The System Behind the Mess
Revolutionary Worker #1079, November 20, 2000, posted at http://rwor.org
The fangs came out when this system's political machinery failed to pick a president on election night. With all eyes on Florida, the rival camps sent in notorious ruling class "wise men"--former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher--to advise the different camps, like Mafia concilieri in the Godfather. As the political process broke down, the inner-ruling class bitterness that had produced the Clinton impeachment suddenly sprang back into full view. There were days of raw threats and mounting demands.
Bush's spokesman Baker demanded that Gore concede in the name of national interest "before it spirals totally out of control." The Gore camp suggested that Bush forces wanted a quick settlement because they feared a recount. In the days after the election, neither side was willing to do the "gentlemanly act of withdrawing for the good of the country."
Meanwhile, with each day the voting in Florida looked more and more flaky--especially since the election had been overseen by George W. Bush's brother. Florida Governor Jeb Bush promised throughout the campaign that he would "deliver" Florida. Many suspected fraud and vote-stealing. Uncounted ballots were found in a basement. It came out that the State of Florida had taken 12,000 people off the rolls shortly before the election for being "felons"--only to admit the error and reinstate 8,000. Haitian people reported being denied Creole interpreters. Polling places in Black communities were reportedly closed early. Black people in southern Florida reported they had been harassed by state troopers on election day.
Reports also came in from other states--like Missouri where the Republican party had demanded that polling hours be strictly observed in Black communities, even though long lines of people were denied a chance to vote. In Illinois, the Catholic Cardinal George was turned away at the polls--told that someone had already used his name to vote.
As controversies and court challenges swirled around the outcome, the forces of George W. Bush made a grab for power. They declared Bush the winner even before the Florida ballots were counted. They filed a court suit against a manual recount in disputed counties. They started to publicly assemble their transition government.
A sense of outrage swept over millions of people who had backed Gore in the election. They felt the Republicans were jumping the gun. Street demonstrations broke out in heavily Democratic Palm Beach County--where a confusing ballot layout caused thousands of likely Gore votes to be disqualified or given to the rightwing candidate Pat Buchanan. Black college students staged a sit-in at the state capitol building.
Many people loudly demanded a closer examination of the ballots, or a re-vote in parts of Florida--believing that Gore would emerge victorious. They fumed over the fact that the new president would not be chosen by the popular vote--which Gore seems to have won--but by the "Electoral College," which was instituted in the days when only white male property owners could vote and slaves were counted as 3/5 a human being.
Comparisons were made to corrupt elections in Third World countries--where the U.S. arrogantly sends their emissaries to oversee elections. And there were offers from several African countries, the Russian Duma, and Cuba to send election observers to the U.S.
And in an unexpected way, the election of 2000 caused millions of people to question that something was terribly wrong with the electoral process.
"No American will ever be able to say again, 'my vote doesn't count.' "
Bill Clinton after the election
In hopes of pulling something useful for the system out of this mess, the ruling class has been proclaiming that their virtual tie proves that even in an election involving 100 million, the vote of one individual counts. In fact, this whole episode (and its many subplots) confirm just the opposite.
This can be clearly seen in the way the political power structure responded to this crisis.
Faced with a big mess, the larger ruling class moved to resolve their political deadlock. And their concerns had nothing to do with the rights of the people.
The public debate within the ruling class focused entirely on how to stabilize their system and protect the power of their next president. There were open threats to Gore that if he pushed things too far, his political career would be over. And politicians and media pundits attempted to put together the ground rules for a scenario that would end the mess without pissing off too many people.
Often in elections, the heavy hand of the power structure (and its media) tips the political scales toward one preferred candidate. But that did not happen in 2000. Throughout this campaign, there was a sense that the ruling class felt equally comfortable with either Bush or Gore in power.
But now, there is clearly deep concern within the ruling class that neither of their wannabee presidents may be able to rule with a clear sense of legitimacy.
In reality, American democracy serves a class of oppressors--but in the U.S., they claim to speak for "the majority of people." Elections in the U.S. are the way politicians chosen by the ruling class get rubber-stamped by the people. As RCP Chairman Bob Avakian has pointed out elections "are really for the primary purpose of legitimizing the system and the policies and actions of the ruling class, giving them the mantle of a 'popular mandate,' and of channeling, confining, and controlling the political activity of the masses of people."
But if that process doesn't work right, if millions of people believe leading politicians have stolen power, then it becomes much more difficult for the leaders of the government to unify the capitalists around key policies and suppress mass opposition to those policies.
And this is what the ruling class is concerned about in the current election--not the rights of the people.
Whoever finally wins this election, the masses of people will suffer. That's for sure. But the power structure is worried that now there will be bitter and continued infighting at the top, that large sections of the people will question the legitimacy of the next president, and that this situation will lead to serious social upheaval.
While the Gore voters in Florida and country-wide felt robbed by the way the vote count and the Electoral College favored Bush--the battered Nader supporters got their own harsh introduction to this sham of democracy.
Nader drew millions of young and discontented forces into this election--promising them that they would bring about change through his election campaign. But for most of them, Nader's campaign worked like a pipe that led straight back into "politics as usual"--and pretty damn quick. The illusions of Nader paved the way for the logic of "lesser evil." In a total mindfuck, the majority of Nader's supporters nationally voted for Gore. Instead of challenging the status quo, they ended up endorsing it.
Nationally, Nader got only 3 percent of the vote. In Florida, Nader's 6 percent support in the polls fell to only 1.7 percent of the actual votes.
Not content with stripping off most of Nader's support, the Democrats are now ranting that they should have had all of his votes. They charge Nader supporters with "electing George Bush" because Nader's 96,000 votes in Florida supposedly "denied" Gore a clear victory. Nader's supporters are told that this half step outside the official parties was horrible and destructive.
But in reality, the election of 2000 revealed how completely rotten this political system is. It is nothing but quicksand for the people--draining their fighting spirit and consciousness and drawing people into the framework of their oppressors. And it is long overdue for the people to put this oppressive system out of its misery.
"Who the hell wants the right, the so-called right to see which group of oppressors and exploiters is going to oppress and exploit you? We don't want that right--it's not worth a damn! We want the right to be rid of being oppressed and exploited--to put an end to the sham of democracy and the reality of dictatorship."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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