GOP Pit Bulls Unleashed
Chad Is a Country in Africa
The Election That No One Can Stand
Billions Down the Drain
The Real Third Party Is .
. .
Unity Be Damned

GOP Pit Bulls Unleashed
Capitol Hell

In the wake of the election from hell, we finally have an idea of how deep the divide is. Over the weekend and on Monday, enraged GOP right-wingers began discussing a possible "doomsday scenario." It goes like this: If Al Gore manages to eke out a victory over George W. Bush, Republican congressional backbenchers—muzzled for most of the election and furious at what they believe to be Gore campaign-scripted vote manipulation in Florida—intend to take matters into their own hands. House Majority leader Tom DeLay (known affectionately as "The Hammer") vows to block any move aimed at electing Gore in Congress when it meets in joint session to accept the results of the electoral college (see "A House Divided").

These plans were going forward behind the scenes in Washington as the Florida Supreme Court retired Monday after questioning attorneys for both sides. Some Republicans, including Bob Dole, are talking about boycotting a Gore inaugural. A handful of Democrats, angry at the way Gore's advisers have handled the campaign and its aftermath, are openly sympathetic. The tip of the iceberg could be seen in a blind quote in The Washington Post on Monday, reportedly from a top Democratic leader: "The depth of resentment and the extraordinary hostility the Republicans already have demonstrated towards the vice president is far greater than the somewhat mild opposition that Democrats have expressed about Bush."

On Capitol Hill, legislative aides are saying that conservative ("blue dog") and moderate New Democrats will have no trouble working with Bush on Medicare, taxes, and campaign-finance reform. In certain respects, some would rather have Bush than Gore. Bush has no baggage on Capitol Hill and has worked with conservative Democrats in Texas. Gore is recognized on the Hill for the cold fish that he is. Not only does he drag the Clinton scandal wherever he goes, but he has been aloof to the Republican opposition.

The question is: at what price do the conservative Republicans go along? Though small in number, they remain the driving force within the party, shaping not only its ideology but its tactics. Bush has shown himself to be beholden to the right-wingers, his vicious smearing of John McCain in South Carolina being a prime example.

DeLay's gang of backbenchers is the delightful group that brought us impeachment. Gagging on Clinton's survival amid record high popularity, they have for the last year had to endure the president's mocking of them. For the House Republicans, Gore is a Clinton cousin, and with Hillary in the Senate, a stepping-stone to a Clinton reign for years to come. Under no circumstances are they prepared to let that happen.

Chad Is a Country in Africa
Racism—Florida's Real Scandal

When Joe Lieberman unctuously declared on Meet the Press Sunday morning that "every vote counts," he wasn't talking about the ballots not cast by African Americans, Haitians, and other minorities in Florida. In many respects, the untold story of the election lies not with the excited middle-class white Democrats of Palm Beach County, but with the thousands of black people who were turned away from the polls in a bizarre rerun of the segregated South before the Voting Rights Act. It is the most amazing irony of the election in that the black populations, which for years have formed the base of the Democratic Party—at least before the Democratic Leadership Council took over—were prevented from voting with amazingly little protest from the party bigwigs. These voters could easily have carried the vice president to victory in Florida. And, of course, the Republicans—who now are the real Southern Democrats—have refrained from even mentioning the subject.

Not only were many blacks blocked from ballot access in Florida, but the Gore team apparently ignored them on election day. Campaign boss Bill Daley's main goal seems to have been to count and recount the votes of Palm Beach County, which the vice president won by 140,000 votes. Not once did Daley ask for a new election so these disenfranchised black citizens could vote. And only as an afterthought did he even raise the possibility of recounting all the votes in the state. In fact, the most vigorous proponent of a state recount has been Nebraska Republican senator Chuck Hagel.

One thing now seems clear: On election day, many white Florida election officials were doing their utmost to make sure blacks and other minorities didn't vote. That's the real scandal in Florida. The NAACP, which continues to pile up testimony from African Americans who say they were disenfranchised, wants the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the situation.  

"This is a corrupted, tainted process, an attempt to steal an election," Reverend Jesse Jackson said last week.

