character; the second convention, where the election funders are wined and

dined, deals are struck, and real agendas are formed. This means that ordinary

citizens are disenfranchised, given that a critically important part of the

electoral process is outside of their orbit of influence. This feature of the

political system also makes the dominant parties unable to address the needs of

the lower 60 percent of income recipients. This may help us understand why the

household incomes of this 60 percent majority declined over the past 20 years,

whereas the real incomes of the top 1 percent, who directly and indirectly

through their businesses fund the two parties, increased by 63.2 percent over

the same period.


well known is the fact that members of the lower classes, and especially blacks,

are often legally disenfranchised. This results from the workings of the prison

system and law. In nine states, if you commit a felony, you are banned from

voting for a lifetime. A recent study by criminologists Christopher Uggen and

Jeff Manza indicates that this removes democratic political rights from 4.2

million voters, a disproportionate number of them black. (The Uggen-Manza study

is summarized in Somini Sengupta, "Felony Costs Voting Rights for a

Lifetime in 9 States," NYT, Nov. 3, 2000.) About 7 percent of otherwise

eligible blacks are barred from voting in the United States because of felony

convictions. Interestingly, Florida is among the most important of the

disenfranchising states in excluding blacks, with 13.8 percent barred for felony

convictions. Maybe if the Clinton-Gore administration had fought hard against

this travesty it would have made a difference in the 2000 presidential election.


ally Israel not only allows prisoners and ex-felons to vote, it allows murderers

who kill politicians for political reasons to vote, thereby in a sense doubling

the murderer’s voting power. Thus Yigal Amir, who murdered Prime Minister Rabin

in 1995, voted for Rabin’s opponent Benjamin Netanyahu while in prison. Mrs.

Rabin pointed out the irony of this double vote for the murderer, but it was not

featured in the mainstream U.S. media.


is also of interest that in the United States a corporation that commits a

criminal act is not denied the right to form a political action committee to

push its political aims, nor are its officers prevented from voting although

they are responsible for its criminal behavior. Certainly one tactic that

progressives interested in electoral reform should pursue is to call for

abolition of disenfranchisement or its extension to all criminals– either

abolish disenfranchisement of people in jail and ex-felons or extend it to

business firms, denying corporations found guilty of criminal acts any right to

form PACs and denying their top officers voting rights for their lifetimes in

the same manner as other criminals are treated.


follows from the above considerations, also, is that the idea that Ralph Nader

cost Gore this election is badly off the mark. A disproportionate number of the

disenfranchised felons and ex-felons would have voted for Gore, and would very

likely have carried him over the top in Florida. A much larger number, of those

disenfranchised by the "second convention"–where the interests of the

disenfranchised were bargained away to the fat cats–would also have voted for

him, if he wasn’t the Gore of Clinton-Gore, the Democratic National Committee,

and the New Democrats. These politicians and party hacks have not only put the

government up for sale to the highest bidders, they have internalized the

beliefs of those wined and dined at the second convention and view their service

to these fat cats in pushing for "free trade," "ending welfare as

we know it," etc., as in the "national interest." This is sensed

by many who don’t vote, based on observable hypocrisy and experience in New

Democrat performance. "New Democrats, know your- selves and take

responsibility for your own actions."

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