|ONLINE VERSION||NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2000|
Do We Need UN Observers at U.S. Presidential Elections?
NO FAIR VOTE, NO COOPERATION
On November 7, 2000 U.S. citizens went to the polls to elect the President of the United States, the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate in federal elections. There were also numerous state and local elections which took place.
The heart of the claim that the United States is the cradle of democracy – the showcase for the rest of the world – is that the citizens of the United States elect their government and that government, therefore, is accountable to the citizens of the United States. The United States government, regardless of which party is in power, loudly trumpets its democratic system, and our government periodically intervenes in countries where the democratic process – democracy United States style – is not employed.
We brag loudly that transfers of power, which in many other countries occur with violence, is democratic in the United States and that THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES determine who their leaders will be – NO, IFS ANDS OR BUTS.
We regularly send monitors to other countries to help insure that those countries hold fair elections – that the votes of the people of those countries are accurately and fairly reflected in the results of those elections.
Obviously underlying these lofty principles is a guarantee that voting will be fair – conducted in ways in which every citizen may fairly vote for the candidate of his or her choice and that the vote cast by each citizen will be counted fairly. We tell the rest of the world, AND THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES, that whichever candidate receives the greatest number of votes, will, as upheld by our Constitution, win and hold office.
Although the time has come to discuss a quirk that exists in the U.S. method of voting for President of the United States that defies majority rule – the Electoral College – I am not discussing that anti-majority, anti-democratic institution in this column.
The Electoral College is a remnant of the thinking which existed when our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and at least for this election must remain, even if that means that one presidential candidate receives the largest number of votes, but another candidate becomes president because he receives more electoral votes.
The candidate who receives the largest number of electoral votes must become President of the United States. Some day we may choose to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College, but until that happens, I fully support the principle that the candidate who receives a majority of the electoral vote should become President of the United States, EVEN IF THAT CANDIDATE RECEIVED FEWER POPULAR VOTES AND EVEN IF THAT CANDIDATE IS ONE I VOTED AGAINST.
At this writing it does appear possible that the candidate for president who received the most votes (Al Gore) may not become President because he may not have received the majority of the electoral vote. So long as the election was fair, I would support such a result absolutely.
I realize that I can appear to be a partisan. Along with my union, I endorsed Al Gore and enthusiastically worked for his election. And I believe in Al Gore and believe that he would be a much better President than George W. Bush. I believe Al Gore would be better for the BMWE, working families and me personally and even more importantly for the United States of America.
It is this last point that I must dwell upon. Because despite the fact that I believe Al Gore would be better for the United States than George W. Bush, I believe that only so long as Al Gore was elected president in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. I would absolutely oppose Al Gore becoming president as a result of a tainted election even if he won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote.
The principles upon which the U.S. continues to be the greatest nation on earth requires us all to support the democratic process as defined by the Constitution. If we don't do this for a short term political gain, the United States political system would descend into one similar to those which keep despots in power. If we didn't function as a nation of laws, then all that's left is might makes right.
This is why I initiated the campaign to have every BMWE member and their family members register to vote. I knew that many in the BMWE would vote for candidates other than those I supported. But so long as every BMWE member exercised his or her right to vote, I have ultimate confidence in our members and THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, to make the correct choice, even if I disagree with that choice. Thanks to all of you who exercise that most important right to vote.
And that is why I believe that George W. Bush should call for a new presidential election in the State of Florida. And if he does not and attempts to seize the presidency based upon the clearly tainted, unfair vote that occurred in that state – the state over which his brother presides as governor, then I would urge a campaign of non-cooperation similar to the one waged in Yugoslavia when General Milosevic attempted to steal the election in that country.
If George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, despite all of the evidence demonstrating that the Florida vote was unfair – that Al Gore would have won the popular vote in Florida if the vote was fair – insist on seizing the presidency, they are acting a lot more like the brothers Fidel and Raul than they are like Americans.
WE CANNOT ALLOW A CLEARLY TAINTED ELECTION TO DETERMINE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
It would undermine our credibility throughout the world when we attempted to export democracy and undermine the confidence of the American people in the electoral process. It's just that simple.
Most all Americans have been watching the news. We have all seen that more than 19,000 votes, enough of which would probably have been Gore votes that Gore would have won the popular vote in Florida, were not counted because the ballot itself was confusing and violated Florida law. Although some partisan Republicans argue that 16,000 votes were similarly discarded in 1996, two wrongs don't make a right. Sixteen thousand citizens should not have been disenfranchised in 1996 and 19,000 citizens should not be disenfranchised in 2000.
The fact those 16,000 votes would not have made a difference in 1996 while the 19,000 votes in 2000 absolutely make the difference explains why such attention is paid in 2000. The argument of some Republicans that the disenfranchisement of 1996 creates a precedent for the disenfranchisement in 2000 is ludicrous – just spin. They are attempting to make a short term political gain at the expense of the most basic and fundamental principle that makes the U.S. system tower over those of most of the rest of the world. They are making a mockery of democracy in order to elect their candidate. This is to be expected of the brothers Fidel and Raul, but not of the brothers Jeb and George W., the sons of a former president who is also a former congressman and CIA director.
We have a duty to preserve democracy and I certainly hope cooler heads prevail and a reelection is ordered either by the courts or by the agreement of the leaders of both of the major parties. But if not, I believe the American people must do what the Yugoslavs did when their election was nearly stolen.
The pro democracy leadership in the United States should exhort the American people to go into the streets, to stop work and refrain from cooperation until fairness is brought back to the system. We should not allow our cherished democracy to be replaced with the kind of system reminiscent of a banana republic. Pro democracy forces in the Congress, in the White House, in labor and in all communities must band together to see the right thing is done – a revote in Florida, either statewide or in the areas where it is clear that voting irregularities caused the outcome to change.
I realize this may sound partisan because I support Al Gore. But I honestly believe that if the situation was reversed – that Al Gore was attempting to claim an obviously tainted election, I would have the same position. Democracy is too important to be compromised for short term political gain.
The right to vote has been the front line of battle for pro democracy forces for centuries. The right of women to vote, of minorities to vote and of workers to vote has been won with the blood, hard work and dedication of our courageous and patriotic forefathers. We owe it to them, to ourselves and our children and grandchildren to have the courage to keep it.