Monday, July 12, 2004

Democracy at Work

Listen up, Iraqis, and learn how democracy is supposed to work.

Rudy Giuliani's first political act the week of 9/11 was to see to annul the impending New York mayoral elections and assume a third term (despite term limits forbidding him from doing so) without the benefit of an election. One might forgive him from one perspective, given the local emergency, but it was chilling how readily he suggested that democracy and the orderly succession of power wasn't enough on its own to take the city through a crisis. In other words, in Giuliani's estimation at the time, he and only he could head New York in its time of need, democracy be damned. The major problem for Giuliani at the time was there was utterly no way to circumvent the laws on the books saying an election must be held.

So last week we had the Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, issue a completely non-specific warning -- without raising the terror alert (which would cost money) -- about the possibility terrorists would try to disrupt our election. Nothing concrete, of course, or any indication as to how the powers that be know this.

And this morning we hear the administration has been working behind the scenes to rectify for President Bush the problem Giuliani had. They're looking into ways they can cancel the Presidential election, or at least delay it to a time more favorable to the President's slim chances of re-election. The rationale, of course, is that terrorists might try to launch attacks that will change the course of the election.

What better way to give the terrorists a victory -- they're already modifying the democratic process, without even having to launch an attack.

The Madrid attacks two days before an election were alleged to have turned the election away from a Bush-friendly conservative administration to a liberal faction pledging to get out of Iraq. That the opposition party was leading in the polls already, or that 85% of Spaniards opposed involvement in Iraq prior to the bombings, seems to have been lost on the administration wags claiming Al Qaeda changed the election outcome. But if you think about this, it's an incredibly dim view of the electorate anywhere, to suggest democracy can be manipulated by violence in this manner. Not holding the elections would be changing the outcome of an election.

I'm not so conspiracy minded that I think the Bush administration would allow a terrorist attack right before the election. What I think they're doing is putting the possibility into people's minds for two reasons. First is so they can trump up any possible chance of one to make fear work in their favor. And the second is to scare people away from the polls, making them think that the very process of having an election is inherently dangerous.

But if you're conspiracy-minded, it's a great day for you, since they're now actively planning for a way to suspend our own elections. This is the worst thing I've heard out of Washington in four miserable years of awful, anti-democratic, anti-American government.

So if you want an idea of how the Bush re-election team is taking the high ground, take a gander at the latest Bush attack ad on Kerry (click on the one called 'Priorities'.) In it, the President takes aim at the fact Kerry's had to miss a lot of votes to campaign for President, ignoring all the taxpayer money and time he's spent on the road campaigning himself. In it, he claims Kerry failed to vote to lower health care costs (the bill in question was actually a tort reform bill to prevent patients from suing doctors for medical malpractice claims), that he failed to vote to fund troops in combat (ignoring all the times he has), but that "he found time to vote against the Laci Peterson law" which would 'protect pregnant women against violence'. Ignoring again the fact the so-called Laci Peterson law federalized yet another crime for utterly no reason -- it was already illegal and a separate crime to kill a fetus, and Scott Peterson is in fact charged with two murders -- the message they're trying to convey is: Kerry voted in favor of murdering women and unborn children! I think this may be the worst, lowest political ad since Willie Horton, and it's worse in a way. There are lots of legitimate differences the President could take with Kerry's voting record. But why highlight those when you can say Kerry's in favor of killing pregnant women and against supporting our troops and lowering health care costs?

So take note, Iraqis, as you ponder your unelected ruling council's decisions. This is how we do democracy in America.

1 comment:

Matt said...

You know, I missed something in the news reports. The administration had the National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice, respond to the reports they were working out scenarios to delay the election. What exactly does the NSA have to do with domestic affairs, notably the conduct of elections? Wouldn't this be, at a stretch, the purview of, say, the Federal Elections Commission?