Forwarded from José

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Dec 12 07:12:27 MST 2000

[something I sent to Louis's Marxism list following the oral arguments in
the Supreme Court, also, please note the correction on the previous item].

    The Republican operatives seeking to steal the Florida election and the
reporters and pundits who cover them have pulled out all stops in trying to
convince the population that more than 40,000 votes in Florida should not be
counted because there is "no standard," that the big hangup in counting the
votes is figuring out what "the standard" should be.

    This, the Republicans say, violates the equal protection provisions of
the U.S. Constitution, since different ballots might be treated differently
in different places.

    It appears that some of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court were
quite taken by the argument, although it is always risky business to try to
gauge the real opinions of these worthies on the basis of the questions they
ask during oral arguments.

    On the face of it, the Republican complaint is a case of the pot calling
the kettle black. The REAL unequal treatment of different voters is shown by
the fact that in some Black precincts using punch-card ballot machines, 30%
of the votes were not counted, whereas in other, all-white precincts, where
optical character reading technology was used with a straightforward paper
ballot, nary a single vote was discounted.

    The Republican claim that counting a "dimpled" or "pregnant" chad in one
precinct as a vote (the chad is the little bit of the punch card meant to be
removed by the voting machine) and not in another is discrimination. This is

    The reason no hard-and-fast rule can be created is simply that voters in
different localities face different problems with the various pieces of
equipment they are given to vote with. There are different models of these
machines, there are newer and older machines, there are better and worse
maintained machines. And, of course, different individuals have greater or
lesser difficulty with a given piece of equipment.

    Thus, for example, in a precinct were one out of five or one out of
three ballots show imperfect punches, one can be quite certain that the
dimples were attempts to cast votes, and thus, under Florida law, which
stipulates that it is the intent of the voter that counts, these votes MUST
be counted.

    Yet in another precinct where there are only one or two presidential
"undervotes" with dimpled chads on otherwise perfectly perforated ballots,
there may be greater doubt about the real intent of those voters. But then
again, if it is a ballot with several imperfectly punched chads, clearly
what is involved is a person who had difficulty with the machine, no matter
how many others in that one precinct had similar problems, and, again, under
Florida law, the vote must be counted.

    This is no big secret among election experts, or the ward heelers and
precinct workers of the two major parties. It was all explained in dreary
detail in various Florida hearings. That is precisely the reason why
Florida, like many other states, stipulates that the final, definitive count
is a hand count and that the standard to be used is the intent of the voter.

    And this is why the Florida Republicans in the recounts that did take
place were so hot to challenge every conceivable ballot and take them before
the county canvassing board instead of having them evaluated by the precinct
counting teams. That's so individual ballots could be isolated from the
pattern of "bad" votes that inevitably emerges in certain precincts which
are assigned the worst-performing machines, and which, --isn't THIS a
strange coincidence-- were disproportionately Black precincts.

    Yet such ballots can be most fairly evaluated in the framework of all
the votes cast on the same machines, for what in one context could possibly
be viewed as a random or accidental indentation, in another context, where
every other ballot is like that, is undoubtedly a positive vote for a

    The "lack of standards" charge by the Republicans is just another dodge
to avoid counting the votes, and another step in covering up with a mountain
of electoral trivia and cretinism what really happened, which is that the
government of Florida engaged in a massive campaign to disenfranchise
Blacks, prevent them from voting, and throw out as invalid the votes they
did cast. This was done systematically, with malice aforethought, for the
purpose of depriving the opponent of the Governor's brother in the
presidential election of as many votes as possible in the single demographic
group that supported him most overwhelmingly.

    The very "objective-sounding" comments that the vote was evenly matched,
and that the difference in votes between the two candidates is smaller than
the "margin of error" involved in even the best elections are a crock of

    In fact, tens of thousands MORE people came out to vote for Gore than
for Bush. A Miami Herald analysis showed that, projecting on the basis of
the way others in the same precincts voted, if even only a few percent of
the "undervotes" were counted, Bush would lose. And that's not even counting
the 30,000+ Gore votes that were invalidated as "double votes" or went to
Buchanan because of the incompetence of election officials in laying out the

    It seems clear with this election that what was essentially the
coalition or bipartisan system of government that prevailed in the United
States throughout the Cold War has broken down. And it has broken down
because the Republicans in particular refuse to play by the old rules.

