Keep your eye on the generals

Lou Paulsen wwchi at
Wed Nov 22 10:51:50 MST 2000

My beloved companion, who is not in the party, and I were having a
discussion on Sunday about the US electoral crisis.  A couple weeks ago I
confidently wrote that the crisis between Bush and Gore would not go on for
very long, that it was bad for business, and that if it went on too long the
ruling class would step in with a club to separate the fighting dogs.

I still mostly think this, but I confess that the level of rancor of the
struggle rather surprises me.  For example, it surprises me that the Bush
camp today expresses such bitterness and hostility as it does towards the
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT, which is as reliable a racist instrumentality of
class rule as there is in this country.

The whole illusion of "we are a nation of laws" is really shredding apart.
Things that were unthinkable two weeks ago are now getting prepared for and
war-gamed.  Two weeks ago, for example, nobody would have seriously
suggested that the Congress might NOT accept the electors who were certified
by the states, whenever that happens.  Now the parties are hastily writing
memos and plans about it.

(And today there are Republicans engaged in near-rioting in front of the
Miami election facility, and there is talk about the Florida state
legislature making a coup against the Florida state supreme court.  The
court could then order the sheriffs to arrest the legislature, I guess, and
you come down to the question: what will the people with the guns do?)

I had really not expected it to go this far.  I didn't believe the ruling
class was this polarized between Bush and Gore.  But maybe they are.  Or
maybe they weren't on election day, but have gotten carried away by events.

So on Sunday, I opined that if this goes on, the military might take a
direct role in the struggle.  Already by that time there was a lot of furor
about the non-postmarked military absentee ballots, and the Bush forces were
making great capital of it, portraying the Democrats as the enemies of the
military.  Then the Democratic Attorney General of Florida urged that the
military votes be accepted, despite the fact that it would cost Democratic
votes.  So I said something along the lines of: "We will know that things
are really serious when the respected columnists start ASSURING us that in
this great country, the military will never become involved in politics, but
will support whoever is certified by the civilian authorities."

Well, this was too much for my companion, who believes that I just go too
far sometimes.  She thought this was just crazy talk.  We are both still
watching.  However, I was interested to read a column yesterday by Thomas
Friedman of the New York Times, NOT a fringe character, but a very
authoritative ruling class mouthpiece, who criticized the Bush forces for
raising such a fuss over the military ballots, and then assured us that "The
military, the courts, and (someone else) are nonpartisan institutions."  (I
don't have the column immediately available.)  I consider this to be an
important sign.  We are not yet at the stage where the politicians are
lining up military support directly.  But we may be at a stage where they
feel the need to reassure themselves that the generals are going to be
really uninvolved, or, if they do get involved, will come down on "the right
side".  There are a lot of "nightmare scenarios" here; for example, what
happens if the Senate and the U.S. Supreme Court end up disagreeing about
who the president is?  Which way will the people with the guns go?

I propose that we all watch for hints on this matter; not only statements by
columnists and politicians, but also appearances by retired generals, people
like Powell and Schwarzkopf, and also information which is "floated" in
non-official venues, for example if some conservative website starts to talk
about how "many loyal officers are wondering what their responsibility to
the country is in these troubled times!"

Of course if Gore can't find 900 votes somewhere this is all moot, and I
still mostly really believe that the ruling class will keep the conflict
within limits.  But I wouldn't bet my life on it now.

Lou Paulsen

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