Election Cancellation Chatter: An Ominous Trial Balloon

Revolutionary Worker #1247, July 25, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

Newsweek magazine revealed (July 19) that "counter-terrorism officials" of the U.S. government were "reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election."

Newsweek noted that "Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.and other counter-terrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots." However, despite the lack of any specifics, these officials claim to have "alarming" intelligence about a possible attack within the United States.

It has come out that three different federal agencies are already involved in legal ways to "to suspend or reschedule" elections in case of some major domestic disturbance.

DeForest B. Soares Jr., chair of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission, started this whole process going by complaining that there was (currently) no clear legal way for the government to postpone an election. Soares is the Bush appointee to this newly created commission that was supposed to analyze how to avoid the kind of crisis caused by the vote-counting in Florida during the 2000 election. The commission was supposed to provide funds to replace punch-card voting systems. Apparently, Soares (and his superiors) believe one of the ways to stop confusion during federal elections may be to cancel them!

After studying a letter from Soares, Tom Ridge's Homeland Security Department reportedly asked the Justice Department's "Office of Legal Counsel" to tell them what legal steps needed to be taken for the administration to postpone the November elections. Republican Rep. Christopher Cox of California, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN: "We're preparing for all these contingencies now."

As shocking as this was, it was also shocking how little outrage or alarm it touched off within the official political establishment. The official media largely treated this as merely "contingency planning" which might be necessary or a little excessive. The Kerry-Edwards camp and the Democratic National Committee all reportedly had no comment on these plans that could steal another election.

Some officials said it would be reasonable to cancel federal elections if one city was in disarray and a nation was in profound shock. At the same time it has been pointed out that no one has ever postponed a federal election in the U.S.--not even when the Civil War was raging and whole states were in open rebellion!

For now, the Bush administration claims that there are no active plans to cancel the election. Even Soares released a statement that said he saw "no circumstances that could justify the postponement or cancellation of a presidential election."

However, the still largely unmentioned issue here is that this Bush clique seems willing to consider coup-like means to hold onto power (just as they used coup-like means to get into power).

One official specifically told Newsweek that the events surrounding Spain's March elections had played into their calculations. In March, a series of attacks hit Madrid's commuter trains a few days before the national elections. In the aftermath, the conservative Spanish government (which had participated in Bush's occupation of Iraq) lost power. Various Bush officials criticized the Spanish people for this vote--accusing them of capitulating to terrorism.

Apparently, in the case of similar domestic attacks before the U.S. election, the Bush administration is actively considering simply not allowing the population to vote them out of power, and is considering giving themselves a better chance to hold onto power--by moving the elections to a less volatile moment and by holding onto state power in the meantime.

Furthermore, it is well known that the vast majority of "domestic terrorist incidents" have been carried out by homegrown rightwingers and fascist networks of the Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolf variety-- who have had well-documented ties to elements within Bush's own party (and within the police and military).

What does it mean for top federal officials to tell these kinds of forces that they could, potentially, prevent an electoral defeat for Bush just by carrying out some provocative act?

This Bush clique and large parts of their political apparatus has long thought that it was completely illegitimate for anyone else to occupy the White House--which explains some of the intense venom they had for the previous Clinton administration. Apparently, some of them may believe that if the population seems likely to vote them out of office, they can use the excuse of "terrorist attack" to deprive that population of the chance to do so.

Whether or not the Bush government publicly demands specific powers for postponing the coming federal election, whether or not Congress gives it to them, whether or not we are all ever told what plans are secretly made and approved -- the very fact that they floated this discussion of canceling elections --as a trial balloon--gives a chilling sense of the extremism of this moment, the ruthlessness of the clique now in power, and their willingness to consider unprecedented fascistic moves to achieve their goals.