601-359-2969 State Capitol, Room 306 P.O. Box 1018, Jackson, MS 39215
Senate President Pro Tempore: Travis Lane Little 601-359-3209 email@example.com State Capitol, Room 307-NC, Jackson, MS 39215
Governor: Roger B. Wilson 573-751-3222 FAX: 573-751-1495 Missouri Capitol Bldg., Rm 216, P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720
Speaker Of The House: Steve Gaw 573-751-2700 Missouri Capitol Bldg., Rm 308, P.O. Box 720 Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720 firstname.lastname@example.org
Senate President Pro Tempore: Edward E. Quick 573-751-4524 FAX: 573-751-2745 Missouri Capitol Bldg., Rm 326, P.O. Box 720 Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720
Governor: James B. Hunt, Jr. 919-733-4240 or 919-733-5811 FAX #: 919-751-3175 or 919-733-2120 Office of the Governor, 20301 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Speaker Of The House: James B. Black 919-733-3451 Jimb@ncleg.net State Capitol Bldg., 2304 Legislative Bldg., Raleigh, NC 27601-1096
Senate President Pro Tempore: Marc Basnight 919-733-6854 email@example.com State Capitol Bldg., 2007 Legislative Bldg., Raleigh, NC 2760