The New American Democracy
By Ronnie Dugger
It is an honor to be among you again.
On December 9th and 12th last, as the second millennium was easing to an end, our 212-year-old American Republic was stolen from us.
After the secret four-month constitutional convention in Philadelphia, a matron of the city asked Benjamin Franklin what they had produced. "A Republic, if you can keep it," Franklin said.
Well, we haven't kept it--we've lost it.
George W. Bush, his lawyers led by the crafty James Baker III, Bush's operatives in Florida led by his brother Jeb the Governor and Secretary of State Harris, and five members of the Supreme Court, inventing a new constitutional right for the occasion, usurped from the people the right to choose the President of the United States. The judges overthrew the government by selecting the President themselves, 5 to 4, rather than letting events take their constitutional course. When Governor Bush was sworn in as President by Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Court that had stolen it for him the government itself was seized in a judicial and presidential coup d'etat. Bush gave James Baker the dog's assignment of seizing the Presidency in
Florida as if it were a bone. The resulting compound crime was one clear line of events, each one pressed for or performed pursuant to a determined and relentlessly prosecuted scheme to abort the voters' will in Florida. Bush was guilty from the outset as an originator and throughout as the principal beneficiary, moving on many fronts to stop the vote recounting in
Florida, refusing to agree to a total manual recount of the entire state, accepting the Presidency from Rehnquist after the Court had stopped that recount, selected him, and thereby stolen the office for him. As James K. Galbraith perceived, by obstructing the election of the President, the Bush people prevented it, causing democracy to miscarry. Taking the oath, Bush
knowingly accepted the keys to the White House from the man giving him the oath and the four of his fellow judges who had stolen them. Together they denied the people of the United States the right to elect our President, whether it would have been Albert Gore or George W. Bush, for the four years 2001 to 2005.
Congress and the Presidency had already been delegitimized across the past 20 years, for most of us, by the triumph over the common good of uncontrolled campaign finance corruption and bribery. Now, in Bush v. Gore,
the Supreme Court delegitimized itself and therefore the court system arrayed
below it. These are the only three branches that we have--this is no longer
a respectable government. We have lost our entire government to a corporate
oligarchy that now governs us without our permission.
Permit me to repeat what I said to you on January 20th. The only basis
for democratic legitimacy is the consent of the governed. That was the deal.
The Presidency has been seized. The government has been seized. The
covenant is broken.
What does it mean, to admit, and to say, that your government is
illegitimate? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means the
government is "not in accordance with, or authorized by, law." What Bush
ravaged when he accepted the stolen Presidency was much more than our
politics, more even than our self-respect as a democracy--he made a mockery
of our most fundamental agreement to respect and obey the laws the government
passes, to cooperate with the government because it's ours. This is what he
has done to the country that we love, he has undermined the authority of law
here. That is what we have lost, the very authority of law for our everyday
Going about his first 100 days, he cuts funding for international family
planning groups. He cancels new rules to prevent repetitive-stress injuries
for millions of new workers. He cancels a tightening of the standard for
arsenic in drinking water. He abandons his campaign promise to cut carbon
dioxide emissions from power plants. He reinstates the federal subsidy for
roads into our trackless forests for corporate logging. He moves to
weaponize space, under the cover of star wars, so that we can destroy any
nation's communications from space and thereby dominate all the nations and
peoples of the world. He puts a man over the Energy Department who wanted to
abolish it. He refuses to slap price controls on power and gasoline
profiteers. He shoves through the supine Republican-and-Democratic Congress
an insane $1.3-trillion-dollar tax cut that further enriches the already rich
on a ten-year set of assumptions that nobody, nobody at all, can accurately
make, and which rises in the second decade to a four-trillion cut which will
destroy Social Security and Medicare. He tries to "fast-track"--that is, to
deny Congress the right to amend in any way--the corporations-first trade
agreements, NAFTA, the WTO, the FTAA, that will destroy our local, state, and
national sovereignty over our own environment, commerce, and working
conditions. He calls protecting workers and the environment in these
agreements "protectionism." He and his allies in Congress have crushed all
talk of election reform because of the obvious fact that it insults him for
stealing the Presidency. And everything he's doing, everything, has no color
of law, is illegal, is illegitimate, is done in our names though not we, but
five tyrannical judges gave him the power that he is so tyrannically abusing.
