A United Front To Mobilize Millions For Democracy on January 20


Ron Daniels

For
several years thousands of Black people and our allies braved the bitter
January cold to rally in Washington, DC, under the leadership of
Congressperson John Conyers and Stevie Wonder, to fight to make Martin Luther
King’s birthday a national holiday. But what good is it to have a Martin
Luther King Holiday when this nation is trampling on King’s legacy,
including the hard won Voting Rights Act of 1965? What we have witnessed is
the massive disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida and across the
nation and the hijacking of the presidency with the sanction of the highest
court in the land. In recent years, the “million march” phenomenon has
become quite faddish. But if there was ever a time for a million people’s
march, the time is now. Black civil rights/human rights, political, civic,
labor and religious organizations, and grassroots groups need to launch a
unified effort to mobilize millions for democracy. January 20, 2001,
Inauguration Day, should be a Day of Resistance.

As Manning
Marable noted in a recent television interview, there is a straight line
between the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which declared that “the
Negro has no rights that white men are bound to respect”; Plessy vs
Fergusion
in 1896 which was the judicial capstone of the Post
Reconstruction era (which began with the infamous compromise/betrayal of
1876); and the events of the presidential election of 2000 where countless
thousands of Black voters have been disenfranchised. By a vote of 5 to 4, with
Justice Thomas voting with the wrong side again (what a historical irony), the
conservative majority on the Supreme Court used “strict constructionist,”
bureaucratic and technical interpretations of the U.S. Constitution to
overrule the Florida Supreme Court’s decision ordering a manual recount in
several counties in Florida. Many of these counties have heavy concentrations
of African American, Haitian, and Hispanic voters. By ordering a halt to the
recount, in effect, the Supreme Court of the United States spat in the face of
millions of Black voters who had mobilized massively to promote and defend
their interests and aspirations through the electoral process.

On November 7,
Black folks marched on ballot boxes in record numbers, nearly 90 percent in
Miami Dade County in Florida, to fend off what they perceived to be the
dangers of a Bush administration. Black voters were not as much enamored with
Al Gore as they were determined that the right-wing counter attack and white
backlash against the progress of the civil rights movement, as represented by
forces behind George W. Bush, would be blocked from capturing the highest
office in the land. Black voters, along with their allies in labor and other
liberal-progressive constituencies succeeded in that quest only to have
victory snatched from their hands.

Though election
irregularities in Florida and across the nation were widespread, the most
egregious violation was the thousands of Blacks who did manage to cast ballots
only to have them thrown out by voting machines. This problem was aggravated
by the disproportionate locating of antiquated voting machines in
predominantly Black precincts in Florida. Hence, huge numbers of ballots with
valid votes for President and other offices were not counted. These are the
ballots that constitute the “undercount” which would have been rectified
by the manual recount halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme
Court of the United States, as it has in the past, aided, abetted, and
sanctioned the disenfranchisement of Black voters. By refusing to respect what
is supposed to be the most fundamental right in the American democratic
system, the right of citizens to vote and have their ballots counted, the
highest court in the land altered the outcome of the election. The
disenfranchisement of Black voters has produced an illegitimate president in
the person of George W. Bush. It is an outcome that African Americans and all
proponents of authentic democracy must reject.

As in the past,
the systems of government have failed Africans in America, leaving us no
alternative but to take to the streets to express our outrage and opposition
to the coronation of an illicit regime and to put forth an agenda for genuine
democracy and social, economic, and racial justice. The disrespected,
dispossessed, and disenfranchised— Black people and people of color—must
be at the forefront of a massive mobilization to finish the unfinished
democracy, to perfect the imperfect union, to move from “democracy for the
few” to a new society where the will of the people reigns supreme. It’s
time for the second American Revolution.

There can be no
place for egoism and organization turfism at this critical juncture in our
history. We urgently need Black civil rights/human rights, political,
religious, civic, and grassroots leaders to forge a “united front,” to
gather up and galvanize the anger in Black America and the nation over the
imposition of a fraudulent administration, to mobilize millions for democracy.
On January 20 the nation and world must see true patriots and democrats in the
streets of the nation’s capital engaging in non-violent direct action,
declaring our intent to become ungovernable in the spirit of the Declaration
of Independence in pursuit of real democracy. In the words of Malcolm X, it
must be “freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody.”   Z


Ron Daniels is a veteran political activist and one-time candidate for
preseident of the U.S. He is chair of the Campaign for a New Tomorrow and
director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. His weekly colum
appears in over 100 African American and progressive newspapers.