To say that this election could go either way is not to say that the Republicans have any chance of winning it. As a civic entity responsive to the voters' will, the party's over, there being no American majority that backs it, or that ever would. Bush has left the GOP in much the same condition as Iraq, Afghanistan, the global climate, New Orleans, the Bill of Rights, our military, our economy and our national reputation. Thus the regime is reviled as hotly by conservatives as by liberals, nor do any moderates support it.
So slight is Bush's popularity that his own party's candidates for Congress are afraid to speak his name or to be seen with him (although their numbers, in the aggregate, are even lower than his). It seems the only citizens who still have any faith in him are those who think God wants us to burn witches and drive SUVs. For all their zeal, such theocratic types are not in the majority, not even close, and thus there's no chance that the GOP can get the necessary votes.
Even though this election could go either way, neither way will benefit the Democrats. Either the Republicans will steal their "re-election" on Election Day, just as they did two years ago, or they will slime their way to "victory" through force and fraud and strident propaganda, as they did after Election Day 2000. Whichever strategy they use, the only way to stop it is to face it, and then shout so long and loud about it that the people finally perceive, at last, that their suspicions are entirely just - and, this time, just say no.
In short, the awful truth about 2004 has been denied by right and left alike and, strange to say, more loudly on the left. Indeed, whereas the right has largely chosen to avoid the issue, the only journalists who have purported to "debunk" the "theory" of Bush and Cheney's stolen re-election have been liberals and progressive (and, ordinarily, excellent reporters): Mark Hertsgaard at Mother Jones; Russ Baker at TomPaine.com; David Corn at The Nation; and, above all, Farhad Manjoo at Salon.
Their "refutations" of the case are largely based on the mere exculpatory say-so of a few unconscious (or complicit) Democrats. And yet, although the work of these debunkers has itself been thoroughly debunked (and Manjoo, therefore, quietly assigned to other topics), it has done much to propagate the myth that there's "no evidence" that Bush & Co. subverted our democracy. Such denials have been persuasive not because they are well argued but because the truth is terrifying, and a lot of people (including those reporters) very badly need a reason to believe that all is well. Such wishful thinking has kept "the liberal media" from dealing with the direst threat that our democracy has ever faced.
We must delve into the recent past, not to quibble over ancient numbers but to find out where we really are today. For what happened in some states four years ago, and in most states two years ago, is still happening now, and in more states than ever: a vast, complex and incremental process of mass disenfranchisement - which is, in fact, the only way the Bush Republicans could ever get "elected," as their program is not conservative but radical, irrational, apocalyptic: i.e., unacceptable to most Americans, liberals and true conservatives alike.
This is why they've gerrymandered Texas and (less visibly) Virginia - and also why they've packed the Supreme Court with comrades disinclined to outlaw gerrymandering (unless it's Democrats who try it). This is why they are dead-set against repealing state laws disenfranchising ex-felons - and also why they've used the "war on drugs" to jail as many likely Democrats as possible. (This would also help explain the post-Katrina diaspora, and especially the out-of-state internment of over 70,000 Louisianans.) And this is why the Bush Republicans push e-voting machines in every state, and program them to flip votes cast by Democrats into votes "cast" for Republicans, and systematically provide too few machines to Democratic precincts, and keep on arbitrarily removing Democrats from voter rolls, and "challenge" would-be voters at the polls, and simply throw out countless ballots of all kinds, and spread disinformation on Election Day. These are just some of the devices that were used not only in Ohio to ensure Bush/Cheney's "re-election," but in every state where they could pull it off - on both coasts, in the Midwest, and throughout the South.
We need a massive turnout in November - but not because it will put Democrats in power. We need the biggest turnout ever, as a protest on behalf of free and fair elections in America. Such a turnout will make it that much harder for the Bush Republicans to spin their victory as legitimate. (This is why the GOP in several states, including Maryland and Colorado, is urging people to vote absentee next month: to make the opposition appear that much smaller.) But more important, such a turnout will prepare people for the crucial fight to come - the effort to save our democracy.
If we get millions out to vote, without informing them they may well "lose" anyway, the blow will devastate them, just as Kerry's abrupt concession did in 2004. It took two years to get Americans mobilized again. If Bush and his allies steal the next election, we won't have years to start resisting. The resistance must start on Day One, just as in Ukraine and Mexico; and so the people must be ready for the fight - and so they need to know enough to wage it, and to win it.
That's what we've been saying. You saw it here, everybody. Republicans campaign like they've run Congress...
