The End of the Age of Democracy: Has it Arrived?
The Winner? a Boob with a Silver Spoon up his Nose
Well. Here it is midnight on the 12th of December, and BuckcuB is STILL attempting to grasp what has happened tonight in our nation's capitol.
Faced with what was probably the most momentous decision in its history regarding the most sacred tenet of our republic -- the inviolable right of citizens to vote -- that august and revered arbiter of final resort, the Supreme Court of the United States, reached a determination.
To say BuckcuB is aghast at the SCOTUS decision-that-isn't-a-decision would be a gross understatement. The Court overturned Florida's Supreme Court, but remanded the case back. The Court didn't rule that there could be no recount in Florida, but it remanded the matter with conditions making it impossible to have a recount within the timeframe permissible.
The Court issued the substance of its ruling "per curiam" without identifying the way each Justice voted, but more than half of the ruling consists of dissents to various portions of the ruling by seven of the nine Justices! What an unholy mess!
The SCOTUS “decision” in Bush v. Gore will, BuckcuB thinks, more-or-less permanently undermine its credibility as an apolitical arbiter. Justice Scalia, unsurprisingly, came off as the most politicized Justice, commenting even before oral arguments were heard that he thought Bush would win.
Judges don't normally comment on a case under review. Supreme Court Justices NEVER comment on a case under review. Scalia's comments make it pretty clear that he had already decided which way he was going to vote, regardless of the oral arguments presented. That's called prejudice, and it's exactly the opposite of what the highest court is supposed to stand for.
This is MUCH bigger than the issue of who will be President. This decision tinkers with the very premise on which this country was founded! The most galling part of this, for gays, is that the Bush team argued its case on "equal protection" grounds. That would be the same equal protection which is routinely denied to gay and lesbian citizens in housing and employment, most often by people with views like those of Bush. The same equal protection that the SCOTUS denied to gays in deciding that the Boy Scouts could legally prohibit gays, the SCOTUS upholds for George W. Bush instead.
Well, we're equal with other citizens now -- because now EVERY citizen knows that his or her vote doesn't mean a damn thing. The supposedly-sacred franchise is revealed as worthless bullshit. The millions of men and women who died, defending democracy against tyranny, wasted their heroism and died for nothing. Nothing.
The widows and the proud descendants can toss those long-treasured medals in the trash where they belong, shiny little bits of metal that are revealed to be no more than testaments to suckerhood. So you thought Grandpa breathed his last on some shell-pocked, godforsaken field of mud to save democracy? Nope.
Maybe Grandpa should have been a Republican lawyer instead. Because, it turns out, that's who gets to decide who leads our nation. Not the citizens who pay the taxes and do the working and the living and the dying in America. Not the citizens who salute the flag and fight the wars. Not the citizens who, until today, could justly boast that for all its flaws the United States of America is a place where power is bestowed by THE PEOPLE. Not the citizens who could proudly claim that although the guy in the White House might be an asshole, he was a fairly elected asshole, freely chosen by a majority of the votes of citizens. That's all over.
And for what? Well, the answer to that is at least unsurprising: power. If we still had any doubt that power is the most dangerous and addictive drug in the world, that doubt has now been swept away. Men and women were paid to challenge and destroy the foundation of democracy and the bedrock of our republic -- the vote -- in order to confer power on a group determined to secure that power at any cost. The destruction of democracy was secondary to securing that power. This was not an election; it was a coup d'etat.
BuckcuB doesn't blame George W. for this. Bush is just a well-connected boob born with a silver spoon in his mouth -- or should I say up his nose? -- who has been used all his life by smarter men. He is the scion of a dubious dynasty, a man who has coasted through life on family money and connections, but he hasn't the intelligence to have orchestrated this disaster. Bush was just along for the ride, and BuckcuB doubts that even now he realizes that ride is a train wreck.
It makes one weep for the lesson of history, always accurate and always ignored by those who seek power at any price. Power corrupts. And it has finally corrupted the very heart of democracy.
George W. will become President now, of course. But President of what? I know it's fashionable for those on the losing side to rail (usually in overreaction) that "the sky is falling." But this time the sky is not falling, it has already fallen.
Even those who hated Bill Clinton to madness never denied that he was fairly and freely elected to office. Bush will not be able to make the same claim. A majority of the electorate voted against him. The SCOTUS prevented an accurate recount of citizens' votes for a legitimate majority in the Electoral College. The Florida Legislature, controlled by Republicans, moved even before the high court decision to literally hand the election to Bush. Americans gay or straight must be deeply troubled by this series of events, whether they admit it or not. This isn't the way we do things in America. We go to the polls, and we vote, and the person with the most votes is elected. Until today.
If the Supreme Court had ruled to overturn the Florida high court, PERIOD, there would have been much hue and cry and accusations and counter-accusations, but we would have had a real decision. If the Supreme Court had ruled that it was a matter for the state, not the Federal government, there would have been the same hue and cry and the same accusations from both sides, but it would have been a real decision. But for the SCOTUS to remand the case back, knowing that Florida couldn't possibly comply with its orders within the timeframe possible -- well, that isn't just ducking the issue. That's passing the buck after the buck has already landed in the court of final resort. As a result, George W. Bush will become president-by-accident of a nation of citizens disenfranchised by lawyers.
