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Enclosed is a 650-word commentary timed to the presidential
inauguration, "Usurpation Day." The events mentioned all appeared in the
press, and I've put them together to show the pattern.
I recently completed two years as a Fulbright professor of English and American studies at universities in Germany, from where I voted absentee in Florida. My first novel, A World Of Hurt, won a Rinehart Foundation Award. My journalism has appeared in ratical, The Los Angeles Times, Midstream, Africana, Jewish Affairs, Die Welt, Central Asia Monitor, Filipinas, Turtle Island, Upscale, Co-Intelligence, Caucus For A New Political Science, Institute For Global Communications, Southern Communities, The Spectacle, and Across The Board and my literary work in The Dickinson Review, South Dakota Review, Philae, Many Mountains Moving, Tar River Poetry, Troubadour, New Works Review, Funnel, Amarillo Bay, Pig Iron, Broken Streets, Westnik, Oklahoma English Journal, Cicada, and Chrysalis.
By William T. Hathaway
After the pomp of the presidential inauguration, we should reflect on how George W. Bush achieved this office. Rather than winning the election, he seized power through a legalistic coup d'état. His team's political thuggery put him in the White House.
It began in Florida, the state governed by his brother and recognized as crucial to his victory. The first step was to reduce the number of likely Gore voters.
Before the election, state officials purged the voter lists to eliminate convicted criminals who had lost the right to vote. In the process they also removed the names of 4,000 legal voters, predominantly African-Americans. When they showed up at the polls, they were turned away. Officials termed it a computer glitch.
Some local authorities tried to intimidate African-American voters on election day. Police stopped many for identification checks. Highway patrol troopers set up an unauthorized roadblock between a polling place and a black neighborhood. At the polls, some minority voters were rejected because they couldn't show two forms of identification; only one form is required by law.
Many African-Americans who had signed up during voter registration drives went to the polls only to be told they couldn't vote because their names had somehow not made it onto the official list.
Boxes of ballots disappeared from polling places in minority areas.
In Palm Beach county a ballot with an illegal layout confused thousands of voters into punching the slot for a minor party candidate rather than for Gore.
Military absentee voters, more likely to vote for Bush, were sometimes sent multiple ballots.
Election supervisors illegally allowed Republican campaign workers to add missing voter ID numbers to several thousand Republican absentee ballots, but they threw out similarly incomplete Democratic and minor party absentees.
The poor districts in Florida have antiquated voting machines which failed to read 45,000 ballots. When local election boards tried to count these by hand, paid Republican demonstrators descended on them. Some created havoc outside, pounding on doors and windows, shouting through bullhorns. Others posed as observers inside and raised repeated objections that delayed the counting until the reporting date had past. Florida's secretary of state, who was George W. Bush's campaign co-chair, then refused to accept the revised vote totals because they were late.
At 2 a.m. after the election, when the Florida outcome was still too close to call, Fox News declared Bush the winner there. The major networks followed Fox's lead, and since a Florida victory would give him enough national electoral votes, they named him the next president. This created a public belief that Bush had won. The Fox News executive who made the premature call is Bush's first cousin, and the two men spoke on the phone during election day.
The assault on democracy had its final triumph in the US Supreme Court, where the Republican majority prevented further counting by enforcing a deadline that the law itself says is flexible. Two of these justices have family members working for organizations involved in the Bush campaign, but they didn't step aside because of this conflict of interest.
Due to this broad-based coup, Bush took Florida by 537 votes and assumed the presidency against the national popular vote.
Not all these actions were organized from the top. Many came from local zealots going overboard to please their governor. But taken together they show that when winning becomes more important than ethics, democracy perishes.
Journalists have gained access to the 45,000 unread ballots under Florida's freedom-of-information law and are currently counting them with bipartisan observers. Gore is leading and appears to be the actual winner. But now it's too late. Bush's tactics succeeded.
We must not forget this. But most of us already have because it's too painful. Depressed by powerlessness, we tuned out and just wanted the ordeal to be over. But it's not over. It's just beginning.
The Bush operatives who stole the election are now running our country.