I. How Close We Are To It Happening Here This Time, October 2008
The news that is coming in shows that Republicans are again attempting to suppress the vote in minority communities and among others they believe will favor Democrats. This is in addition to and perhaps along with, the Supreme Court’s ruling last term allowing states to place burdens on the abilities of citizens to vote in the complete absence of the proof of a problem needing to be remedied and in full recognition that it could keep some of the same groups from voting.
The other day I saw that a “reporter” from CNN had been given a voter registration paper which had been submitted for confirmation, which he waved on TV as “evidence” of Democrats trying to rig the vote. I hadn’t been aware that the officials in custody of such documents could hand them out to the press, especially if they were potentially evidence of a crime. You would have thought that a state or federal prosecutor was the proper channel for possible evidence of crimes, not CNN. Have the cabloid flacks been deputized? If so, they are going about it the wrong way. I believe those poll workers in Indiana could well have a partisan motive and should be investigated for abuse of their position and fired and/or, prosecuted as warranted. It all has the smell of a Florida 2000, Ohio 2004 style Republican election stealing campaign. It smells like the activities flowing out of some of the branches of the Resolution Trust Corporation which became centers of Republican propaganda in the early stages of the White Water putsch attempt. Crime, including voter fraud, has to be punished but this doesn't look like an attempt at due process, not in the least. It looks more like the Jim Crow era propaganda from The Birth of a Nation with sound and modern dress.
Anyone who pretends that this is not a continuation of the line of activities including the infamous Bush v. Gore ruling is lying willfully. It is exactly in line with Republicans’ activities before the last election, which, among other things, led to the firings of the U.S. Attorneys because they were unwilling to participate in a partisan Republican attempt to use the Justice Department as an arm of the Republican campaign. We know of at least one member of congress and a Senator who were involved with that.
The late William Rehnquist, who got his start in politics by intimidating minority voters and who was placed on the court despite perjuring himself about it in sworn testimony, works on in the votes of that narrow court majority and Republican officials in may places. Reconsidering the role the judiciary has played during this decade, nothing short of making judicial election rigging a felony seems prudent to me. Justices and others who attempt to deprive citizens of their right to cast a legitimate vote must be removed from the bench and punished severely.
All of this, all of the past several decades is conclusive proof that tinkering with the process in order to prevent disastrous government such as we experience here and now, hasn’t worked. It didn’t prevent the most corrupt administrations under Reagan and the Bush family, it didn’t prevent the Gingrich and Hastert congresses or the activities of Tom Delay and Karl Rove. It has not prevented the post-Warren court from progressively making those more possible. If we are not lucky, we might be in for much worse, despite the best efforts of Common Cause and other diligent process patchers. How long does the effort get to fail before we try to get at the reasons for that failure or try something else?
Any process reform without a change in the basic constitutional structure will either be nullified by corrupt courts, such as we have now, or gamed by the massively funded anti-democratic hirelings of would be oligarches and plutocrats. The difficulty and length of time that the shoestring budget process reformers need to pass watered down reform makes it in impractical way of saving democracy from its subverters. And that isn’t considering the disparity of funding that the opposing efforts work within. Corruption pays off for those with money and the influence it buys, of course they aren’t going to lose to public interest groups with neither. And if there was any danger of that happening, they can always find an ally on the courts to stall it if not stop it. And that legal community suffers no professional or social cost for their anti-democratic efforts. Many of them are quite genteel and work quietly at some of our most respected universities. They are the placid, acceptable PR face of despotism.
The assertion of the Unitary Executive, the denial of the right to vote by the Supreme Court, and a myriad of acts subverting democracy have not woken up enough of those who purport to believe in the superiority of democracy to the real and intentional danger it is in. It’s time to prod them awake now.
