Millions of Americans who casted their votes in this election realized that it is not the people who elect the President, but the Electoral College. When they taught us this in school, they always said "Now don't worry, in your lifetime there's no way a President will be elected without winning the popular vote."
As the returns on Election Night came in, each candidate accumulated electoral votes. But in Flordia the votes were so close that by early morning, November 8th, no one knew who was President. Gore contested the results in Flordia, and with every recount, Bush's margin narrowed.
Yet Gore won the popular vote by a margin of almost 200,000 votes! But the media was obviously more concerned about "hanging chads" and "partial votes" than challenging the wisdom of the almighty Founding Fathers.
A Brief History of the Electoral College
The Electoral College was constructed and built into the Constitution for one simple reason: the Founding Fathers didn't trust "the people". A whole series of provisions, from property qualifications for voting to indirect election of state Senators (by state legislatures) were built into the Constitution for this very same reason.
The Electoral College also gave the slave holding Southern aristocracy added weight. Since African slaves were counted as 3/5 of a human being and the number of electors a state got was determined by the number of human beings, the Southern states got more weight in the Electoral College as well as in the House of Representatives.
In 1876, Democrat Samuel Tilden defeated Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote (thanks to Klu Klux Klan terror in the South which intimidated black voters). But after an Electoral College deadlock, a deal was made: the GOP's man got into the White House in exchange for dropping Reconstruction - the policy of protecting black rights after the Civil War. As a result, the Union army pulled out of the South and the Southern slaveholders came back into power. With the North's complicity, they set up the Jim Crowe system, a series of racist laws designed to disenfranchise and oppress blacks.
That is the happy history of the Electoral College.
How the Bush Brothers Stole the Election
Jeb Bush, brother of George "Dubya" Bush Jr. and the governor of Florida, promised his brother that Florida would be his.
Thousands of African Americans were harassed and denied the right to vote on election day, in a throwback to the good ol' days of Jim Crowe. "Voters were turned away from the polls because their race didn't match the election supervisor's records. But race isn't even on our identification cards, so why would this be an issue at all?" asked Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida NAACP. "I personally had a problem at the polls - I had to be very insistent that I could vote. That happened to me, and I consider myself pretty informed." If even the head of the Florida NAACP was harassed, what about all the ordinary blacks who went to the polls on election day? Police checkpoints were setup to "discourage" black voters from coming out to the polls and poll workers refused to help many black and Haitian voters, many of them voting for the first time. Florida began to enforce a law passed in 1868 that bars felons from voting. How many black people were denied the right to vote for crimes like drug possession - a crime which Clinton, Gore and Bush are all guilty of?
For all these reasons and more, thousands of angry people took to the streets, particularly in Florida. Some were explicitly pro-Gore, some were pro-count-the-votes, some were anti-electoral college and some were pro-Bush. In fact, the Bush protestors were actually Republican party hacks who were offered a paid vacation if they went down to Florida to harass election officials who tried to continue the recount.
the Nader Factor
Many leftists, liberals and hard-core Democrats blame Nader for Gore's loss of the election. After all, he "stole" 3 percent of the electorate that would've otherwise have voted for Gore, right? But what these people forget is that the BUSH BROTHERS STOLE THE ELECTION by massive fraud and disenfranchisement of black voters! How could Nader have prevented that? Furthermore, why didn't Gore attack Bush's legitimacy on those grounds? Why didn't he attack the Electoral College which prevents "the people" from choosing their President? After all, he promised during the election, "I will fight for you." Yet when push came to shove, he didn't even fight for himself! What would he have done for the blacks, women and working people he claimed to "fight for" when he got to Washington? The same thing as Clinton did, not a damn thing except repay their loyalty with betrayal after betrayal. He is wedded to the system the same way Bush is and therefore he was not going to risk rocking the boat, even if it meant that he would lose the Presidency.
Many people fear that the Bush presidency will mean a return to Reaganism. But for many of us (including the author) who did not live through Reaganism, the key features of the period will be reviewed.
The main feature of the Reagan-era was what one trade union bureaucrat called a "one sided class-war". Corporate America was asking its workers and the government was asking the country as a whole to "take one for the team". In other words, the workers saw their wages and benefits slashed so that "their" companies could compete better with other companies on the world market. The government slashed the budgets of all kinds of social programs, from school lunches to affordable housing.
