Keeping the Lid On:
Tactics of the Democratic Party

Revolutionary Worker #1081, December 3, 2000, posted at

In the first few days after the election in Florida, there was quite a bit of exposure about obstructions that Florida officials and police put in the path of some Black registered voters.In those days, this was brought out as one part of the broader exposure about a lot of messing with votes that went on in Florida. There were protests, and the Democratic Party even played a part in encouraging some of them--at that time. Election night, the Democratic Party hired telemarketers to call Democratic voters in Palm Beach to spread the word that thousands of votes (including among the heavily Jewish seniors population of the county) had mistakenly gone to the right-wing, anti-Semitic candidate Pat Buchanan. Reports were circulated to the news media of attempts by Republican authorities and the police to suppress the vote in Black and Haitian communities. Even putting aside the disenfranchisement of large sections of the people who have been sentenced to prison or the sweeping denial of voting rights to millions of immigrants in the U.S., there were clearly quite a number of instances of voter harassment in the Florida election. And these events triggered genuine outrage--there were days of protests in the streets of West Palm Beach and a sit-in by Black college students.

The governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, has a long history in CIA-type operations. He was an active participant, for example, in the support for the Contra war in Central America, during which Florida served as a key base. And given that history, only people who believe in the tooth fairy would believe that Jeb and forces around him were not out to deliver Florida to George W. by all kinds of dirty tricks operations, including making use of some old-style racist disenfranchisement of Black people.

Now it is interesting to observe that the Gore forces have pretty much dropped the exposure of the obstacles the authorities put in the way of Black voters in Florida and elsewhere, like St. Louis. And they have refused to raise questions about the involvement of Governor Jeb Bush and allied forces in these actions. And, along with this, the Democratic leadership pretty much called off demonstrations and sharp exposure by such forces as the NAACP and Jesse Jackson--who were initially mobilizing people to protest in the streets. Now all this has been chilled out, and the Democrats have moved the focus entirely to the courts.

They don't want things to "get out of hand" (that is: get out of ruling class hands and institutions, where such bourgeois disputes should "properly" be resolved). Likewise, the Democrats have turned the spotlight away from things that might get people stirred up-- like denying Black people the right to vote. Their exposure has become more and more limited to the counting of some disputed votes in a few counties and their arena-of-choice is the courts.

It is also interesting that, meanwhile, the Republicans--while also heading to the courts--began to some extent mobilizing their social base of party loyalists and assorted reactionaries. A little pack of Republican reactionaries physically threatened the Miami-Dade county election board till it reversed itself and stopped recounting ballots. The Republicans have seemed somewhat more willing to push their reactionary cause--in an aggressive "take no quarter" kind of way--and in particular the "hard-core right" seems to have more motivation at this point to step outside conventional "norms" and some established bourgeois tradition--and to be very dogged in doing so. This has been true in their basically uninterrupted attack on Clinton and the Clinton Presidency from the very beginning--with an intensity that the Democrats did not have when dealing with Republicans (and recent Republican presidents). It seems that, to a large extent, the Democrats' preferred method of carrying out their "mission" (and for waging their part of the inner-ruling class struggle) is to position themselves as upholders of the "center"--both in terms of the political spectrum and in terms of "the center holding" (that is: giving extra emphasis to being the upholders of the law, the Constitution, etc.) And while they are certainly carrying on their own kind of struggle with the Republicans, the Democrats do not want to, and do not think they have a basis to, confront the "conservatives" by stepping outside the framework of that "center."

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