Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Vote of No Confidence Editorial in Arcata Eye

The Arcata Eye has published this editorial I wrote to create context for and interest in the Peace and Justice Center meeting tomorrow night.


The voters of America and the citizens of the world have absolutely no basis for maintaining confidence in the validity and legitimacy of US elections.

Since the 2000 controversy, voting reform advocates have exposed many problems with touch screen voting machines including many tabulation irregularities, widespread susceptibility to fraud, conflicts of interest among the executives at the companies manufacturing the machines, states certifying untested machines, and outright bans on recounts. The most common response has been to call for voter-verified paper trails. This is not just inadequate, it is a red herring. I am writing to describe a better and more comprehensive way our community can lead for change.

The first step is saying we have no basis for maintaining confidence. Making this statement collectively will be a matter of careful wording. It will also be the catalyst of a broader strategy.

Voting issues are not the only reason for the erosion of confidence in the validity and legitimacy of US elections. It is now routine for public statements by Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and members of the Cabinet to be quoted in print with information to debunk the statements appearing in the same sentence. Official dishonesty has become so prevalent that the only thing to be certain about is an uncertain outcome to the upcoming election.

Congress has repeatedly abdicated its responsibilities. A small sampling: passing a bill that members haven’t had a chance to read (Patriot Act); surrendering responsibilities that ensure checks and balances (war powers); empanelling white wash committees laden with conflicts of interest (Iraq intelligence, 9/11); and redistricting so aggressively that both parties acknowledge only a few races are considered competitive.

This last point could not be more important. The two major parties are engaged in a power-sharing model. This is simulated competition like professional wrestling or the Harlem Globetrotters. It is expected that the American public will enjoy the spectacle without really influencing its outcome. This makes a mockery of the “free marketplace of ideas” and effectively reduces American democracy to a myth.

We have no basis for confidence that our votes are deciding the fate of our nation. We certainly don’t have a basis for believing the election results that will be reported on the corporate-owned media outlets. Consider that prior to the war in Iraq, information known to millions of street protestors was largely blacked out in support of a pro-war agenda. This manipulation of the public is an utterly unforgivable and irreconcilable breach of trust that leaves no basis for confidence.

I have drafted a Vote of No Confidence resolution found here.

The Arcata City Council or any other elected body in the country could pass this resolution, or one similar to it. Given that 270 anti-Patriot act resolutions have been passed, it is not unreasonable to think that communities across the country will begin to consider their own Vote of No Confidence. To ensure this, and to capitalize on it, the language of the resolution I’ve written necessarily ups the stakes with passage of each additional resolution:

“We recognize that we are but one remote community and the first to collectively make such a declaration. However, we anticipate similar resolutions will follow. Whether it is the fifth, 50th or 100th such resolution, with passage of each such statement, we encourage contemplation of whether George W. Bush has effectively lost the consent of the governed.”

Without committing our community to a huge, drastic step, this approach creates a trigger mechanism for a domino effect leading to a tipping point. This is what I mean by careful wording to catalyze a broader strategy.

What happens after the tipping point? We’ll be discussing that at the Redwood Peace and Justice Center on May 5 at 6pm. We’ll also look at how the resolution I’ve written could be improved and what we can do to create demand for its passage.

Everyone is welcome but I want to add a special invitation for folks backing Mr. Kerry on the basis of “Anybody But Bush.” I ask that such folks consider first that Kerry is not in pursuit of peace. Second, as explained above, no matter how many people might vote for Kerry, there is no way to be assured legitimate results will prevail. Finally, this “choice” is still six months away. In the meantime, join us in pre-empting another sham.

If committing to this is difficult, try this simple challenge: first, see if you can picture yourself insisting we go through with this charade of an election; then, try to imagine yourself affirming that the results will be above reproach. If you can’t see yourself sold on both dead end stances, then surely all campaign rhetoric must be moot.

The views expressed here are my own but many, many people approve of this message. Keep your mind open…the future is coming.

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