Yesterday, January 6, 2001, a day that will forever bring shame to the United States Congress, the theft of the Presidential election of year 2000 became official.
There had been a hope, ever so slight, that Democrats might have successfully prevailed on at least some members of the GOP to put our Democracy ahead of their party, but it was not to be. Recognizing the impeachment poisoned cesspool of Republican partisanship that lies just beneath the paper thin veneer currently on display in Austin, Democrats were not so na´ve to believe that the Republicans would be willing to sacrifice the White House for higher principals. Not that those higher principals were hidden; for plainly they weren't.
Long after Al Gore's concession, but well before yesterday's electoral college votes had actually been cast in the Congress, the truth had slowly been leaking out. The major American media did not want to talk about it, but the Congressional Black Caucus did, and newspapers in Florida and England were printing the stories.
Stories about thousands African Americans who had been illegally stricken from the lists of registered voters for felony crimes that didn't exist. Stories about the hand counting of ballots by GOP elections officials in GOP districts; the same kind of hand counting Al Gore was denied by a Supreme Court that sacrificed its integrity on the alter of partisan expedience. And most damning of all for the Bush Putsch, stories about how despite all of the shenanigans, the governor of Florida had failed to deliver it to his brother.
The Florida Sunshine Law, and the reporter's who were taking advantage of it, had let everyone know the truth in plenty of time. Before a single electoral vote had been cast, it was out there for everyone to see. The truth that even if you ignore all of the illegalities that occurred in the Florida election process, and instead only looked at the ballots that had actually been cast, an accurate tally of those ballots showed that Gore won.
So why did it happen? Why didn't the Democrats fight for Democracy?
It only would have taken one Congressman and one Senator to stand up and say:
"This is Wrong. This is America. We govern at the will of the people, and the will of the people must govern our actions today."
Members of the Black Congressional Caucus were certainly willing to stand up and say it. So why were no other Democratic Members of Congress, and not a single one of the fifty Democrats in the United States Senate, willing to stand up and say it with them?
The reason is as sickening as it is simple.
Sometimes politics isn't pretty, and this time, virtually all Democrats were far better off keeping their mouths shut.
A challenge to the Florida and Texas electors would, at best, only have forced a vote in the House and in the Senate. Democrats knew they were destined to lose that vote. So while it might have been interesting to see which of our Democratic Congressmen and Senators would have stood up for Democracy in a vote on the floor of their hallowed chambers, the Republican Majority insured that Bush still would have become President.
For the Black Congressional Caucus, most of who win easily and run in minority dominated districts, standing in front of the cameras and speaking the truth had little downside. Indeed, for many of these Members, staying silent would likely have been a far more perilous course.
But for the rest of the Democrats in Congress, it was not so simple. And for white Democratic Congressmen in the Bible Belt, such a vote was clearly a no win proposition. Had they voted for Gore, they would have paid dearly with their more conservative, white constituents. Had they voted for Bush, they would have been abandoned in droves by African American voters on whom they must depend on to win elections. So there was little to gain and much to lose for many Democrats, even if in their hearts they would have liked to rally for the cause of Democracy.
For the Senate, it was simply a back room deal. With the Senate spit down the middle, Tom Daschle had far more to gain if Trent Lott would agree to share power in the Senate than he had to gain by forcing the issue of the Presidential election in the Congress. And when Mr. Lott made the necessary concessions the day before the vote, the deal was done. Mr. Daschle traded the silence of his party for the right to bring legislation to the floor of the Senate. Our Democracy and Al Gore's presidency became a sacrificial lamb in the process, but it is so unlikely that the end result would've turned out differently that one must conclude that Mr. Daschle probably received more than he bargained away.
In the final analysis, the Democratic Party has gambled that they are better served by having power in the Senate than by having stood up for a fundamental principal and lost.
Let us hope that gamble pays off.
© 2001 The Daily Brew