LONG BEACH (coup2k.com) May 11, 2001 -- The media reports the failure of American democracy: ...the review of 171,908 ballots also reveals that voting mistakes by thousands of Democratic voters -- errors that legally disqualified their ballots -- probably cost former vice president Al Gore 15,000 to 25,000 votes. That's enough to have decisively won Florida and the White House. Gore's best chance to win was lost before the ballots were counted, the study shows. Voters' confusion with ballot instruction and design and voting machines appears to have changed the course of U.S. history. - Florida voter errors cost Gore the election
If there is a single thing that cannot be disputed after the 2000 Election debacle in Florida, and the ongoing examination of ballots cast in that state in the General Presidential Election, it is that the people's choice -- the candidate those voters who were permitted to attempt to exercise their franchise selected to be their next President -- was not the person inaugurated. This is, of course, to say nothing at all of those thousands upon thousands of voters -- primarily black and democratic -- who were never permitted to attempt to vote at all.
In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, a tragedy of this magnitude would demand a certain response. In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, the media would treat such an important discovery with solemn gravity, and do the difficult investigative reporting required to find the causes of the tragedy, and to propose and demand effective solutions. In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, a leader who took office under these tragic circumstances would, though he might not be able to make the victims whole by decree, attempt to make them whole by humbly honoring the broad spirit of their intent. In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, the political and moral leaders would speak with one voice to correct the failures that led to such a tragedy, and any leader that did not would soon find himself leading no one. In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, the people whose voices were not heard would be treated like the victims of any tragedy are treated -- with compassion and sympathy. In a society that aspired to democratic elections and valued voting rights, anyone who treated those victims with a dismissive attitude, or belittled their experience -- anyone who told them to "get over it" or "move on" or "walk it off" -- would be branded a social pariah, if not a sociopath.
But that is not what happened in the United States of America -- at least not yet -- because, apparently, this is not a society that aspires to democratic elections or values voting rights. And if this is true, it is to our utter shame.
There was a time not long ago when a Bill Clinton's HHS Secretary, Donna Shalala, commented that "We did not send our best and brightest to fight and die in Vietnam. We did not send the children of the rich." Though her words were twisted (she was attacked by arch-conservatives such as G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, who, once they read her entire remarks in context, then apologized for their attacks on her) her point could not have been more clear: the fortunate sons of the powerful were not the ones to perish in that war; but rather, the sons of the powerless were. And why? Because an elaborate system created by the powerful, and favoring the powerful, provided escape hatches for the powerful, and for those whom the powerful deemed worthy of the opportunity to escape such a possible fate.
Does anyone doubt that? Really? Does anyone doubt that, with a wink and a nod, our government created a system to funnel those they judged to be society's "expendables" into the theater in Vietnam, while assuring that the privileged would have an opportunity to avoid that same destiny?
And does anyone doubt that a society callous enough to view SOME human lives so cheaply, would value the human rights of all more dearly? Value all human voices? All votes? Particularly those votes that have been cast by the "least" of us? The poor? The elderly? The disabled? The infirm? The young? Those most recently made citizens? Ethnic and racial minorities?
I am aware that those who were well-heeled, well-educated, or well-connected enough to avoid service in Vietnam by legal deferment broke no law. (Those who received deferments to serve in state-side National Guard units, and then deserted their posts, however, DID.) Those who created the election day realities in Florida might not have broken any explicit laws, either, though the jury (legally and historically) is still out on that question, and the current circumstantial evidence appears damning.
Regardless, the most disturbing reality made plain by both of these events -- the Vietnam War and Florida's 2000 General Presidential Election (if indeed, the actions of those who created the election-day realities in Florida broke no law) -- is that the law, which promises to provide equal justice for all Americans, does not; that the law provides justice unevenly, and by all accounts at this point, it provides uneven justice by intelligent design.
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