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An Oppositional Strategy

November 9, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

Let the rumpus begin! We liberals are much better at carving each other up than going after our opponents, and the stilettos are being sharpened for just such in-house butchery as the blame game begins.

We do have things, not always pleasant things, to say to and about each other, but may I remind us all that the enemy is not within. The true enemy resides in the White House, and unless we concentrate on those, rather than on each other, we'll be doing Bush & Co.'s nasty work for them.

So, yes, this election may have been stolen by trickery and fraud, but our candidate has conceded - for all intents and purposes, the election of 2004 is over. Unless some demonstrable proof can be found of electoral fraud - or if enough angry citizens demand that the suspicious circumstances cry out for an independent investigation - it is likely that the College of Electors will certify George W. Bush as the next President on December 12, and that he will be inaugurated on January 20. We don't have a lot of time to play with, but we have time.

Some will say that since the popular vote differential between the two candidates was 3.5 million - although it's shrinking quickly as more and more absentee and provisional ballots are being counted - that proves that the election was valid, that it wasn't stolen. Listen, friends, Karl Rove is a master of deception and an even better practitioner of the Big Lie technique. Several million could be one big computer-voting lie, a promised gift from Bush-supporter Diebold. The bigger the lie, the easier it is, in many ways, for a malleable populace to accept it. "He wouldn't do that. It would be too obvious. He'd be caught out if it weren't true, therefore it must be true." End of discussion.

International observers are impressed by our democratic election energy, determination, and our high-tech machines, but they are appalled by our sloppy, unsupervised way of processing and counting our votes. Why on earth, they wonder, would we have a third of our citizens voting on machines that, since they provide no verified paper ballot as a receipt, cannot be used for recounts? That's an open door for mischief and fraud. As is centralized tabulating, with technicans on hand from the companies that manufacture the voting machines, away from observing eyes. No other advanced society would tolerate such slipshod (read: easily corruptible) electoral procedures.

THIS BATTLE IS NOT SOLELY POLITICAL

Given a determination to tighten up the voting/tabulation rules in the U.S., such fraud easily could be overcome, miscreants punished. But what if there was no major fraud and computer-fiddling involved in the 2004 vote? That's even scarier.

What we have to face in that circumstance is that half the country doesn't care what the facts are, or even if there are facts; their religious faith and/or their willingness to be swayed on relatively minor "moral/cultural" issues trumps reality, facts, science, tens of thousands of deaths, humongous deficits, a shaky economy, worsening pollution, a deteriorating social structure, awful schools, and even their own, clear self-interests.

Even if fraud played a big part in Bush being declared the winner - and can be outlawed for future elections - our half of the country is going to have push an enormous boulder up a steep mountain for a long, long time in an attempt to alter that cultural reality.

In short, the battle we're waging is not only or even primarily a political one, but a social and cultural one.

Until we can come to grips with the fears and concerns that motivate the other half of the country - and somehow find a way of communicating across the wide perception-gap separating us - we risk remaining a permanent minority faction, doomed to lose election after election. That doesn't mean we have to abandon our principles on key issues, only that we try to put ourselves in the position of The Others and figure out how to talk to them human-to-human.

THE WORST IS YET TO COME

I will not ever forget Bush & Co.'s sleazy, lying campaign. But, while the election-fraud probe continues, I will focus here on how we liberals, progressives and authentic conservatives can best try to combat the worst of what's to come from this White House.

And it is going to be the worst. The result of the election was a relatively razor-thin victory margin - 1% of the popular vote - but Bush claimed a "broad, nationwide victory," a "mandate" to continue to enact his extremist agenda, just as he did in 2002 when he invented a mandate that also wasn't there. (Come on, fella: You won the interior states, not the metropolitan centers where most Americans live.)

With a slightly larger majority in the House and Senate this time, Bush has made it clear that he will move aggressively to get his domestic program through as quickly as possible in the first part of next year, before the "honeymoon" bloom is off the rose, before any of the roiling scandals blow up in his face, before his party has to go before the voters in two years.

So we liberals/progressives/moderate-conservatives should expect, and devise a strategy to forestall, his moves to privatize Social Security, appoint more hard-right appellate judges and new Supreme Court justices, enlarge the role of organized religion in federal policy, "reform" the tax code to favor his wealthy backers, give away more of the environmental store to the polluting corporations, starve public education, create profit-making opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry in any Medicare "reforms," and so on. The filibuster may turn out to be a potent weapon, which should be employed whenever necessary and as often as is practicable, luring disaffected Republicans into some of those battles as well.

More scary, because it involves the death and maiming of more U.S. military forces and innocent civilians, is his plan to move forcefully to bring "freedom and democracy" (read: invasions and bombing) to more areas of the world - under his stated belief that God favors such activity, and that he gets his instructions from God.

