The following is excerpted from a People’s Weekly World editorial on the Dec. 12, 2000, Supreme Court decision re: Bush v. Gore, which started on page one of that edition. As we head into the 2008 presidential elections, we reprint it here to commemorate the seventh anniversary of a “very American coup.”
It didn’t come at the point of a gun. It didn’t come with jack-booted soldiers. It came in lawyers’ suits and justices’ robes. The will of the people may never be known, as the hero of the court, Justice Stevens wrote, but the identity of the loser is perfectly clear.
The American people lost. Democracy was subverted.
It was subverted, as always, by a small grouping of right-wing extremists who knew they couldn’t win the old-fashioned way — by the majority votes of the American people. It came in distorted arguments, confusing the issue, focusing on technical details to make people’s eyes glaze over. Equal protection from hanging chads, they claimed, while the real issues of voting rights were denied.
Voting rights has a long history of struggle in this country. Justice Scalia was right on one thing: Voting rights were not enshrined in the original Constitution. They were fought for. People died for the right.
The original voters were propertied white men, not working-class or poor white men. Only property owners could vote. At that time, some people were property.
Bit by bit, struggle by struggle, it took long years of battles for the rights of workers, women, Blacks and all minorities to win the right to vote. It took struggle and unity of all the disenfranchised to win these rights.
So with some paper and ink, the ideological right-wing majority on the Supreme Court wrote an opinion that seeks to send us back 150 years. As Rev. Joseph Lowery, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, told the Dec. 13, 2000, Tallahassee demonstration, when he likened this ruling to the Dred Scott decision. That was a decision that “went down in infamy,” Lowery said, and this ruling will, too.
The American people won’t let this decision stand. The American people will look back at this election and post-election days as a new moment in the struggle for democracy. It will become clearer which forces stand for democracy and its expansion and which forces stand for subversion and reaction.
No mandate, no honeymoon! People won’t accept cavorting with thieves and liars. George W. Bush may set an agenda to undo Social Security, public education, labor, voting, civil and women’s rights, but people won’t relinquish them.
With the New Year, new Congress and a newly-installed administration there will be new and bigger struggles, with a new kind of multiracial labor and people’s coalition emerging. With this, a historic negative can be turned into a historic positive.
A coup has occurred. The majority-will has been subverted. It was done with right-wing spin doctors, lawyers and judges. It was done with fraud and corruption, racism, anti-Semitism and intimidation. It was a very American coup.