Among the claims:

  • That African Americans received phone calls the weekend before the election from people who claimed to be with the NAACP, urging them to vote for Bush. (Similar calls were reported in Michigan and Virginia.)
  • That roadblocks were set up a few hundred yards from voting places in Volusia County. Police stopped cars and ordered black men to get out of their vehicles and produce identification. (The Justice Department is reviewing the complaints to determine whether they amount to violations of law.)
  • That the morning after the election, employees at four predominantly black Miami-area schools which had been used as polling sites found stuffed ballot boxes, which apparently had not been counted. (The boxes were sent to elections officials.)
  • That, in a maneuver that smacks of the civil rights fights in the old South, substantial numbers of blacks were turned away from polling booths in various parts of the state. In Hillsborough County, sheriff's deputies who checked voter IDs allegedly claimed that the race of the prospective voters—which is listed on Florida voter ID cards—didn't match the race of the person standing in front of them. "I can't tell you how many times it happened," Sheila Douglas of the NAACP told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, "but it happened more often than not." (In addition, Nizam Arain, who works with Jackson's team of investigators, claimed black men in Hillsborough County were turned away from polling places as convicted felons, even though such proof was lacking. Jackson later said some black voters in the county were told there were no more ballots or that polls were closed.)
  • That in largely Republican Duval County about 27,000 people were disqualified when they attempted to vote. More than 12,000 disqualifications came from four districts that are mostly African American.

    "While I expected some complaints, it struck me . . . that this was startling in its scope and size," said Penda Hair, director of the Advancement Project, which advocates social and racial justice. "It seems that in counties across Florida, voters who were qualified were turned away at the polls. It was a denial of the right to vote that seemed to be concentrated in African American precincts."

    The Election That No One Can Stand
    A House Divided

    No matter who certifies the vote, the battle over the election seems certain to go on. With increasing intensity, both sides are now lobbying the electoral college, which meets in Washington on December 18.

    In an election this close, the very existence of the electoral college opens the door to possible corruption. Throughout history, only nine electors have not voted as they were mandated to do. None were prosecuted. But 26 states don't require electors to vote the way the popular vote in their state went. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require electors to follow the popular vote but have no penalties for noncompliance. Five states have penalties but the penalties are often token. Florida seems to have no law requiring electors to vote a certain way.

    A possible indication of what's in store came last week when two South Carolina electors told the State, the newspaper in Columbia, that they had received phone calls from unidentified individuals urging them to switch their votes from Bush to Gore. Bush easily carried South Carolina, garnering 57 percent of the vote. The state has eight electoral votes. The men said they'd rather fight than switch. "I'd cut my arm off first before voting for Al Gore," Cecil Windham, a retired farmer, told the paper.

    Taking the election into the House of Representatives, where each state gets one vote, may seem like the wildest of wild-card scenarios, but just in case, members have begun sounding off on the possibility. Standing out from the pack was Connie Morella, the liberal Republican who represents affluent Washington suburbs in Maryland. Morella announced last week that in the case of a House vote she would desert Bush and vote for Gore. Like so much else in Washington politics, her statement may appease constituents (many of whom in Morella's district either work for the government or in businesses dependent on government) but has little significance. Although the Maryland delegation is evenly split and her vote would give the state to Gore, Republicans control enough delegations to win.

    Some legislators also are hatching plans to get into the spotlight when the electoral college presents its votes to the House in what is usually a routine ceremony in early January. As noted above, Tom DeLay is prepared to carry the fight to the floor. And research memos prepared for both congressional Democrats and Republicans point out that the 12th Amendment requires Congress to gather in a joint session to tally the electoral votes. At this session any House member joined by any Senate member could object to the Florida votes. If that were to happen, each chamber then would meet separately to debate the question. However, throwing out the votes of the electoral college is not easy. To disqualify votes, both houses must agree. If the Senate were tied, Vice President Gore could end up casting the decisive vote. Without Florida, neither candidate would have the requisite 270 votes needed to win and the election would go to the House.  

    In the House, each state delegation would have one vote and would not be bound by the electoral votes. Republicans have majorities in 27 state delegations, while the Democrats control 17. Four delegations are tied and two are facing recounts, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

    Billions Down the Drain
    PO'd CEOs

    Private industry and wealthy individuals poured more cash into this election than any other in the hopes of influencing the outcome. All they came up with was a split. Despite the talk about how Wall Street likes divided government, the moneybags are teed off, and with good reason. They may own members of Congress, but with no clear victor what good does it do them?

    All told, some $3 billion has gone into the different campaigns—twice as much as in 1996. Raking in dough from the oil industry and longtime family backers, Bush pulled in $150 million by November 1. Gore, after months in which the vice president mouthed off continually about election-finance reform, was only $51 million behind.

    So much money was sucked out of business that CEOs complained they were being extorted. Big corporations often donate to each side to ensure leverage. But in this election it looks more and more like money down the drain, because a wholly owned member of Congress won't have the authority to get much done.

    Remember when Clinton entered the White House and pledged to get special-interest money out of politics? Well, this year the Democrats raised five times as much as they did in 1992—all from special-interest groups, and of course Bush largely ignored John McCain's reform platform.