If he had not stolen the Presidency we would have to accept it when he
and the Congress and their corporate paymasters abolish the estate
tax--abolish the tax that curbs, just a bit, the relentless tendency of
hereditary wealth to destroy democracy and economic justice--
But he did steal the Presidency, and when and if the Congress abolishes
the estate tax--or does any of the legions of other things akin to it that he
and the corporate lobbyists he admires are demanding--why, then, the hell we
will accept it. That will be just the action of a gaggle of thugs in our
house at night dressed up as hereditary aristocrats.
How, now, with a straight face, without provoking outcries of contempt,
can the man in the White House, trying perhaps to deal with some crisis of
order or rebellion here or abroad, invoke respect for the law having himself
stolen the Presidency?
He is no President of ours. Our Presidents in this free country are
only elected, they are never selected, never appointed. Only we elect our
Presidents and George W. Bush is not one of them.
I see from the signs among you that you know this next: Having seized
the awesome power of the Presidency to which he is not entitled, he uses that
power only as a tyrant. He feigns law-abidingness as did the tyrant
Peisistratus in sixth-century B.C. Athens, who won over the lawgiver Solon by
"shows of obedience" to Solon's laws except, of course, to the one against
tyranny. Although the President of the United States has absolute power only
in some momentous areas, such as control of our foreign policy and the use of
our military might, including our hydrogen bombs, Bush, having seized the
office, fairly well fits the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a
tyrant, "One who seizes upon the sovereign power in a state without legal
right; an absolute ruler; a usurper."
Looking back we should, and at least some of us will, label this four
years of the Bush illegitimacy as the Lawless Years, the Tyranny in American
history, the Tyrannical Interlude.
We trust that George the Second will not be succeeded by George the
Third--throwing us right back where we were in 1775--because we are men and
women and students on fire with controlled anger and we refuse to consent.
We refuse to cooperate.
We refuse to accept.
We reject the Bush Presidency totally, altogether, in every
particular--we will not forgive the theft it rests on, we will not forget
that all its acts are "not in accordance with, or authorized by, law," and we
will work to turn back on these four years and all the preparatory associated
betrayals of the people's good since the early 1970's and cancel the damage
to the extent we can.
One idea for something that can be done now to limit that damage--an
idea from Professor Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School--is a firm resolve among the
Senate Democrats to confirm none--none--of Bush's Supreme Court nominations,
just letting the high court drop low to seven justices, or six, leaving those
remaining to ruminate on the trust which their institution has forfeited.
The Senate Democratic leaders shy, of course, from this, as from any bold
idea, but Professor Ackerman has proposed an appropriate remedy.
The Constitution permits impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors.
Seizing the Presidency ranks among the highest crimes ever committed in the
United States. Bush should be impeached, but it's not going to happen in
such a Congress as this one.
A milder, but equally effective remedy is available, however, for the
crime committed by Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and O'Connor. Scalia
told us all about Article II of the Constitution, that the people don't have
the right to elect the President, but he failed to tell us about Article III.
Article III provides that "the judges, both of the Supreme Court and the
inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior." The five
judges who stopped the election and chose the President they preferred should
be removed under this clause in Article III. Resolutions should be
introduced in Congress to remove them; perhaps we will elect a President and
Senate who will throw out as many of the five as still dare to sit up there
Obviously this is a time, these are four years, when we citizens must
stand forth as citizens. How about some citizens' indictments? For purposes
of discussion, I propose that we draw up and inscribe our names en masse, on
the Internet, to a citizens' indictment of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney,
James Baker III, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, William Rehnquist, Antonin
Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy for the
high crime of acting together to steal the people's right to elect the
Democracy without the people controlling the counting of their own votes
is no democracy. Yet it goes unremarked in American elections that in most
of the precincts of the country the votecounting is done invisibly in
computers. Computers are not adding machines, they are machines that obey
orders. Computer votecounting codes are prepared by computer programmers in
the pay of the private election-business companies, which jealously guard the
codes as "trade secrets." Elections can be stolen by the computer
programmers, for themselves or for their companies, without leaving a trace.