The Unitary Executive, which John Yoo felt safe enough to state in its clearest and least dishonest form*, is a bald faced advocacy of real fascism here and now. This is clearly a partisan, Republican ideology. Yoo definitely doesn’t see a Democratic president as having that level of power, he argued that Clinton didn’t have the powers he claimed for Bush II. Samuel Alito was one of it’s theorists. Antonin Scalia’s stealth introduction of aspects of that abomination into actual Supreme Court argument is more than just a sign of what they intend. There is no indication that John Roberts intends to be anything but the golden boy of the Republican-far right who will deliver the monster full term. Clarence Thomas, is the reliable fourth vote, so long as it is a Republican who is to be handed the power.
If we dodge the bullet this time, it will not be due to the process, the judiciary or the press working, it will be due to The People facing the military and financial disasters that the Republican oligarches have brought us and, at least this time, making the right decision. It all depends on The People voting for democracy instead of against it next month.
Democracy cannot last that way. It cannot depend on disasters due to incompetence and corruption to come to its rescue. We’ve had close calls before, the Bush II regime is the closest one yet. It could easily happen here. Americans are not a different species which is immune to the allure of dictators, we are not insusceptible to being led into it unawares or being propagandized into accepting it.
We have to change the flaws in our constitutional framework and present The People with the truth. You cannot have competent, free government without The People, who - not the Constitution - are the REAL foundation of our government, taking their responsibilities as informed adults to do what’s right and necessary, not what’s transiently felt to be agreeable on the basis of false, brainless, anti-democratic, TV and video propaganda.
* "If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?"
"No treaty," replied John Yoo, the former Justice Department official who wrote the crucial memos justifying President Bush's policies on torture, "war on terror" detainees and domestic surveillance without warrants. Yoo made these assertions at a public debate in December in Chicago, where he also espoused the radical notion of the "unitary executive"
As the quoted article continues, Yoo asserts that a president is not bound even by laws made by Congress.
Yoo's interlocutor, Douglass Cassel, professor at Notre Dame Law School, pointed out that the theory of the "unitary executive" posits the president above the other branches of government: "Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo" (one of Yoo's memos justifying torture). "I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that," said Yoo.
If anyone needs reminding, this wasn’t a frustrated, fringe nut case far from the hope of gaining power. John Yoo was working in The Bush Office of Legal Counsel, he is presently working at the Law School at a university as well respected as Berkeley. Perhaps he’s just biding his time before reentering the government. Perhaps he is on someone’s short list for a permanent position.
The Unitary Executive, when coupled with the Bush era creation of permanent, undefined and undeclared wars, isn’t the equivalent of fascism, it is fascism by any definition. It is identical with the ways and means of fascism as defined by the founders of it. War is seen as a means of gaining, exercising and maintaining concentrated, unified power. War, at best a horrible and occasional necessity of last resort in a democracy, is a virtue for fascism. John Yoo, member of the Bush administration acceptable faculty member at a major university, is all the proof any honest person needs that American fascism is now in the Republican main stream.
If Republicans were in a position to put him there, Yoo could be a Federal judge. Look at what is known about those they have placed on the Supreme Court. Alito and the rest of the ascendant wing of the Supreme Court are in place as you read this. Despite that cute rule about saying the word “fascist” losing you the argument, talking about fascism is essential to preventing it happening, no matter how uncomfortable that makes luke-warm liberals feel. The creation and promulgation of that stupidly cute bromide was a real service to actual fascists.
If it turns out we are lucky, we are about one vote short of making the Unitary Executive Supreme Court enacted law. “If” because democracy might depend on what Anthony Kennedy has for breakfast any given day. These people are that close to doing it, but one suspects not during an Obama administration.
If Republicans who don’t share the views of Yoo and Alito don’t like being associated with fascism, it’s their responsibility to actually purge them from their party and publicly denounce them. It is their responsibility to remove the Unitary Executive from being just an acceptable ideological position. They are the ones who have made it respectable enough to place one of its architects on the Supreme Court. It isn’t our responsibility to ignore this in order to spare the tender feelings of the most genteel of “moderate” Republicans’. Not only is that misguided kindness not an option, we don’t have the right to remain silent on this.