Sludge Report #42 – Democracy Gives Way To Dinner
INSIDE THIS EDITION: Dubya'ed - Dubya’s Thanksgiving - An Overseas Perspective of Presidential Elections
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Sludge Report #42
The word “Dubya”, thinks Sludge, ought now to go down in history as a new political adjective ascribed with the meaning - “attempt to undermine democratic process before the vote counting is complete”.
As related in an earlier Sludge Report – (see… Sludge Report #40 – Waiting For The Guillotine ) the first “dubya’ing” of Indecision 2000 came on election night when Texas Governor George Bush’s cousin - a news manager at Fox News - called the final result in the election to Bush before vote counting was complete.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris was the second to try and “dubya” Bush into the White House when – immediately after being told by a judge that she could not “arbitrarily” refuse recount results – immediately went and did just that.
Down among the everglades there has been a whole swathe of “dubya’ing” going on in various Florida County courts with Republican lawyers and mobs suing, threatening and obstructing canvassing commissioners from doing their job of counting the votes, thereby dragging out a process that should have taken a week to three weeks, and now (it seems) out of time.
But the granddaddy Dubya of them all came yesterday when Dubya himself stepped into the fray directly and accused the Florida Supreme Court of “rewriting the law” when it declared that votes had to be counted properly.
Later the Bush Camp initiated legal action in the Nation’s highest court to back up his bluster – and this, thinks Sludge - could yet be his undoing.
Speaking in extremely intemperate language the man who would be President came very close in his statement yesterday to accusing the Florida Court of political bias.
As Sludge has said there is a clear pattern emerging here from Dubya, his friends families and henchmen. That is: a complete disregard for the niceties of democratic and legal process - little things like counting the votes before you declare yourself the victor.
Dubya’s argument is basically very simple – the public do not have the right to expect their votes to be counted properly.
Rather, his lawyers argue, a partisan elected official – Katherine Harris – ought to have the right to exclude any attempt to properly count the votes.
That we should receive Bush law like this from the Bush camp is hardly surprising. But fortunately for the world what may be seen as Just in the homes of oil ranchers from Texas – (where it is thought to be right for the state to kill teenagers and the mentally disable) – is not necessarily seen as justice everywhere else.
And now George Bush has brought the Federal Supreme Court into the fray, it seems appropriate to bring up another hoary old cliché (to supplement “What goes around comes around” from Sludge #40): “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword.”
The latest news this afternoon from the US is that Vice President Al Gore seems to agree that the principle of properly counting votes is worth fighting for. A spokesman has announced that should he lose at the end of thanksgiving weekend then he plans to contest the Florida election result in the courts.
Thus far in Indecision 2000 politically Al Gore’s calls have lacked a certain amount of spine. First he conceded the election before he had to and had to retract his statement. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot!
More recently he offered to give an assurance he would not take any legal action if a proper count was completed. This seems reasonable for a second, until you ask why? Why should he make a bargain with someone who is trying to “dubya” the election just to get the votes counted properly?
Mindyou up till now it has been an uphill battle politically and he does not want to seem a sore loser.
Now Gore has a real point of principle worth arguing– and it is not whether dimpled ballots should be counted or not.
Rather the question that needs to be answered by US democratic and judicial institutions is whether a presidential candidate ought to be able to “Dubya” himself, by hook or by crook, into the White House.
While George Bush remained silent he was winning this war. The actions of his hench-people were not his actions (and it is understandable that they might be losing their rags a little.)
But when the man-who-would-be-President himself publicly cajoles and threatens the legal rights of the courts to administer the elections he places his own future potentially in play.
Constitutionally the President – the head of the Executive branch of government – is sworn to uphold the rule of law. Under the principle of separation of powers the Executive Branch is barred from interfering in the operation of the courts.
The courts meanwhile are empowered by statute to oversee the conduct of the elections. This is necessary to prevent electoral fraud and trickery by agents of the powerful.
The system – if you think about – has to work this way. If partisan – elected – officials were free to make their own decisions about what was or wasn’t a fair election (without supervision, checks or balances) then the system would have no integrity.
And if the system was simply comprised of a set of deadlines that you could obstruct your way past then that would be equally foolish.
In his attack on the Florida Supreme Court Dubya has made it clear he does not like the idea of elections being ultimately controlled by the courts. And his supporters have made it clear they are prepared to use dirty tricks to pursue the objective of undermining this from having any real effect.
Regardless of whether in the final analysis Bush wins the count (and hopefully there will eventually be a proper count) Dubya, in Sludge’s opinion anyway, has now come close to disqualifying himself from occupying the White House.
Afterall, how can a man who does not respect voter’s rights to have their votes counted consider himself elected?
Thanksgiving is not a celebration the rest of the world know much about, except for what we pick up by osmosis through TV specials about turkey.
This year however as Indecision 2000 gives way to Thanksgiving 2000, the carving of the celebratory American turkey is to be accompanied by a particularly delicious irony.
In sum recent developments in Indecision 2000 have the following effect:
In order not to interrupt the carving of the turkey, the democratic rights of the US people to have their votes counted properly are to be denied.
Basically, unless the situation changes again (presumably live on CNN) then “we the people” - of the world and of the US - will never know for sure who really won the US election.
All we will know is who won the election before the vote-counters broke for dinner.
This is because, while US Courts have belatedly upheld the rights of American voters to have their votes counted – after three weeks of obstruction from the republicans, it now seems there is insufficient time.
The nation which has always been so keen to stress, in the words of the Florida Supreme Court, the “paramountcy” of the democratic rights to have ones vote counted has decided not to do just that - in order to ensure more quality family dining time.
That said, those of us who are concerned about this turn of events, do at least have one small thing left to be thankful for.
So far anyway, George Dubya Bush is still not yet the President Elect of the USA.
Overseas Perspective of Presidential Elections
- A view from the developing world- excerpted from a Zimbabwean newspaper
From an article in which a Zimbabwe politician was quoted as saying that children should study this event closely for it shows that election fraud is not only a third world phenomenon...
"1. Imagine that we read of an election occurring anywhere in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of that nation's secret police (cia).
2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (electoral college) from the nation's pre-democracy past.
3. Imagine that the self-declared winner's 'victory' turned on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!
4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district, a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner's opponent, led thousands of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.
5. Imagine that that members of that nation's most despised caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner's candidacy.
6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating under the authority of the self-declared winner's brother.
7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed province and that the self-declared winner's 'lead' was only 327 votes. Fewer, certainly, than the vote counting machines' margin of error.
8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.
9. Imagine that the self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation in executions.
10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to lifetime positions on the high court of that nation.
None of us would deem such an election to be representative of anything other than the self-declared winner's will-to-power. All of us, I imagine, would wearily turn the page thinking that it was another sad tale of pitiful pre- or anti-democracy peoples in some strange elsewhere."
Anti©opyright Sludge 2000