Democracy itself has been privatized--that is, corporatized--and our
elections are subject to the tyranny of machines that conceal the counting of
our votes from us. As votecounting specialist Dr. Rebecca Mercuri wrote
recently, "a government that is by the machines, of the machines, and for the
machines can scarcely be called a democracy."
To get our country back into our possession I believe that we should
count our own votes again with our own hands and eyes in our own precincts on
election night across the country--we are dumb to trust the election
corporations' computerized systems, run by often computer-illiterate local
election officials relying heavily on assistance from the companies, to count
our votes in secret.
I believe, and challenge you to consider deep in your soul and in your
body, that we should now go into nonviolent rebellion against the theft of
our democracy last December in all its forms and manifestations--
And that the first step in this revolt is to agree that we will not call
Don't Call Him President.
Although I am fond of the idea of calling him George the Second, most
people will probably feel better just calling him Governor Bush. That's OK.
It's civil, and acknowledges he was a governor.
But can we agree never, in any context, written, spoken, or even in our
thoughts, to call him President Bush unless and until we elect him? In all
our references to him let's call him, civilly but noncooperatively, Governor
Bush. Let's write letters challenging reporters and TV for calling him
President. Let's amiably, but seriously tweak our friends over a cup of
coffee or at dinner if they call him President.
This is one unmistakable symbolic way we can nod to each other across
political parties, recognize each other across colors, and join together
across this beautiful continent as the free Americans who will not accept an
appointed President of the United States.
Second, how about a Back to Texas Movement? Bush and Cheney, Back to
Texas. Rove, Armey, and Delay, too-Back to Texas.
We should refuse to acknowledge the authority of any judge whom Governor
Bush appoints and the Senate confirms. Every federal judge he appoints is
illegitimate, whether confirmed or not, and can have no lawful authority to
sit in judgment looking down on us from those high federal benches. On the
door of any judge Governor Bush gets confirmed should appear the word,
"Illegitimate." And when we get a President and a Congress with the courage
to do right by the United States every one of them, including especially any
of his people who may make it onto the Supreme Court, should be impeached as
unlawfully appointed by an unlawfully appointed President. When you steal
our country, "Let bygones be bygones" is out, and out for life.
Unless the Democrats in Congress stand tough against the illegitimate
President all of us must demand to know, Why not? One main reason the
American Republic is in terminal trouble is the fact that most of the
officeholders of the Democratic Party, up at this level, have sold their
souls to the major corporations and the very rich. Now our collective civic
disaster has gone far beyond the tumults of party politics. This is the
country we love and would die for and millions of our fellow citizens have.
We must, I believe, ask Al Gore, too, why, when the Supreme Court announced
that it had stolen the Presidency from him by a 5 to 4 vote, he said that he
accepted it. This was his moment as a leader to say, "No--this is our
country--we love it--you cannot have it--I am not the issue here, the United
States is, and your decision is judicial tyranny." I believe Gore has to get
right on this if he wants to continue to lead.
When the world's superpower ceases to be democratic it's the world's
business, too. We should get together into a movement in order to invite a
small group of distinguished former officials abroad, comparable in stature
to our former President Jimmy Carter, to form a small international
commission to investigate the 2000 presidential election--the outrages
against African-American voters in Florida, the standing of an election when
the Supreme Court aborts the votecounting, what we Americans are supposed to
do about the fact that the President of our country was appointed by five
judges who preferred his election, how we have come to let private
corporations take over our votecounting and do it secretly, invisibly, in
Governor Bush's people become indignant when the United States gets
thrown off the UN body on human rights--as if his seizing the most powerful
and the most dangerous office and military in the world leaves our government
with the same standing we had before that happened, in the eyes of democratic
civilization. --As if when the people in the rest of the world, told that
he, himself, has decided that we will violate the ABM ballistic missiles
treaty and the Kyoto treaty on global warming, should meekly accept this
world-convulsing tyranny with what Governor Bush calls civility.
We citizens fighting to save our country not only from injustice,
but now from illegitimate injustice, should demand that the Senate ratify the treaty
establishing the proposed international criminal court not despite the fact
that some Americans might get indicted, but because they might.
Finally, it is time, oh, it is time, for us to form now, among all our
organizations, with all the sad, drifting citizens looking for hope for our
country--it is time for us to form one national people's movement,
independent of any political party, the Independent Allies, to demand and
fight, for example, for--
Public funding of our elections.
