The 2006 Election is Happening Right Now
April 26, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The
crunch time, folks.
The Bush Administration is quite aware that lame-duck, second-term
presidents have a very brief window of opportunity during which
they can push through their agendas with a likelihood of success.
So Karl Rove, seeing the window starting to close, is not waiting
for the midterm election run-up in 2006. He's going for it all now.
Having taken advantage of that initial window-opening, Bush & Co.
pushed through bills involving estate taxes and bankruptcy aimed
to aid their wealthy supporters at the expense of the rest of us,
and made sure to get their most loyal lapdogs placed firmly into
the key positions - Gonzalez, Rice, Negroponte, Chertoff, Rumsfeld,
Abrams, Goss, Hadley, Wolfowitz, et al.
But this bunker crew is still not quite complete. That's why Bush
and Cheney are strongly supporting Tom DeLay and John Bolton; they
are counting on The Hammer and Mad Dog being there to help bully
and neutralize the opposition and keep potentially friendly forces
from getting weak-kneed and thus uncontrollable.
The second-term rush syndrome also explains why the Administration
is moving toward the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate with
regard to judicial appointments to the appeals courts. Of course
they'd love to get their handful of previously-rejected Hard Right
nominees through the Senate; accomplishing that would be a bonus.
But what they're really after is to eliminate the Democrats' only
weapon, the filibuster/60-vote cloture rule, when it comes to judicial
nominations, thus setting a majority-vote precedent for the likely
Supreme Court vacancies that Bush expects to fill shortly.
And so, come hell or high water, the GOP is determined to break
the Democrats on this one regardless of the consequences to political
comity, the Senate, the Constitution, the nation.
For the Busheviks, apparently it's not enough to control the Congress,
the White House, a good share of the judiciary, and the mass-media.
They want the world and they want it now. Especially as their veneer
of invincibility is starting to wear a bit thin these days.
Similarly, the Christian-Taliban wing of the Republican Party
is making its move at the same time to enforce strict fundamentalist
rule; more on that below.
THOSE MYSTERIOUS MUSHROOM CLOUDS
Internationally, the Bush Administration is getting its ducks
lined up in a row in preparation for a major move, maybe as early
as June, either against Iran or Syria. It'll be deja vu all
over again, to use Yogi's apt phrase, with a "pre-emptive" attack
against an enemy that allegedly has committed a major international
insult and needs to be put in its place immediately. The U.S. can't
wait, we'll be told, otherwise the mushroom clouds may appear at
It is not clear whether the U.S. move will be a full-scale "shock
& awe" invasion or merely (!) a major missile attack from the air
- perhaps knocking out a nuclear or military facility. But the aim
will be to either effect "regime change" in those countries by the
use of force or to frighten their leaders into giving in to whatever
demands the Bush Administration will exact for leaving them in power.
The short- and medium-term goal is to have effective control of
the oil/gas fields in the greater Middle East, at a time when peak
oil production is being reached in the face of increasing demand
for that energy worldwide, especially from China and India. The
longe-range goal was outlined in various Project for The New American
Century manifestos that became official U.S. policy: to preclude
any national or international rival from even getting close to challenging
U.S. global hegemony. See "How
We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer."
AMERICAN TALIBANI MAKE THEIR MOVE
While the Earth itself is in dire global-warming jeopardy, with
temperatures rising and Arctic and Antarctic glaciers melting away
at alarming rates, the traditional politics of greed and power-hunger
seem absolutely petty in comparison. And yet that's where the focus
is in the U.S. in general and in the nation's capital in particular.
The American public clearly seems to be getting more nervous and
fed up with some of Bush & Co.'s more extreme positions; for example,
the Social Security privatization "reform" plan is going nowhere
fast, and their crass attempt to hijack the Schiavo family's tragedy
for political gain backfired badly. Despite these embarrassments,
or maybe because of them, the Hard Rightists like Cheney, Frist,
DeLay and Rove are happy to encourage their supporters on the fundamentalist
Right to energize this force on behalf of a strict, Taliban-like
interpretation of law and morality.
If some of these desires can be effected into law, all the better
for the Republicans, but even if they can't get their extreme views
enacted, those controversial fights - on the Ten Commandments, evolution,
abortion, gay rights and so on - serve as mighty distractions, forcing
the Democrats to scatter their energies. This keeps them from focusing
on the major battles involving the disaster in Iraq, the neo-con
plans to initiate more wars, Bush's tax and tort "reform," the corrupt
vote-counting system, and so on.
While the Bush Administration is doing everything possible to
keep the Iraqi government from adopting "Sharia" (Islamic Law) into
its new Constitution, it seems eager to encourage its fundamentalist
base in America to insert Christian "Sharia" into U.S. law and custom,
despite the Constitutional prohibition on mixing church and state.
JUDGES AN ENDANGERED SPECIES
The most frightening example along these lines is the way the
Bush/fundamentalist forces are taking aim at the judiciary, and
individual judges, whose opinions they don't find strict or "Christian"
enough. Some are calling for impeachment of judges they don't like,
including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, but others are
going even further.
