READING BETWEEN THE LINES|
Politicians can't handle the truth
By Lance Selfa | November 2, 2001 | Page 9
SINCE THERE'S been a lot of talk about "days of infamy" lately, let me propose one: November 7, 2000. That was the day that a man who lost the national presidential election by more than half a million votes began plotting to steal the White House.
Ground zero for that fight was Florida, where George W. Bush's surrogates waged a relentless battle to prevent votes from being counted. Bush succeeded.
Five weeks later, the right-wing Supreme Court handed him the White House.
The Florida fiasco uncovered a lot about how limited American democracy really is. The Supreme Court actually wrote that Americans really don't have a constitutional right to elect their president.
Local election officials were exposed for using all sorts of ruses--from purging voting rolls of "suspected" felons to arbitrary closures of polling places--to strip people of their right to vote.
More basically, the election showed how the Constitution's antidemocratic electoral college could saddle Americans with a president they didn't vote for.
So when the biggest names in media--including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post--announced plans last January for a comprehensive inventory of the nearly 180,000 uncounted ballots in Florida, it appeared that we'd get an answer to the question "Who really won Florida?"
The media consortium hired the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center (NORC) to categorize all the ballots by the types of marks on them.
Nine months later, the data is ready. The stories can be written. But the consortium has put a hold on a project that cost it up to $1 million.
"The consortium agreed that because of the war, because of our lack of resources, we were postponing the vote-count investigation," said a New York Times spokesperson.
There's plenty of reason to be skeptical about the "lack of resources." For one thing, the complaint is coming from the same media who are rightly condemning the Pentagon for giving them little to cover in the war on Afghanistan. What's more, NORC says that a tally of the data from Florida could be produced in a working week.
So it looks more like the media bosses--probably with a nudge from the White House--have decided, in the spirit of "national unity," that we shouldn't learn whether Bush really deserves the presidency.
Investigative journalist David Podvin, who runs the Web site makethemaccountable.com, quoted a New York Times journalist saying that the NORC study pointed to a Gore victory substantial enough to cause "major trouble for the Bush presidency if this ever gets out." But even if you dismiss these reports as Internet gossip, there's little doubt that a substantial Gore victory is likely.
African Americans cast 54 percent of rejected ballots, according to U.S. Civil Rights Commission estimates. So Observer journalist Gregory Palast--who did more than any U.S.-based reporter to reveal the disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida--thinks a substantial Gore win is a "no-brainer."
It's outrageous that Bush's fan club in the national media thinks that Americans care so little about their democratic rights that they would just shut up and forget.
Last year's election disaster was supposed to provoke a flood of proposals to fix the system. There have been a lot of proposals, but little action.
After September 11, the politicians who weren't really interested in making it easier for more people to vote (and to have their votes counted) now have another excuse for inaction--the "war on terrorism."
President Bush claims he's waging a war against terrorists who hate the U.S. for its democracy and freedom. But as Florida and the draconian "antiterrorism" legislation just passed in Congress showed, the real threats to Americans' democratic rights come from those who would "save" us from terrorism.