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UQ Wire: Within Reach of Your Hand

Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
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Within Reach of Your Hand

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Sunday, 3 November, 2002

The pundits and talking heads describe Tuesday's election as nothing particularly special or important. There are no major issues at stake, they say. Even if there were, voter turnout will be low. The status of Congress will not change, they say. Nothing to see here.

Lies. This is not just another election. The House and Senate are very much in play, up for grabs to whichever party gets the vote out. The issues at stake will absolutely and immediately define the future of this nation and the world.

The issue of permanent global war is on the table, most pressingly regarding Iraq. Should the GOP take Congress entirely, there will be no oversight for this war whatsoever. Given the fact that we have combat troops in Afghanistan Pakistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Georgia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel, Kurdistan within Iraq, Indonesia and a number of countries in South America, to name only a few, it is absolutely necessary that the White House not have the only voice for decision and debate regarding the use of war powers.

The Supreme Court of the United States, a deliberative body from which there is no appeal, is up for grabs. At least three Justices are considering retirement, including Chief Justice and Nixon appointee William Rehnquist. Should the GOP take Congress entirely, George W. Bush will have the unimpeded ability to place whomever he wishes on the high bench, thus setting the stage for thirty years of serious conservative activism from the Judiciary. With this ability, the GOP will have the power to bring all three branches of the Federal government under their sway. With this ability, the GOP will have the power to rewrite some of our most fundamental constitutional protections for a generation. Consider the ramifications of PATRIOT Act restrictions being ratified and cemented by a conservative court. Consider the demise of Roe v. Wade. Consider the outcome of future electoral challenges like the one seen in 2000, a sure thing given the equal voting divisions within the electorate.

Pressing questions regarding affordable medication for senior citizens, the future viability of Social Security and Medicare, as well as the question of whether to restrict or expand upon Bush's ill-conceived tax cut, are all in the offing in this election. Should the GOP retake all of Congress, there will be no affordable health care policy crafted for our oldest and most vulnerable citizens. Social Security will be gambled on the crooked roulette wheel of the stock market, which is still reeling and rocking from corporate scandal. Bush's tax cut, which gutted the Clinton surplus and sent the budget into deficit spending, could be adjusted to spare the economy further damage. With the GOP in control of Congress, this will not happen.

The economy itself is in play. If the GOP retakes Congress, further deregulation of business will come like lightning. It was this process that led to the mess we are currently in. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, voted into being by Congressional Republicans in 1995, basically allowed corporations to wildly overstate the value of their stock. Before PSLRA, the SEC severely limited the ability of corporations to make claims about their value. Such predictions are prone to exaggeration because the executives want to present their businesses in the best possible light. But along came PSLRA, which basically did away with all restrictions along these lines. Corporations could promise the moon and lie without restraint about the value of their stock. From 1935 to 1995, less than 100 corporations were forced to restate their earnings, a la Enron and WorldCom.

In the last seven years, approximately 1,000 corporations have been forced to restate their earnings. The difference? PSLRA in 1995. Clinton vetoed PSLRA, but the Republican Congress overrode his veto. Today, we see the results. A GOP victory on Tuesday will likewise guarantee that those corporate CEOs who have betrayed the trust of the shareholders will almost completely escape any punishment for their crimes. Anyone who thinks the Republicans are good for business has not been paying attention since 1993.

At bottom, the election on Tuesday is a contest for the soul of this democracy. America stands ready to become a rogue nation, dismissive of the rest of the world, prepared to deliver a hard slap to the face of allies who have stood with us for decades. In this global economy, an arrogant America stands to lose far more than the good will of other nations. In this dangerous world, America cannot afford to stand alone. After the attacks of September 11th, the international community wrapped us in a warm embrace. In return, the Bush administration has spit into their collective faces. If this administration controls the entirety of our government, this trend will continue unchecked. Simultaneously, domestic policy will be further manipulated in favor of corporations and the wealthy. The economy will continue to bleed. The 21st century, at one time looked to with hope and promise, will wind a funeral shroud around what we once believed to be the last, best hope for humanity.

Is this what you want?

This is a question that transcends any rifts or frustrations regarding the Democratic Party. This is a question intended as much for liberals as for moderates, and even for conservatives. The Republican Party of today is not the Party of our grandfathers. It has been overtaken by neo-conservative corporate-minded individuals who have little regard for the common citizen, or for constitutional protections as we have enjoyed them. Many conservatives have seen their party leave them behind in the last two years, and cannot miss the significance of this vote.

Good arguments can be made that a number of the issues listed above could well come to pass even if the Democrats hold their majority in the Senate, even if they take the House. This is a "What If" scenario, unpredictable and open to redirection by a voting base that has the power to shape the debate. There is no "What If" surrounding the potential GOP takeover - these things will happen in that event, as surely as the sun rising in the East.

We the people do not only have the power to shape the debate. We also have the power to swing this election. Turnout is essential, as the GOP has been dragooning all hands into a push to get everyone possible to the polls. This must be matched and overtaken. Find your local Democratic Party office and volunteer to drive people to voting stations. Beat friends and relatives about the head and shoulders until they put their coats on and go out to vote. Get on the telephone, knock on doors in your neighborhood, find whatever means available to you to assist in this.

The events in Florida in November of 2000 stand a good chance of being repeated across the country on Tuesday. In several places, the dirty tricks have already begun. We the people can stop this. If you live in a battleground state where voter manipulation or intimidation is possible or likely, go to your polling place with a tape recorder or video camera. Bring a cell phone, and write down this number: 800-VOTE-411. This is the number to call if something becomes fouled at the polls. Use the recording devices to collect names and evidence of anyone denied the ability to vote.

Demographic trends in the country point to an emerging Democratic majority, which is one of the main reasons why recent Republican tactics have involved mouthing Democratic ideals to bamboozle the voters. As this demographic trend begins to further manifest itself, another tactic will be desperation-fueled GOP intimidation of voters at the polls. You can stop it, check it, gather evidence of it and crush it. Be prepared, be your own police force, and go to your polls with eyes and ears open.

The republic stands upon the edge of a knife. Within reach of your hand is the ability to bring this nation back from the brink, back to where it belongs. Do not let this historic opportunity for real change pass you by. Stand and be counted. Vote. Be prepared to defend the voting rights of others. The democracy you save will be your own. It is up to you.


William Rivers Pitt is a teacher from Boston, MA. He is the author of two books - "War On Iraq" (with Scott Ritter) available now from Context Books, and "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available in April 2003 from Pluto Press.

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