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 front man.
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 methods.
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, deadly ways.
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 even five years out, the Democrats in general just don’t know how to respond to cutthroat aggressiveness and criminality on the part of the Republicans. They 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 Dems 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 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 ballot-tabulation. 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 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. If such 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, "What 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 yourself 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 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, realize 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 coming up 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. Smart Democratic policy would devise ways to lure those folks into the impeachment camp.
But, 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.