Perry Hoberman on 16 Dec 2000 04:31:21 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Our Two Cents, and One Unbelievable Story

December 15, 2000

To: WF Members and Friends

Fr: Dan Cantor, Executive Director

Re: Our Two Cents, and One Unbelievable Story

Two pieces follow. The first is a statement by the
WFP's Co-Chairs -- Jim Duncan, Bertha Lewis, & Bob Master --
on the Supreme Court ruling, the ascension to power
of George W. Bush, and what it all means to people
who remain committed to the unfashionable ideals
of fairness, equality and solidarity. You'll find it
hits a few notes not usually heard from mainstream
politicians and pundits who seem absolutely unable
to say anything but what is most obvious and conventional.

The second is an utterly astounding article from
the Pittsburgh paper that ran 2 weeks ago, before
the Court hearing. It's too good to give it away,
so instead just urge you to read it through to the
end -- it's worth it.


WFP Statement on the Election

With the end of the election has come the inevitable
call from the punditocracy for bipartisanship,
compromise, and conciliation. The dominant view is
that all Americans should fall in behind the president-elect
and help him succeed.

We firmly reject this view. We believe it is the
responsibility of Democrats and progressives to
do everything possible to ensure that George Bush,
his right-wing Congressional allies, and his policies, fail.

The Supreme Court has ruled and of course its decision
is final. But our faith in the high court has been shaken.
This was a decision based on partisan preference, not on
a careful consideration of the rule of law or
"equal protection." This was not reasonable people
disagreeing reasonably -- and the bitter and eloquent
language of the four dissenting opinions suggests just
how unreasonable the majority was.

The Supreme Court may have made George Bush the President,
but that does not mean that we accept him as legitimately
elected. Bush lost the national popular vote and he won
in Florida only because his legal tactics succeeded in
preventing an accurate vote count æ and because hundreds,
if not thousands of low-income African-Americans were
illegally taken off the registration rolls or otherwise
prevented from voting. If the Nader votes are tallied
ideologically, it is clear that Bushís policies were
decisively rejected by the American people.

Furthermore, we reject calls for a phony, Republican-led bipartisanship
which can only serve the interests of the
wealthy and corporate power. We reject Bush's proposals
to privatize Social Security, to allow corporate HMO's
to provide drug benefits to seniors, or for a massive
tax cut for the rich.

The cloudy centrist rhetoric of the campaign cloaked
fundamental differences between Republicans and most
Democrats about the role of government, the dangers of
an unfettered free market, and how best to meet the
needs of the majority of American families. Progressive,
pro-labor Democrats should cast aside calls for a
phony bi-partisanship, and instead get ready to prevent
the dismantling of whatís left of government controls
on corporate power, and to safeguard social programs,
however inadequate, which are vital to the welfare of
poor and working people.

Rather than helping George Bush to succeed, we should
take a page out of the play-book of our Republican opponents,
and treat him as they treated President Clinton over the
last eight years.

We should never stop reminding him or the public that
his Presidency is illegitimate, and that he was installed
over the clear opposition of the American people. We should
never stop reminding him or the public that he was elected
only because all the votes werenít counted, and because the
dysfunctional Florida electoral system deprived tens of
thousands of elderly Jews and lower-income African-Americans
of the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice.
While we should not oppose Bush's policy proposals if
they genuinely serve the interests of working families,
we should certainly not go out of our way to compromise on legislation
which is of minimal benefit to the constituencies
we represent. Congressional Democrats should strictly
scrutinize every one of Bushís judicial and administrative
appointees. And we should begin now to lay the foundation
to reverse the Congressional balance of power in Washington
two years from now.

Finally, the first order of business for the new government
must be electoral reform. The system is broken and needs
to be fixed before the next national election. We urge
Congress and the Administration to order a full investigation
into the removal of African-Americans from the voting rolls
in Florida, harassment at the polls, and other irregularities
cited by the NAACP. And we urge Congress to pass real and
substantial campaign finance reform and national election
standards to ensure that every vote counts, and is counted.

We see no purpose in conciliatory statements. It is not a
time to compromise our principles. It is a time to prepare
for a fight.