There is very little that sums up the record of the US Congress in the Bush years better than a half-mad boy-addict put in charge of a federal commission on child exploitation. After all, if a hairy-necked, raincoat-clad freak like Rep. Mark Foley can get himself named co-chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, one can only wonder: What the hell else is going on in the corridors of Capitol Hill these days?
These past six years were more than just the most shameful, corrupt and incompetent period in the history of the American legislative branch. These were the years when the US parliament became a historical punch line, a political obscenity on par with the court of Nero or Caligula - a stable of thieves and perverts who committed crimes rolling out of bed in the morning and did their very best to turn the mighty American empire into a debt-laden, despotic backwater, a Burkina Faso with cable.
It is no big scoop that the majority party in Congress has always found ways of giving the shaft to the minority. But there is a marked difference in the size and the length of the shaft the Republicans have given the Democrats in the past six years. There has been a systematic effort not only to deny the Democrats any kind of power-sharing role in creating or refining legislation but to humiliate them publicly, show them up, pee in their faces. Washington was once a chummy fraternity in which members of both parties golfed together, played in the same pickup basketball games, probably even shared the same mistresses. Now it is a one-party town - and congressional business is conducted accordingly, as though the half of the country that the Democrats represent simply does not exist.
American government was not designed for one-party rule but for rule by consensus - so this current batch of Republicans has found a way to work around that product design. They have scuttled both the spirit and the letter of congressional procedure, turning the lawmaking process into a backroom deal, with power concentrated in the hands of a few chiefs behind the scenes. This reduces the legislature to a Belarus-style rubber stamp, where the opposition is just there for show, human pieces of stagecraft - a fact the Republicans don't even bother to conceal.
One of the most depressing examples of one-party rule is the Patriot Act. The measure was originally crafted in classic bipartisan fashion in the Judiciary Committee, where it passed by a vote of thirty-six to zero, with famed liberals like Barney Frank and Jerrold Nadler saying aye. But when the bill was sent to the Rules Committee, the Republicans simply chucked the approved bill and replaced it with a new, far more repressive version, apparently written at the direction of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
"They just rewrote the whole bill," says Rep. James McGovern, a minority member of the Rules Committee. "All that committee work was just for show."
To ensure that Democrats can't alter any of the last-minute changes, Republicans have overseen a monstrous increase in the number of "closed" rules - bills that go to the floor for a vote without any possibility of amendment. This tactic undercuts the very essence of democracy: In a bicameral system, allowing bills to be debated openly is the only way that the minority can have a real impact, by offering amendments to legislation drafted by the majority.
Closed rules, shipwrecked bills, secret negotiations, one-vote victories. The result of all this is a Congress where there is little or no open debate and virtually no votes are left to chance; all the important decisions are made in backroom deals, and what you see on C-Span is just empty theater, the world's most expensive trained-dolphin act. The constant here is a political strategy of conducting congressional business with as little outside input as possible, rejecting the essentially conservative tradition of rule-by-consensus in favor of a more revolutionary strategy of rule by cabal.
It's Thursday evening, September 28th, and the Senate is putting the finishing touches on the Military Commissions Act of 2006, colloquially known as the "torture bill." It's a law even Stalin would admire, one that throws habeas corpus in the trash, legalizes a vast array of savage interrogation techniques and generally turns the president of the United States into a kind of turbocharged Yoruba witch doctor, with nearly unlimited snatching powers. The bill is a fall-from-Eden moment in American history, a potentially disastrous step toward authoritarianism - but what is most disturbing about it, beyond the fact that it's happening, is that the senators are hurrying to get it done.
In addition to ending generations of bipartisanship and instituting one-party rule, our national legislators in the Bush years are guilty of something even more fundamental: They suck at their jobs.
They don't work many days, don't pass many laws, and the few laws they're forced to pass, they pass late. In fact, in every year that Bush has been president, Congress has failed to pass more than three of the eleven annual appropriations bills on time.
That figures into tonight's problems. At this very moment, as the torture bill goes to a vote, there are only a few days left until the beginning of the fiscal year - and not one appropriations bill has been passed so far. That's why these assholes are hurrying to bag this torture bill: They want to finish in time to squeeze in a measly two hours of debate tonight on the half-trillion-dollar defense-appropriations bill they've blown off until now. The plan is to then wrap things up tomorrow before splitting Washington for a month of real work, i.e., campaigning.
Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont comments on this rush to torture during the final, frenzied debate. "Over 200 years of jurisprudence in this country," Leahy pleads, "and following an hour of debate, we get rid of it?"