    Big business scattered largesse on both sides of the aisle: AT&T, Microsoft, Enron, and FreddieMac gave more than $500,000 to each party. Philip Morris, Pfizer, SBC Communications, America Online, and Seagrams gave more than $100,000 in soft money to each. Top contributors to congressional campaigns were the pharmaceutical industry, labor unions, the tobacco industry, and communications firms.

    The Real Third Party Is . . .
    The Greenspan Party (It Never Ends)

    While the Clinton and Gore legions have been fighting it out in Florida, the real work of government is being done not in Congress or by the lame-duck president, but by Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan. In a menacing speech to the Central Bank of Mexico last week, Greenspan warned that youthful street uprisings against free trade must now be crushed lest they endanger "market-oriented systems."

    "The progress in lowering trade barriers since World War II marks the triumph of putting an important idea into practice—that international trade benefits all nations," Greenspan said. "Indeed, in every nation, those benefits are shared by people spread across quite different income brackets." And he warned that any weakening of the strong economic growth of recent years "runs the risk of reviving mistrust of market-oriented systems, even among conventional policy-makers. . . Clearly, the risk is that support for restrictions on trade is not dead, only quiescent."

    Greenspan's speech gave the clearest example of how Washington might function over the next four years under some form of national-unity regime. It's pretty simple. With Congress and the president unable or (in the case of Congress) unwilling to run the country, real power concentrates in the quasi-independent agencies such as the Federal Reserve, which are prepared to act. Like high officials in Iran, who can operate in their own sphere as long as they do not intrude into the power base of the clergy, the leaders of these institutions can issue policy directives on their own as long as they do not intrude overmuch on Wall Street. It should be noted that lately in this regard there have been some storm clouds brewing for Greenspan on the Republican/libertarian right in response to his spate of interventions as the market has fluctuated.  

    Once right-wing Republicans adjust to the horror of it, a weak national-unity government would not necessarily be regarded negatively. The right has always worked for the withering away of federal institutions, including Congress. They prefer to see power draining out of Washington into state capitals, where, conservatives believe, what social-welfare policies that are allowed ought to be established. The model for national unity was set in the mid-'90s when Bill Clinton essentially capitulated to Newt Gingrich and the congressional Republicans, joining the conservatives in a sea change to the right on major issues such as welfare reform.

    Although in theory a national-unity government should be feasible since it is in the parties' own self-interests and they agree on most major policies, there are—in addition to the bottom-line question of patronage spoils—basic differences: on, for example, defense funding, medical insurance, and the privatizing of Social Security. In Congress, national unity faces pitfalls, not the least of which entails divvying up committee slots and chairmanships. Needless to say, this would involve dealing in some way with far-right ideologues of the Armey-DeLay-Gramm stripe, who, before they were muffled, governed by screaming across the aisles in the protracted impeachment battle—which itself precipitated many of the present divisions.

    Late last week, Gore took the first opportunistic step toward national unity with his call for a meeting with Bush to smooth the way for a new government. More important than the fact that Gore was abruptly rebuffed, members of Congress were hurling wild accusations before the vice president even spoke, with Texas's Phil Gramm accusing Gore of trying "to steal the election."

    Nevertheless, on Monday the conservative Heritage Foundation, which more than any other group sets the agenda for the Republican right, magnanimously called together representatives of the neoliberal New Democratic Progressive Policy Institute and the liberal Urban Institute to try to forge "a strong bipartisan consensus on a number of key public policy issues," from taxes to education to health care.

    Unity Be Damned
    Nader Lives

    Ralph Nader finished with 2.7 million votes, including at least 5 percent in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Nader captured 10 percent in Alaska, 7 percent in Vermont, and 6 percent in Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, and Rhode Island. He finished with 5 percent in D.C., Minnesota, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah, and got 4 percent in eight other states.

    More than 463,000 people signed Nader's ballot-access petitions. The Nader campaign had 150,000 volunteers and 45,000 donors. Over 450 new Green Party locals and 900 campus organizations were founded. Approximately 25,000 students volunteered, registering tens of thousands of first-time voters. Overall, 266 Greens ran for office in 2000; 16 won elections in November, and 14 won elections in the spring.


    Two men were arrested last week for stealing a voting machine in Palm Beach County and trying to sell it on eBay, according to CNN. An elections supervisor called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after discovering that the device was for sale. An undercover officer posing as a prospective buyer then posted a message and met with the men, settling on a price of $4000 before the pair was arrested. They allegedly confessed to taking the machine from a clubhouse where it was being stored until elections workers could pick it up. Unlawful possession of a voting machine is a felony.

    Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz and Theresa Crapanzano

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