Single-payer national health insurance.
The restoration of the corporate taxation system and the
progressivity of the income tax, replacing the Social Security payroll tax with the increased
Limits on the size of corporations, the cancellation of their alleged
"personhood" and their alleged personal constitutional rights, a stiff
criminal law taking them completely out of our politics, and the confirmation
of their original nature as our artificial creations totally answerable to
and totally subordinate to democracy.
Limits on personal wealth, and a guaranteed annual family income.
Free education as high as any student can make the grades.
First-home building subsidies and the opening of some public lands as
trust lands for homesteading to redeem the American dream of a home for every
Equal rights and equal pay for women.
A living wage by law for every working person.
Repeal of the Taft-Hartley law and criminal prosecution of corporations
that bedevil union organizers.
That's just for starters.
And it is far past time that such a new national people's movement
should link up with the citizens' movements abroad that are in nonviolent rebellion
against the corporatization of human life, to work together worldwide for
such attainable goals as--
Clean energy, wind and solar, and the as-rapid-as-possible phasing down
and out of oil, coal, and nuclear power.
For international trade for people and the environment everywhere, not
just for the rampaging transnational corporations.
And for world citizenship, and an international democracy with a
constitution worthy of the human race.
None of this can we get just because our government has been stolen.
Some of this we can get fairly soon only if we rebel and organize and
mobilize, as independent allies for communication, education, and action, in
coalitions of coalitions, and then in one confederal, interacting coalition
of independent organizations, all together.
Let's start with a bumper-sticker rebellion.
Don't Call Him President.
Governor Bush/Is Not the President.
The Supreme Court/Is Not Supreme.
Bush and Cheney-Back to Texas!
Much of the work of building the movement is not high-profile--it's
demonstrating, registering voters, teaching people about instant runoff
voting and proportional representation, marching and rallying as we are
today, confronting our representatives, getting out the vote--it's day-in,
More and more of us will move gravely into nonviolent civil
disobedience, too, as history requires--direct civil revolt--risking ourselves, peacefully
putting our bodies where our patriotism is, facing handcuffs, locked doors,
frozen faces, tear gas, police phalanxes.
The time has probably come to quit going where they go, Seattle,
Washington, Davos, Quebec City, Qatar--and to go where we want to go to do
what we want to do. To mobilize and to go meet in small numbers and large,
to act for and plan the society we want and organize to get it.
Whatever we do, let's do it nonviolently. Only nonviolently.
Let's have a rule among all the people we agree to work with that we are
against violence against persons and will not enter into coalition or
cooperate with anyone who reserves the right to engage in any kind of
At Seattle, the only people who committed violence against people were
the police. But at Washington last year, as policemen charged crowds on
horseback and idly knocked over young people armlocked together blocking
streets, demonstrators threw rocks and other objects at police--I saw them do
it. At Quebec City last month, the police gassed the protesters, and people
from the Alliance saw some in the crowd throw rocks and other heavy objects
at the police.
Learning from Gandhi and King, if the police attack us we will not
respond physically--we will not oppose them--we will not touch them.
Violence against people? No. Violence against the police? No.
Violence against property? No.
You won't pledge not to be violent? Then you're off on your own.
Learning since Seattle that the municipal police forces in major U.S.
cities and in Canada are trying to repeal the freedom of assembly, we will
assemble when and where we wish in crowds as large as we wish--always
nonviolently, anti-violently--and we will morally overpower the marching,
militarized, pepper-gas-firing police by the simple fact that we are the
We need the leader for all this. God, we all know, we need her or him.
We don't have this yet.
So I have a proposal.
Let's bring back Martin Luther King.
Let's join our African-American brothers and sisters in their just call
for reparations for slavery. Slaves worked to build this nation. They
helped build this Capitol in front of you. They hoisted Lady Liberty up to
the top of that dome. For this their pay rate was $5 a day. The United
States government cut the checks for their work not to them, but to their
Let's go with the slaves' descendants and with every other oppressed
group to renew, to revive, Dr. King's great project, which he was raising
money for just before he was murdered, to have a vast encampment for peace
and economic justice in Washington, to end poverty, and stop the Vietnam war.