In other words, not only sending more troops down the Iraq rabbithole, but also potentially going after Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Syria and others. Reinstating a military draft, starting with a skills-draft, is likely within a year.

GRASSROOTS LEADERS NEED TO EMERGE

So, just laying out that likely Bush & Co. agenda gives you a good idea why it's so important for a true opposition to form up, both within Congress and from the grassroots. We need strong, dynamic leaders and speakers, both in the Congress and from the citizen ranks, to head up that fight against the worst that is coming from George W. Bush and his cohorts.

John Edwards, who did not run for his Senate seat again, will certainly try to be one of those beacons of resistance. Hillary Clinton, who also hopes to run in 2008, might be another. John Kerry, who remains a senator from Massachusetts, will try to assert his power (such as it may be) as one of those lodestars, but he may never be forgiven by his base for imitating Al Gore in conceding the race way too early, long before all the votes were cast and before questions could be asked and answered about possible fraud. (What was he thinking?)

Gov. Howard Dean is still out there, as is Wesley Clark. Ralph Nader could have been a giant force, but he spent his good will in tearing down Kerry. Barack Obama will be a rising star. And no doubt, there are many more elected officials - and grassroots leaders - around whom we can rally to combat the worst aspects of what Bush & Co. will be peddling. We have to be open to recognizing them and promoting them when they do emerge.

Don't forget that there is now a huge infrastructure of opposition, a movement that coalesced around defeating Bush that was enormously effective - in raising money, in mobilizing volunteers, in generating powerful messages, in utilizing the internet for political organizing, and on and on. We must not allow this infrastructure to starve from neglect, or because we're enervated or turned off by the recent campaign or candidates.

DEMOCRACY IS LIKE A MARRIAGE

If we get discouraged by this loss and conclude that this election proves "democracy doesn't work," the crooks will have won. Democracy is not a one-shot affair every four years; as with marriage, you have to constantly work at it, refresh it, shore up the weak spots, protect yourself from the outside predators.

The hard-right knows this far better than we do, and has spent decades building up their infrastructure of media, think-tanks, political-action groups and so on. They are a steamroller, a juggernaut, where we citizen-politicans are merely in the initial phases of creating an oppositional infrastructure to combat the existing power combine.

We nearly toppled them this time (and would have if a fair and honest election had been held). We've got the base and the foundations of that infrastructure in place. We should build from that base, and use our people-power to counter every illegitmate action of the Bush Administration, to give heart to the Democratic opposition in Congress, to prepare for the 2006 Congressional election, to begin discussing our strategy for the 2008 elections, to build our grassroots organizations from the ground up.

If we can transform our 2004 campaign momentum into pure oppositional energy, we can create a formidable political presence, perhaps even enough to demand the requisite investigations into the electoral fraud that may well have been perpetrated, and to have a major influence electorally in 2006 - i.e., assuming Bush & Co. are still in power at that point.

HUBRIS AND ARROGANCE CAN HELP

Impeachment is not out of the question. Remember President Nixon in 1972? He won a landslide victory, was at the top of his power and control. That arrogance led to even more hubris, and Nixon was gone in short order - the Watergate felonies were the capper - resigning in order to avoid a Senate impeachment trial.

Of course, the parallels are not exact - the Congress was in the hands of the Democrats then, and the press was much more independent - but Bush & Co. in their arrogance and hubris could well make similar mistakes and trigger a public clamor for their removal as they invade more countries, start up the draft, and continue to mismanage the economy. Additionally, various scandals (9/11 pre-knowledge, CIA agent Valerie Plame's outing, the torture scandal, Enron/Halliburton, Iraq incompetence) could explode at any time.

In his acceptance speech the other day, Bush gave a pro forma nod for unity and civility to those who voted for Kerry, just as he did to Gore supporters in 2000. But he offerred nothing, no hint of willingness to compromise in order to help unite this troubled polity. (He couldn't even be a gracious fudger in his offer to the liberals; he said "I will reach out to every one who shares our goals." In other words, if you're not with us, you're against us.) He and his spokesmen have let it be known that, as far as they are concerned, it's just four more years of more of the same, except perhaps with fewer brakes on their bullying approach. Get out of our way.

With nobody (they believe) able or willing to stand up to them as a countervailing force, this greedy bunch sees all sorts of opportunities for rape and pillage - by which I mean taking what they want and giving the rest to their corporate underwriters, both domestically and in their adventures abroad.

It's important to realize at the outset that this fight is going to get ugly at times - Bush & Co. play smashmouth politics, not civil discourse - and many of us are going to suffer all sorts of painful consequences. But, for the sake of our own souls and out of undying love for our country, there is no alternative but to fight.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., co-editor of The Crisis Papers, is a former government professor and writer-editor for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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