Yawns, chatter, a few sets of rolling eyes - yeah, whatever, Pat. An hour later, the torture bill is law. Two hours after that, the diminutive chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Ted Stevens, reads off the summary of the military-spending bill to a mostly empty hall; since the members all need their sleep and most have left early, the "debate" on the biggest spending bill of the year is conducted before a largely phantom audience.
"Mr. President," Stevens begins, eyeing the few members present. "There are only four days left in the fiscal year. The 2007 defense appropriations conference report must be signed into law by the president before Saturday at midnight...."
Watching Ted Stevens spend half a trillion dollars is like watching a junkie pull a belt around his biceps with his teeth. You get the sense he could do it just as fast in the dark. When he finishes his summary - $436 billion in defense spending, including $70 billion for the Iraq "emergency" - he fucks off and leaves the hall. A few minutes later, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma - one of the so-called honest Republicans who has clashed with his own party's leadership on spending issues - appears in the hall and whines to the empty room about all the lavish pork projects and sheer unadulterated waste jammed into the bill. But aside from a bored-looking John Cornyn of Texas, who is acting as president pro tempore, and a couple of giggling, suit-clad pages, there is no one in the hall to listen to him.
...the Republican-controlled Congress has created a new standard for the use of oversight powers. That standard seems to be that when a Democratic president is in power, there are no matters too stupid or meaningless to be investigated fully - but when George Bush is president, no evidence of corruption or incompetence is shocking enough to warrant congressional attention. One gets the sense that Bush would have to drink the blood of Christian babies to inspire hearings in Congress - and only then if he did it during a nationally televised State of the Union address and the babies were from Pennsylvania, where Senate Judiciary chairman Arlen Specter was running ten points behind in an election year.
The numbers bear this out. From the McCarthy era in the 1950s through the Republican takeover of Congress in 1995, no Democratic committee chairman issued a subpoena without either minority consent or a committee vote. In the Clinton years, Republicans chucked that long-standing arrangement and issued more than 1,000 subpoenas to investigate alleged administration and Democratic misconduct, reviewing more than 2 million pages of government documents.
Guess how many subpoenas have been issued to the White House since George Bush took office? Zero - that's right, zero, the same as the number of open rules debated this year; two fewer than the number of appropriations bills passed on time.
...not only does Congress not care what intelligence was used to get into the war, what the plan was supposed to be once we got there, what goes on in military prisons in Iraq and elsewhere, how military contracts are being given away and to whom - it doesn't even give a shit what happens to the half-trillion bucks it throws at the military every year.
Not to say, of course, that this Congress hasn't made an effort to reform itself. In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, and following a public uproar over the widespread abuse of earmarks, both the House and the Senate passed their own versions of an earmark reform bill this year. But when the two chambers couldn't agree on a final version, the House was left to pass its own watered-down measure in the waning days of the most recent session. This pathetically, almost historically half-assed attempt at reforming corruption should tell you all you need to know about the current Congress.
Anyone who wants to get a feel for the kinds of beasts that have been roaming the grounds of the congressional zoo in the past six years need only look at the deranged, handwritten letter that convicted bribe-taker and GOP ex-congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham recently sent from prison to Marcus Stern, the reporter who helped bust him. In it, Cunningham - who was convicted last year of taking $2.4 million in cash, rugs, furniture and jewelry from a defense contractor called MZM - bitches out Stern in the broken, half-literate penmanship of a six-year-old put in time-out.
"Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life," Cunningham wrote. "I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life."
The amazing thing about Cunningham's letter is not his utter lack of remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for ratting him out ("90% of what has happed [sic] is Wade," he writes), but his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:
"As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the Year ... hospital funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill ... and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died."
How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years - no wonder Congress couldn't pass any spending bills!
This is Congress in the Bush years, in a nutshell - a guy who takes $2 million in bribes from a contractor, whooping it up in turtlenecks and pajama bottoms with young women on a contractor-provided yacht named after himself (the "Duke-Stir"), and not only is he shocked when he's caught, he's too dumb to even understand that he's been guilty of anything.
This kind of appalling moral blindness, a sort of high-functioning, sociopathic stupidity, has been a consistent characteristic of the numerous Republicans indicted during the Bush era. Like all revolutionaries, they seem to feel entitled to break rules in the name of whatever the hell it is they think they're doing. And when caught breaking said rules with wads of cash spilling out of their pockets, they appear genuinely indignant at accusations of wrongdoing. Former House Majority Leader and brazen fuckhead Tom DeLay, after finally being indicted for money laundering, seemed amazed that anyone would bring him into court.
"I have done nothing wrong," he declared. "I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the House." Unless, of course, you count the charges against him for conspiring to inject illegal contributions into state elections in Texas "with the intent that a felony be committed."
