‘Street heat’ still key in recall fight

With each passing day, the Republican effort to recall California’s Gov. Gray Davis looks and smells like the GOP’s “bloodless coup” in Florida during the 2000 presidential election. There is even an echo in California of Florida’s fight over “dimples” and “dangling chads.”

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Oct. 7 recall election must be postponed because punch card ballots in six counties would disenfranchise 40,000 California voters, disproportionately African American, Latino, and other people of color. Denying 90,000 Blacks and Latinos their voting rights was at the heart of the “Battle of Florida.”

The California judges deftly used the language of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 Bush v. Gore decision – the ruling that put Bush in office – to uphold the principle that use of punch card ballots would violate the “equal protection” clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But it was also clear that the people learned some bitter lessons in Florida. Al Gore vetoed marches, rallies and other forms of “street heat” in the crucial days after the Nov. 7, 2000, election. He proclaimed his faith that legal tactics were enough, that the courts would order Florida to “count every vote.” Thousands marched anyway, but the turnout could have been a hundred times greater. It might have been enough to send George W. Bush back to the Texas Rangers.

Contrast that to California, where the AFL-CIO and the African American and Latino communities hailed the judges’ order, yet continue to mobilize overflow mass rallies against the recall. They are fully prepared for, even expect, the Supreme Court to reverse this historic ruling. At the same time, “street heat” is exerting pressure to let it stand. This reaffirms an old principle: it takes mass struggle to bring about democratic change.

People in the Golden State now sense victory in the air. If this recall is defeated, it will send a powerful message that we can “show Bush the door in 2004.”

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Seasonal thoughts

Sept. 23 marks the official start of fall – the autumn equinox, when day and night are of equal length. Already, we’re noticing the temperature getting cooler and the days getting shorter. For many of us, it’s now dark when we get up for work or school. For those who work days, the earlier darkness in the afternoon may make us feel like we’re spending our entire lives at work.

The cooler days and earlier sunsets highlight in their own way the natural beauty of our country – its varied richness of mountains, forests, deserts, plains and shores. And fall is a time to enjoy the new crop of crisp apples, golden pumpkins and other fall crops from our nation’s farms.

But the farm workers who pick our crops, small and family farmers here and around the world, and the wholesomeness of the food we eat are all under attack from powerful agribusiness corporations, whose best friend is George W. Bush. The New York Times reported this week that U.S. agribusiness, which profits from huge subsidies by American taxpayers, “has shifted its allegiance to the Republican Party.” The Times says, “Political contributions from agribusiness have jumped to $53 million in 2002 from $37 million in 1992, with the Republicans’ share rising to 72 percent from 56 percent.”

And the Bush administration is waging all-out war on our precious natural environment – including our national parks, forests and protected wilderness areas, the water we drink and the air we breathe. This summer, the League of Conservation Voters gave Bush an “F” for his administration’s record – the first time the group has given a president a failing grade. Said LCV President Deb Callahan, “Bush’s record is dominated by one clear and disturbing fact: On issue after issue, his administration has favored the narrow financial interests of large corporations and polluters over the public’s interest in a healthy environment.”

Fall is a good time to enjoy nature and the seasonal harvest. But we can’t take them for granted.