The downside to the debacle far outweighs any small upside, but there is thankfully an upside. Yes, Bush will become President. President of nothing. The "great democracy" and "shining republic" Presidents are fond of alluding to in their speeches no longer exist. Those noble institutions were damaged and undermined to put him in office. Bush is, of course, wildly popular with a part of the electorate, but when the giddiness of victory dies down, many of those voters are going to start realizing that the next election could be stolen from them, by the same tactics.
Because Bush v. Gore has introduced a new tenet of American jurisprudence: The votes of individual citizens don't count, if a lawyer can convince a judge that they shouldn't count, And so passes the most basic of the rocks upon which democracy rests: the will of the people. The will of the people is now secondary to legal technicalities and smart lawyering. Adieu, democracy. Hello, tyranny!
BuckcuB doesn't know when, if ever, our nation will recover from this blow to the very foundations of the republic. Neither Gore nor Bush possess the charisma to deflect the winds of war which are coming. More than ninety percent of African-Americans voted for Gore. More than any other group, black folks must set tremendous store in the franchise which was so long denied to them.
BuckcuB doesn't imagine they will see that franchise swept away without a fight. Labor unions gave the nod to Gore as the friend of the working man. How will unionists take this disenfranchisement? Not well. Women voted overwhelmingly for Gore. Will they meekly accept having their votes discounted? It is doubtful.
In a few short hours, the most essential tenet of American democracy has been put in question. When we go to the polls and vote, our votes are counted fairly, and they elect our leaders. WE elect our leaders. But now it seems that lawyers elect our leaders for a price, and to hell with the votes of citizens.
If there is any hope of rescuing our republic from this major blow, it will come only through more controversy. The votes in Florida WILL be counted -- several newspapers and think-tanks have already begun the process by which they get access to the votes to count them, so we will eventually know who really won that election.
The Florida Supreme Court, acting on the opinion of the SCOTUS, might decide to order a recount considered fair by all parties, even though that recount would not change the inevitable elevation of Bush to the Presidency. No matter how the result is arrived at, we will someday know who really won Florida's vote.
Gore won the majority of "intended" votes in Florida, and everyone knows that regardless of partisan loyalty. The likely revelation, too late, of a Gore win will further undermine what already promises to be a very shaky Bush presidency. And in the meantime, we have citizens walking around slowly realizing that their votes don't really count. Talk about a recipe for disaster!
This is no sour-grapes diatribe. Just yesterday, a car passed BuckcuB with a shiny new bumper sticker which stated "He's not MY President!" America has become that most dangerous of animals -- a nation divided against itself. BuckcuB does not typically think of himself as a patriot, but he is absolutely devastated by the damage this election and its aftermath have done to our nation. He opposed Bush, but could have lived with his free and fair election to the White House. BuckcuB cannot live comfortably with his installation as president-by-default.
What's to be done? First and foremost, we must get our legislatures and our courts to reaffirm the sovereign power of a citizen's individual vote. Without the sanctity of the franchise, there is no United States of America, If big bucks and smart lawyering can throw out your vote, then your vote is worthless.
We need a Federal standard as to what constitutes a legal vote, although the SCOTUS declined on this occasion to give us that standard. We need a uniform method of voting for all states and counties and towns.
Most of all we need a judiciary which places the essential rights of citizens first. Were it not for partisanship, the SCOTUS would have ruled that the right of citizens to vote and have their votes counted outweighs any other consideration. That's boilerplate democracy. And it's the basic premise on which rests the very idea of the United States of America as a nation. If our votes won't be counted, then what's the point of citizenship? Are we electing our leaders -- or merely acquiescing to legal maneuvering? When a citizen votes, that vote must count so long as we call ourselves a republic. But maybe 220 years is long enough for the survival of democracy. and now its time for us to go the way of all governments in history. Destroyed from within by the greed for power, like an apple eaten hollow by a little worm.
In a sad and appalling fashion, BuckcuB realizes that he has lived to see the death of the greatest republic in the history of the world. The vote of citizens was sacred, until the SCOTUS decided otherwise today.
It reminds one of the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." These times are indeed interesting. And the subtle viciousness of the curse is also revealed. The premise upon which our nation was founded -- one man, one vote -- has been struck down by the partisan maneuvering of our highest court. There is no republic left to defend. There is no democracy worthy of our support. There is merely an aggregation of people wondering why a bunch of lawyers decided whose vote counted, and whose vote didn't count.
Future historians will unquestionably record this event as the turning point for the collapse of the United States of America. It's unavoidable, but -- what a pity! A whole nation destroyed in the pursuit of power! But history teaches us that nations rise and nations fall. Perhaps we should not be surprised that our nation is falling.
BuckcuB only hopes that the fall will occur amid public outrage, because this fall didn't have to happen. It was engineered by men who cared more about power than they cared about democracy. It was enabled by a Court which cared more about politics than about the basic tenets of our republic. It was ensured by a legislature which cared more about partisanship than fairness. And it was guaranteed by people who are more interested in the next four years than they are interested in the next four hundred years.
So passes a nation. Dead, this twelfth day of December in the year 2000, of extensive lawyering and a supreme disregard for the will of the people. Rest in peace.