The Teamsters had endorsed Ronald Reagan as their Presidential candidate (on the grounds that he would be pro-union, having been in the Screen Actors Guild). Once he was in office, he broke the PATCO air traffic controllers strike with military intervention (the National Guard took over the 11,000 air traffic controllers' jobs). While in and of itself, the strike and its defeat was not the cause of the "one sided class-war", it embodied the assault that workers were under from their employers and the state.
Another feature of Reaganism was the attack on blacks via the "war on drugs" and the "war on crime." Drugs and crime were codewords for blacks (and the poor generally) who lived in inner city ghettos that lacked decent housing, health care or jobs. The two combined provided a convenient scapegoat for society's problems. After all, "it's not the system, it's those drug dealers". In addition to this, affirmative action programs were also gutted, making it harder for blacks to get decent paying jobs or attend good colleges.
Arms spending reached its peak during the Cold War (today it remains at about 85 percent of what it was under Reagan!). Women lost the right to choose, state by state, county by county, clinic by clinic.
On the whole, the left not only retreated, it was routed. Its ideas were marginalized, the Democratic party successfully shifted to the right without losing its base (thanks to the dogma of "lesser evilism"), free market-ism and the theory of "trickle down" economics reigned supreme. ("Trickle down" economics was the idea that making the rich richer would somehow also make the poor richer. Bush Sr. later properly renamed "trickle down" economics "voodoo economics".)
There will be unmistakable parallels between this administration and the Reagan era: a right wing offensive, the reappearance of a confident rightwing in American politics, attacks on workers, racism, sexism, homphobia and scapegoating generally. But where the 80s had PATCO, we have Seattle. The difference between the two eras is going to be the level of struggle, the number of people fighting back against various aspects of the system, a system that has taken back many of the major concessions made during the last 2 serious upturns in struggle, the 1930s and the 1960s.
Because the ruling class has taken back these concessions, the contradictions of the system, the economic contradictions in particular, are going to be much sharper. The banking system has been substantially deregulated, massive amounts of capital have been concentrated into fewer and fewer hands in a way not seen since the 1920s or even during the entire history of capitalism. 2 million people are rotting in American prisons because the system refuses to deal with them in any other way. Millions lack health care, go to bed hungry and work 2 and 3 jobs just to make ends meet because wages remain at the levels of the late 1970s. Consumer debt is at an all time high and savings are at an all time low. This state of affairs cannot last indefinitely, especially with the coming slowdown (possibly recession) of the economy. With a President who does not have the support of the majority of Americans (only 24 percent of the electorate voted for him!) presiding over a Congress that is divided down the middle, a greedy ruling class and millions of Americans who have precious little to give them, the situation is precarious to say the least.
A recession will probably not lead to an explosion of anger against the system. The Great Depression did not lead to an upswing in struggle; in fact the big strikes in the mid-thirties in Minneapolis, San Francisco and Flint, Michigan occured after a slight recovery of the economy. In fact, the left as a whole and most ordinary people will probably feel even less confident to take on the system at first; but as it becomes clear that there is no other way, that it is a "do or die" situation, and the economy "bottoms out" or begins to recover slightly, then the number and volatility of strikes, protests and demonstrations will probably grow significantly.
Towards Jan 20th - Bush's inauguration
The protest at Bush's inauguration, the first day of his Presidency, will set the tone for the next 4 years. It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that we send him a message: we aren't going to put up with your executions, your attack on Roe v. Wade, your attack on the poor, your attack on unions and the rest of the working class! We have to make him afraid of the hell we'll raise if he even thinks about trying to push his right wing agenda on us.
As socialists, we must work with liberals (including Democrats) in this struggle. We must unite with anyone who wants to fight Bush. In the process, we cannot sacrafice our freedom to criticize (especially the role of the Democrats in social movements) and put forward our own ideas on which way forward. We have to help people understand that Bush is bad news for working people because he's working for a system, which has a certain set of priorities (i.e. profit and more profit) and that it is the system itself that is the problem, not just Bush and his cronies.
The fight against Bush will be a fight around many issues: abortion, the criminal injustice system, the death penalty, welfare rights, health care, corporate greed and 2 party supremacy. But all of these issues and all of these different fights are, for us, part of one fight: the self-emancipation of the working class, the fight for a socialist society. They are many fronts in one war, a war we intend to win.
ALL OUT TO DC!
PROTEST THE PRESIDENT WE NEVER ELECTED!