It was the same when Ohio's officious jackass of a (soon-to-be-ex) Congressman Bob Ney finally went down for accepting $170,000 in trips from Abramoff in exchange for various favors. Even as the evidence piled high, Ney denied any wrongdoing. When he finally did plead guilty, he blamed the sauce. "A dependence on alcohol has been a problem for me," he said.
One could go on and on about the scandals and failures of the past six years; to document them all would take ... well, it would take more than ninety-three fucking days, that's for sure. But you can boil the whole sordid mess down to a few basic concepts. Sloth. Greed. Abuse of power. Hatred of democracy. Government as a cheap backroom deal, finished in time for thirty-six holes of the world's best golf. And brains too stupid to be ashamed of any of it. If we have learned nothing else in the Bush years, it's that this Congress cannot be reformed. The only way to change it is to get rid of it.
Long, but so delicious!
I watched this happen two years ago - same rejection of the Iraq war, same disgust with Bush and Co., same understanding Republicans are for the rich, period, same polls showing D's with the lead going right into Election Day. And the same geographic gerrymander and same wall of money in the last two weeks. I'm not close to calling this election, and I'm sure not into celebrating anything yet.
Although some victories have been won for democratic practice through tireless bipartisan citizen activism, most notably in Colorado, North Carolina and New Mexico, such grassroots triumphs have been overshadowed by the juggernaut's immense success at reddening blue America. In 2004, 23 percent of the electorate cast their votes on "direct-recording electronic" (DRE) machines. Today, according to Election Data Services, it's over 39 percent. And nearly 41 percent will have their votes counted by computerized scanners - a method preferable to using DRE machines, as it allows for paper ballots, but a risky practice nonetheless. Thus over 80 percent of next month's vote will be counted secretly, by private vendors closely tied to Bush's party.
The GOP has also furthered mass disenfranchisement by passing Jim Crow laws of startling brazenness (yet that have gone largely unnoticed by the press). The Ohio legislature has passed a law that quadruples the price of recounts, makes machine audits near-impossible, hinders registration of new voters, tightens partisan control of the election work-force and requires all voters to bring IDs to the polls. Photo IDs, effectively a poll tax, are now required in Indiana and Florida - where, moreover, it is now illegal to hand-count paper ballots once they have been "counted" by machine. Through such laws - and epidemic lawlessness - the party will control the vote throughout the nation on November 7.
While the party has pre-empted innumerable votes below the radar, it has also shown a steely willingness to thwart the voters openly, if they should dare resist the party's will. Take, for example, last summer's special race in San Diego to fill the empty seat of the felonious Randy Cunningham, a former Republican congressman who is now doing time for accepting bribes. Although leading in the pre-election polls, the Democrat, Francine Busby, lost to Brian Bilbray of the GOP; and then it came out that the party's poll workers had been ordered to take the e-voting machinery home with them for several days before the vote.
At the news of this jaw-dropping wrong (it being a very simple task to fiddle with the gadgets' memory cards and thereby fix the final count), San Diegans called for an investigation and a new election. A week after the election - and seventeen days before the vote was even certified - Bilbray flew to Washington, where he was summarily sworn in by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. In late August that amazing move was, still more amazingly, approved by Superior Court Judge Yuri Hofmann, who argued that the state of California had no jurisdiction once the Speaker of the House had made the people's choice.
If Dennis Hastert can choose Brian Bilbray for that seat, irrespective of the will of the electorate, why bother having House elections anywhere? Indeed, why bother with elections? Why not just have Congress's membership decided by the Speaker of the House - or by President Bush himself? Maybe that imperial arrangement would amuse the press as much as it appeals to Bush & Co. Otherwise there might have been some coverage of the scandal by the news media, which has largely disregarded it (while Hastert's role in Foleygate is a huge story).
If the GOP should lose the House or Senate, its troops will mount a noisy propaganda drive accusing their opponents of election fraud. This is no mere speculation, according to a well-placed party operative who lately told talk radio host Thom Hartmann, off the record, that the game will be to shriek indignantly that those dark-hearted Democrats have fixed the race. We will hear endlessly of Democratic "voter fraud" through phantom ballots, rigged machines, intimidation tactics, and all the other tricks whereby the Bush regime has come to power. The regime will, in short, deploy the ultimate Swift Boat maneuver to turn around as many races as they need so as to nullify the will of the electorate.
It's all so strangely futuristic. I agree with Miller. Call me a pessimist, but I don't think the dems have a prayer, even if the republicans don't get a single vote. What do you think?