    The attempt to impeach President Clinton against the overwhelming
desires of the American people was a clear indication of this.

    This brazen attempt to steal the election is yet another.

    The relative cooperation between the two major bourgeois parties that
prevailed for nearly half a century was, historically, an anomaly. US
presidential politics have been punctuated by rebellions, assassinations,
charges of immorality, a civil war and the theft of elections.

This period that now appears to have ended was different. It was a situation
where the ruling class through all its major institutions and opinion organs
came down decisively for a united front of these two parties in face of the
worldwide challenge represented by the emergence of the socialist camp and
the anticolonial revolution. That was most evident in the common foreign
policy of containment, expressed in the phrase that "politics stops at the
waters edge." But even within the sphere of domestic politics and policies,
the kind of *open* factional warfare that now increasingly prevails was

    It is notable that this is, so far, largely one-sided factional warfare.
It has been the Republicans who have been aggressively pushing all sorts of
scurrilous, unfounded charges (whitewater), who tried to impeach Clinton
over  Lewinsky, and who've brazenly tried to steal the Florida election.

    The politics behind it are also fairly clear. This is the more extreme,
anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-union, anti-immigrant, theocratic,
"christian coalition" wing of the Republican Party which around the edges
overlaps with protofascist elements. This wing of the Republicans has become
conscious, I suspect, that at best, with all their hangers on, they
represent perhaps a third of the electorate, (and, of course, an even
smaller percentage of the population as a whole). But they are increasingly
acting in such a way as to bully themselves into positions of power. They
are dissatisfied with the piecemeal  attempts to chip away at the changes
wrought in U.S. society by the civil rights movement and the radicalization
of the 1960s, they want a much more aggressive, overall offensive to restore
the America of the 1950s, or to be more exact, of the 1950s TV sitcoms
(without, of course, any Cuban band leaders: THAT was before the

    I think a lot of thought needs to be given to this changing nature of
bourgeois politics and the relations between the two main bourgeois parties.
My tentative conclusion is that much more is going on here than simply a
brawl among pigs for a place at the trough. That may be true of the
Democrats, but I don't believe it is true of a wing of the Republicans,
which might well be the politically dominant wing.

    The Supreme Court decision will tell us a great deal. There is little
question but that based on the American "democracy" religion, the court
OUGHT to rule in such a way that the votes get counted. That almost
certainly will result in a Gore victory, precisely because the uncounted
votes are disproportionately black and poor. A decision that throws the
election to Bush will almost certainly require a brazen refusal to count
more than 40,000 votes, and would be a statement by this Republican faction
that they don't care that they lost the popular vote, the vote in Florida
and the electoral college. They're going to steal the election because they

    This will, of course, be a body blow to the prestige of the court, to
its image of impartiality, of being above the fray and all that other
nonsense. It will be an indication that these forces recognize that what
they mean to do will require quite a bit more arbitrariness and probably
force and repression by the government than we have been used to in recent

    The thing that troubles me about this line of analysis is that, frankly,
it implies a certain degree of desperation on the part of these bourgeois
forces, something that at least looking at American society on the
surface --which is how these people look at it-- seems quite unjustified.
There is no open, growing economic or social crisis, or external challenge,
that requires such a tightening in the regime, with all the risks this
implies. Yet as far as I can tell, the ruling class and its major
institutions seem unconcerned.

So while on one level this analysis seems to make sense, on a broader scale,
the pieces don't all really seem to quite fit.


Correction: In my last post on the elections, I attributed some comments on
the Supreme Court's stay to Justice Souter, on the basis of just having
heard a pundit commenting on them, and reminding me of what had been written
a couple of days earlier. However, I believe the commentator misspoke. It
was really Justice Scalia who said that, not Souter.

Louis Proyect
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