"Taking aim" may not be merely a figure of speech; several key
politicians, including House GOP Majority Leader DeLay and Republican
Senator John Cornyn, have moved perilously close to inciting violence
against judges, all in the name of "Christian" principles, of course.
(Let us not forget that in recent months a judge was shot and killed
in Atlanta, another judge's husband and mother were murdered in
Chicago, and more threats of bodily harm against jurists are coming
in all the time.)
Far-right lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told a recent meeting of
conservative leaders that Anthony Kennedy should be impeached because
his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy
statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from
foreign law." According to a story by the Washington Post's
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line"
for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He
had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran
into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,'" Vieira said. The
full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death
solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira
had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not
actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times
for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President
Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn
So partisan and incendiary have the rightwing-anarchist
statements been that even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives have
felt obliged to speak out, trying to ratchet down extremist hate
speech. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in a talk
recently at Goucher College that she is surprised at all the violent
threats she's receiving. "I don't think the harsh rhetoric helps,"
she told the crowd. "I think it energizes people who are a little
off base to take actions that maybe they wouldn't otherwise take."
IMPEACHMENT & DEFUNDING OPTIONS
Even some staunch conservatives are trying to defuse the impeachment
bomb. Theodore Olson, the Bush Administration's former Hard Right
Solicitor-General wrote in the Wall Street Journal that impeachment
could put the country on a dangerous, slippery slope:
Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions
are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine
the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems.
If a judge's decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful
recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations
of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular
decision was rendered, would constitute interference with - and
intimidation of - the judicial process. And there is no logical
stopping point once this power is exercised.
But the fundamentalist Right, so pumped up with its supposed electoral
clout in the 2004 election, is not about to go silently into the
night. They feel their political power, they are convinced that
their wrath is mandated by God, and they are making their theocratic
voices heard, loudly.
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angles Times reports that at
a March conference in Washington between Frist and DeLay and key
evangelical leaders James Dobson and Tony Perkins - dealing with
finding ways to remove certain judges from the bench - the strategy
of stripping funding from certain courts was "prominently" discussed.
"What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making
these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also
defunding them," said Perkins, head of the Family Research Council.
He said that instead of undertaking the long process of trying to
impeach judges, Congress could use its appropriations authority
to "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and he's just sitting
out there with nothing to do." These curbs on courts are "on the
radar screen, especially of conservatives here in Congress," he
Wallsten writes that Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who
emerged last year as one of the evangelical movement's most important
political leaders, named one potential target: the California-based
U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "Very few people know this, that
the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They
don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle.
All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore,
and it's gone."
In short, friends, the Bush Administration, by cozying up to Christian-Talibanists
like these and others around the country - browbeating school boards
on evolution and sex-education, threatening teachers who refuse
to treat creationist points of view as equal to those of scientists,
censoring textbooks, etc. - indicates that America, at least broad
swatches of it, are moving back into a cultural Know-Nothing era
that is truly frightening. All this at the same time we're fighting
battles with Islamist fundamentalists because they have the "wrong"
God and want to battle the forces of modernity in their own cultures
and in ours as well. We imitate what we fear.
LET'S ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND ACT
I could go on and on listing the scary things being done or encouraged
by the Bush Administration in its partisan zeal to get what it wants,
and to set the table for future rightwing administrations by decimating
or eliminating its political opposition. But I think you get the
The big Bush & Co. push for power and greed is happening right
now. We in the opposition can't sit around and think we'll mobilize
a few months before the 2006 midterm election. This is the
2006 election. We have to activate our troops and strategies immediately.
If we don't push back, and fight them now, we will have lost that
election before it even begins, and thus a chance to start to turn
this country around. More importantly, if we choose not to act,
we risk losing our self-respect and our political souls.
It's time to organize, mobilize, agitate, to donate money to the
politicians and organizations that are out there taking the fight
to the forces of regression. It is time for each of us to organize
and fight for the Constitution, the separation of powers, the sanctity
of the division between church and state, to ally ourselves with
traditional and moderate Republicans and Libertarians. These alliances
are being made to correct the worst aspects of the Patriot Act,
so we should be able to find other areas where we might be able
to agree - on the wrong-headed nomination of John Bolton, on Bush's
Social Security scam, on privacy rights, on extremist judges, etc.
In short, 2005 is 2006. And, for the sake of our country, we can't
afford to lose this election battle. We may not be able at the moment
to guarantee that our actual votes in 2006 will be counted honestly,
but we can win the current election campaign in the court of public
opinion, in the halls of the Congress, in our churches and synagogues
The Bush agenda is vulnerable in a number of key areas - the general
perception of the GOP as arrogantly over-reaching, the public not
buying the administration's reckless Social Security scheme, the
general feeling that John Bolton is not the right man for the U.N.
job, the revulsion against how the GOP used the Schiavo family's
tragedy for political ends, the continuing disaster that is Iraq,
It's time to crank it up and send this amoral, greedy, power-hungry
administration a message that their lame-duck power has run out.
If we do our political and ethical/spiritual homework with due diligence,
our progressive/moderate opposition could well be accepted as among
the key moral forces of this nation. Let's get to work.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international
relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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