It was bad then, people in poverty, blood in the streets, people
dying on TV every night. But it's bad now--we know the world's great misery is within
our reach to ease--the corporate oligarchy has stolen our government from
us--and they are blowing up the ABM and Kyoto treaties and reaching to
control the world from space.
We are not going to just stand quiet for this.
We are, after all, Americans.
Let us declare ourselves, here and now together, the Democracy and
We are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are Greens, we are
we are progressives, conservatives, populists, moderates, libertarians,
everyday Americans, we are whites, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans,
Asian-Americans, men, women, workers, students, we are straight, gay, bi, and
God knows what else, and what we are all is free, standing whole in the same
dignity, self-respect, and power of being persons, just as our forebears did
when they launched the American Revolution.
We are patriots--we are patriots--we all want to be just, we all want to
participate in governing our own town and our city and our country and our
world, and we will not be cooperative and obedient as usurpers make over the
United States into dominator of the world.
Let's pay more heed to the likes of Scalia, William Buckley, Tom Delay,
and George Will when they instruct us that the American Republic is no
democracy and we should be grateful for the chance to serve our betters.
Through the past two centuries by our many struggles we have been
realizing the promise of the American Revolution, step by step. We have
added, to the Republic, with one citizens' uprising and movement after
another, freedom from slavery (though not yet from penury) for blacks--the
legal right to form labor unions--an effective revulsion and rebellion
against an unjust war that we were waging smack dab in the middle of that
war--the vote and legal equality for blacks and women--equal treatment for
But our persecuted labor unions are still ravaged by laws written
for the corporations that are now exporting our industries and raging out of control
all over the world, and the disparities of wealth and poverty among us, and
between us and the rest of the human race, are becoming morally unbearable.
If Bill Gates stopped to pick up $100 bills all over the street, he'd
lose money. The assets of the 450 billionaires in the world are equal to
the assets of half of humanity. Two billion people have no toilets, and no
schools, but they do have anemia. The sales of the 200 largest corporations
are 18 times the combined annual income of the 1,200,000,000 people, one in
every four of us on earth, who live in absolute poverty on $1, or less, a day.
Perhaps finally now, taking all this and the theft of the Presidency
into account, we have to square our shoulders a bit and just let the old American
Republic go, they've ruptured it, so let's just let it go, and get about the
work of forming, how we don't yet know, but together, and sooner, not later,
a new American democracy,--
--wherein we accept each other in deepest equality,
--where everybody's vote is counted and every material body of
opinion is represented proportionally in the government,
--where our President is the one who gets the most votes,
--where the members of the Supreme Court must stand in a contested
election every eight years,
--where the fairness of democracy has come to mean, also, a democratic
distribution of the goods and services that everyone has a right to in order
to have a fair chance to realize his or her best self.
Let's come together here in Washington--next fall?--next spring?--let's
decide when and how together--and occupy the place, after all it's ours, and
stop the government. Just stop it. Make the Capital the epicenter of a
national nonviolent revolt, for full citizenship for the citizens of the
District and full citizenship for us all. Stop the crimes against democracy
here in the Capitol, and over there at the White House, and over there at the
Supreme Court, stop them just by being here, peacefully, eloquently,
honoring, remembering, and reciting from, Martin Luther King. An encampment,
speaking out, picnics, singing, dancing, sleeping on the grass! And, when
we're ready, we'll start things up again as the New American Democracy--the
American Revolution--Democracy, and Justice--at last more nearly realized
And then, we whisper, to each other, and to ourselves,
The New American Democracy.
To communicate with Dugger or for further information about the Alliance for Democracy, email him at email@example.com.
Afternote: In this speech Dugger was expressing his own opinions and was not
speaking for an organization. He wishes to thank, for ideas which one way or
another are included in this speech, Marcus Raskin of the Institute for
Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., Professor Steve Russell of San Antonio,
TX., Nick Seidita, Northridge, Ca., and colleagues of Dugger's on the Council
of the Alliance, especially Ted Dooley, St. Paul, Minn.; Nancy Price, Davis,
Ca.; Sue Wheaton, Tacoma Park, Md.; Stefanie Miller, Indianapolis, Ind.;
Vikki Savee, Sacramento, Ca.; and Dolly Arond, Northridge, Ca.