{and the newspaper article mentioned above]

Just Our Bill

by Dennis Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Saturday, December 02, 2000

Lito Pena is sure of his memory. Thirty-six years ago he,
then a Democratic Party poll watcher, got into a shoving
match with a Republican who had spent the opening hours
of the 1964 election doing his damnedest to keep people
from voting in south Phoenix.

"He was holding up minority voters because he knew they
were going to vote Democratic," said Pena.

The guy called himself Bill. He knew the law and applied
it with the precision of a swordsman. He sat at the table
at the Bethune School, a polling place brimming with black
citizens, and quizzed voters ad nauseam about where they
were from, how long they'd lived there -- every question
in the book. A passage of the Constitution was read and
people who spoke broken English were ordered to interpret
it to prove they had the language skills to vote.

By the time Pena arrived at Bethune, he said, the line to
vote was four abreast and a block long. People were giving
up and going home.

Pena told the guy to leave. They got into an argument. Shoving
followed. Arizona politics can be raw.

Finally, Pena said, the guy raised a fist as if he was fixing
to throw a punch.

"I said 'If that's what you want, I'll get someone to take
you out of here' "

Party leaders told him not to get physical, but this was
the second straight election in which Republicans had sent
out people to intellectually rough up the voters. The project
even had a name: Operation Eagle Eye.

Pena had a group of 20 iron workers holed up in a motel
nearby. He dispatched one who grabbed Bill and hustled
him out of the school.

"He was pushing him across a yard and backed him into
the school building," Pena remembered.

Others in Phoenix remember Operation Eagle Eye, too.

Charlie Stevens, then the head of the local Young Republicans,
said he got a phone call from the same lawyer Pena remembered throwing
out of Bethune School. The guy wanted to know
why Charlie hadn't joined Operation Eagle Eye.

"I think they called them flying squads," Stevens said.
"It was perfectly legal. The law at the time was that
you had to be able to read English and interpret what you read."

But he didn't like the idea and he told Bill this.

"My parents were immigrants," Stevens said. They'd settled
in Cleveland, Ohio, a pair of Greeks driven out of Turkey
who arrived in the United States with broken English and
a desire to be American. After their son went to law school
and settled in Phoenix, he even Americanized the name. Charlie Tsoukalas
became Charlie Stevens.

"I didn't think it was proper to challenge my dad or my
mother to interpret the Constitution," Stevens said.
"Even people who are born here have trouble interpreting the
Constitution. Lawyers have trouble interpreting it."

The guy told Stevens that if he felt that way about it,
then he could take a pass.

There was nothing illegal going on there, Stevens said.
"It just violated my principles. I had a poor family.
I grew up in the projects in Cleveland, Ohio."

Operation Eagle Eye had a two-year run. Eventually,
Arizona changed the laws that had allowed the kind of
challenges that had devolved into bullying.

Pena went on to serve 30 years in the Arizona State
Legislature.  Stevens became a prosperous and well-regarded
lawyer in Phoenix and helped Sandra Day O'Connor get
her start in law.

The guy Pena remembers tossing out of Bethune School prospered, too.

Bill Rehnquist, now better known as William H. Rehnquist,
chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States,
presided yesterday over a case that centers on whether
every vote for president was properly recorded in
the state of Florida.

In his confirmation hearings for the court in 1971,
Rehnquist denied personally intimidating voters and
gave the explanation that he might have been called
to polling places on Election Day to arbitrate disputes
over voter qualifications. Fifteen years later, three
more witnesses, including a deputy U.S. attorney, told
of being called to polling places and having angry voters
point to Rehnquist as their tormentor. His defenders suggested
it was a case of mistaken identity.

Now, with the presidency in the balance, Rehnquist has
been asked to read passages of the Constitution and
interpret them. Once again, a reading and interpretation
will determine whose vote gets to count.


That's it for now. The final certified votes for the WFP were released
Monday, and we are pleased to report that 102,094 New Yorkers pulled the
WFP lever. That's double what we got in 1998, and it bodes well for the

Have a good holiday season. We have our work cut out for us in 2001, in
New York and across the nation.

Dan Cantor

Working Families Party
88 Third Avenue, 4th Fl
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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