Not since the 1930s have the labor, civil rights and peace movements been this unified in a presidential campaign, and almost never before have the raw realities of power been so flagrantly exposed behind the showcasing of democracy American-style.
It will get worse in the days ahead. Many Americans will have to push their way through the resistance of Republican operatives seeking to obstruct the right to vote. I predict it will get physical.
Remember the white riot staged by Republican congressional staffers, many of them flown in on Enron jets, to shut down the
The Republicans learned all over that November that force and intimidation work. It’s happening all over again. The
This time elements of the Democratic coalition are prepared to fight back, unlike 2000. New York Times editorials make
Republicans know that victory depends on impeding turnout, that the important thing is to interrogate people of color, the elderly and students, drive them away from the polls by any means necessary, drown the complaints with a drumbeat about whiners, and leave it to the courts.
This is a moment of truth. It has been an ideological maxim for many on the Left that the vote is meaningless, a diversionary reform at most. But if the Republicans are willing to use any means to suppress the vote, especially among people of color, how can any progressive person be indifferent any longer? The fact is that systematic efforts are underway to repeal the right to vote for thousands, even millions, of Americans whose ancestors fought and secured it, or so we are taught to believe.
Let us concede the point that the vote has been hollowed out by the power of money, the seduction of personality, the oligarchical arrangement of the parties, the growth of clandestine decision-making. But the very effort to render the franchise meaningless reveals its potential for changing the social order. The promise that every person is equal in the ballot box is feared as a precedent that could get out of hand in a society founded on so much inequality. Democracy ultimately becomes contagious, excessive, to conservative thinkers like Harvard’s Samuel Huntington. At the very bottom of things is the fact that the pure marketplace of neo-conservative dreams cannot coexist alongside the universal franchise. It is an interference in free markets, a potential restraint on trade. It is to be controlled as a privilege, never conceded as a right.
In the unfolding confrontation, millions of Americans are learning the profound lesson that the right to vote is not secure, that plans to steal elections are made at the highest levels of authority. It is a radicalizing lesson, not a seduction into the smoke and mirrors of
On Tuesday at least, the traditions of civil disobedience and electoral politics may converge. What are Democrats going to do if long lines of voters are blocked? E-mail John Ashcroft? Are newly-politicized protestors going to forget about their confrontational tactics for the day, or use them against the Republican bullies? What are trade unionists supposed to do when a Republican pushes or punches someone trying to vote? What are defenders of democracy to do when the whole world is watching Republicans approach the election like a seizure of power? What will happen when it’s too late for the lawyers and the foul deed is done again?
If Republicans stand in the way of democracy Tuesday like reincarnations of old George Wallace or Ross Barnett, it should be time for the movement to say once again: move on over or we’ll move on over you.
(c) 2004 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/20349/