Sunday, October 17, 2010

ARCHIVES: Voter Rights March, May 19, 2001, Speech by Michael Rectenwald, Citizens for Legitimate Government


Thank you. And thank you, Louis and the Voter March organization, for allowing me to speak today on behalf of Citizens for Legitimate Government.

“Election” 2000, in Historical ContextI have been asked why our group is called "Citizens For Legitimate Government." “Isn't the government already legitimate?" enquiring minds, most of them Republican, want to know. The question led me to consider what makes a government legitimate in the first place. Legitimacy of government, I reasoned, is judged by the fit between the existing government and the declared principles of that government. To understand a nation’s principles, one would turn to its founding charter, its written laws, and its political history.
If one does this review, the short answer to the question becomes quite obvious. The U.S. government has been rendered illegitimate by its own standards, the standards of electoral democracy.

The standard of electoral democracy was eliminated when the vote counting for the Florida electorate was abandoned, and judges selected a president. Contrary to the Constitution, Dale Reynolds writes in his poem, “These Five Against Us All,”
[They] decided "Republic" meant Republican,
though conflicts of interest they hadn't disclosed
hadn't pre-empted the candidate they chose,
and outside journalists reported it was Bush by a nose.
Bush by 5 to 4, The United States Supreme Court said.
The standard for electoral democracy was eliminated when state officials and party operatives broke laws in key posts, spoiling the real electoral results. Reynolds continues, the Supreme Court “would not hear the protest of black Americans stopped outside the polls, / or stricken, curiously, from the voting rolls.”

The standard for electoral democracy was violated by the takeover of government by corporate interests--and we now have the epitome of that takeover in the white-collar criminal who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

In terms of the letter and the spirit of the law, then, our current government is illegitimate--its establishment runs contrary to our nation's constitution, which expresses our dearest principles of representative, democratic government, and equal rights.

Against these principles, we saw government officials, party operatives, and a federal judiciary, along with their media mouthpieces, use every means possible to suppress the truth of the voters' expressed will, and to install their own will in its stead. The list of these crimes is long, starting with an illegal purge of tens of thousands of voters, and ending with the Supreme Court Injustices, and I refer you to for the complete record.

The violation of voting rights in the millennial year brings back the long history of struggle for representation against oppression and vote suppression. A complete history might start with suffrage for propertied men in England and the Americas from the 15th century; continue with a centuries-long battle for lowered property requirements for adult male voters; go on to the eventual inclusion of most white working men by the late 19th century; detail the exclusion of African Americans from voting until the late 19th century, along with a series of reversals and victories thereafter, including the Civil Rights movement; entail the exclusion of women from the franchise until the early 20th century; and include the barriers of racial profiling, property ownership, voting tolls, and literacy requirements lasting well into the 20th century, especially in the southern states.

The long battle for voting rights brings us to Selection 2000, when the United States was driven far afield of its historical goal--universal adult suffrage. In the year 2000, we were set back to a fate worse than that of pre-1832 Britain, when, before the first Reform Bill, only thousands of propertied men out of millions of British subjects could vote. In 2000, we were reduced to having three white patriarchs, one token black male, and one white woman determine the outcome of a presidential election--by, as Dale Reynolds puts it, a “majority of one.”

The millennial election brings back the 1940s in Florida, when the votes of African Americans were called “little jokers." Made of tissue paper, these ballots fell apart and were thrown away by laughing vote-counters; the ballot was a "little joker" played on the African American "voter." In election 2000, over 180 thousand little jokers were dealt in Florida. At least 20,000 voters were purged in advance in a Jim Crow-like manner, never even making it to little joker status. Six million Floridian votes were thus rendered little jokers as well. One hundred million votes thus turned to little jokers. These were considered by a Supreme Court, whose Chief Justice laughed scornfully and dismissed as ludicrous the idea of counting all the little jokers--in Florida, or anywhere else for that matter! The whole idea of an election had been an expensive joke played on the country--the vote wasn't required at all, the Chief Justice scoffed, it was always already a little joker!

The Selection and its aftermath is a nightmare of history come back to haunt us, in new, monstrous proportions. Our little jokers cast, the punch line of the bad joke was delivered: GW Bush, that Big Joker's face and his policies mock our expressed will. Bush's policies are an extension of the antidemocratic grab for power by which he seized office. The litany of these policies is familiar by now, so I will not repeat it. But a few adjectives will do: anti-women, anti-labor, anti-worker safety, anti-affirmative action, anti-public-health, anti-public education, anti-separation-of-Church-and-State, anti-consumer, anti-child, anti-environment, anti-end-of-the-Cold-War, anti-human, anti-other-species; Polices that benefit only one species--that species of Big Business Animal that wrecks the habitats of other species, like Exxon-Mobil, who junks Global-warming science while raising the Global temperature. Bush raids the national treasury and the national forests for one group only: Big Business Owners. He throws a few crumbs to the reactionary religious ideologues that delivered their lambs for the slaughter.

In light of this fraudulent and dangerous outcome, we say "Nevermore." Nevermore can our votes be little jokers. Nevermore can we be purged from the voting rolls--under the guise of justice, under the pretense of “equal protection,” to “protect the interests” of the heir apparent!
At this point, what do we do? We say “Nevermore.” But when complicity is tantamount to treason, and the consequences are literally world threatening, true patriots must say, too, “NOT NOW, NOT EVER!” We must explore every avenue for exposing and prosecuting the election theft, and for countering the Bush Occupation. We must continue to protest Bush's every appearance. We must oppose his every executive act with activism. We must boycott Bush's contributors, starting with Exxon-Mobil, the biggest polluter in Texas, the second biggest energy industry GOP contributor, and the force driving US policy against the Kyoto Treaty. We must register voters, starting with our neighbors. We must vote into Congress representatives and senators expressly opposed to the Bush coup and Occupation. (This expressed opposition should be a litmus test for their election). We must call for investigations! We must work for impeachment! We must turn these jokers into wildcards to trump the kings. We must work to bring democracy to this stacked deck. We must work to bring down this precarious house of cards called the Bush presidency. We must undo the coup! That is what we must do.
Join us at or any of the other activist groups you find here -- join all Citizens for Legitimate Government, in our long haul quest to undo the coup, and redo democracy.

We must undo the coup!!

Thank you!!!

Michael Rectenwald, CLG

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