Let’s Get This Show On the Road

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

The last time we had fun at a counter-Inaugural was when Nixon was sworn in, on January 20, 1973. As he launched his second term with the traditional piece of perjury about upholding the law, we all looked forward to four more years, but of course Nixon was gone in less than two, which proves yet again it’s always a mistake to lower one’s expectations.

No one has ever said that Nixon didn’t win the popular vote and the Electoral College fair and square in 1972. He came by his victory at the polls honestly enough, unlike George W. Bush, with his prime-time coup d’?tat. Watergate seeped out slowly over two years, amid just the same sort of cries from Republicans and most of the press for “closure” (i.e., letting Nixon off the hook) as we’ve just endured. There should be some formal, legally based venue now in which evidence about the stolen election can steadily pile up, day by day. For example: a story from the Orlando Sentinel, starts as follows: “An inspection of more than 6,000 discarded presidential ballots in Lake County on Monday revealed that Vice President Al Gore lost a net 130 votes that were clearly his even in a conservative, GOP bastion.”

What an opportunity for the radicals, the Greens, our crowd by any useful name! A stolen election, wrought by expedients so coarsely apparent that the only thing the respectable opinion-formers can do is avert their eyes and call for “closure.” And better yet, the Democratic Party is as eager as the Republicans to change the subject from the poll-rigging and abuse of minority rights in Florida.

We wish Ralph Nader had been, over the past few weeks, as vociferous as Jesse Jackson, who is now calling for a series of voter-registration rallies across the country, January 15?19, with the theme of “Count the Vote-Every Vote Counts.” Maybe we’ve missed them, but we’ve seen no reports of Nader holding rallies and press conferences to emphasize that the entire saga of the stolen election proves his fundamental point this year about the utter corruption of the two-party system.

(The Democrats, like other parties with more revolutionary pretensions than theirs, have made it consistent policy to imprison the party’s most loyal supporters. The prison and jail population in Clinton-time has ballooned to more than 2 million. Count how many lost votes that meant for the party last November 7.) We fear that Nader is stuck in a defensive posture, dealing with all those accusations that he spoiled things for Gore. Let’s just stipulate that he did, that he was correct in so doing and that now it’s time to move on and start setting our agenda for the next four years.


No one attacks the Democratic Leadership Council for denying Gore the presidency, though the gutless campaign run by two of its members, Gore and Lieberman, can in vast measure be ascribed to this same repellent council. And yet here’s the DLC hastening forward with the claim that Gore lost because he wasn’t enough of a DLC-er, had become a “populist” and betrayed the council’s pro-corporate posture. But hold! Wasn’t it the DLC’s strategy to win back the South with attacks on welfare and so forth? As we all know, the only Southern state Gore won was Florida, not because of the DLC but by reason of the usual progressive constituencies of blacks (or at least those who surmounted the fearsome obstacles of voting-while-black in Florida), Jews and snowbirds from the Rustbelt.

Nader should take comfort from the DLC’s chutzpah and start rallying and inspiring the green legions, who are eager to get on with things and who, to judge by the ones we’ve talked to, don’t feel in the least defensive in the face of charges that they sabotaged the Prince of Tennessee. The counter-Inaugural, for which outfits like the New York?based International Action Center are already busily organizing (www.iacenter.org), is obviously one opportunity, perhaps with some sort of conference either to coincide with it or to occur not long thereafter.

The conduct of the Supreme Court obviously offers another opportunity to underline the corruption of the judiciary, another theme we would assume to be dear to Nader’s heart. There’s a strong case to be made for the impeachment of both Justices Scalia and Thomas, on grounds of failure to recuse themselves even though family members were part of or close to the Bush campaign.

A legal action to remove Thomas from the Supreme Court bench on simple grounds of incompetence also surely has a future. Here’s a man who managed to get through two of the most momentous hearings in the history of the Court without asking a single question. On December 17 Courtland Milloy had a devastating piece in the Washington Post about Thomas’s ghastly performance in front of a group of high school students, recorded in a C-SPAN forum.

The encounter was the day after Thomas had voted with four other Justices to shut down the Florida count. “Thomas was asked why he rarely asks questions from the bench. ‘Oh, boy, that’s a good question,’ Thomas replied. His answer, however, was not good at all. ‘When I was 16,’ Thomas said, ‘I was sitting as the only black kid in my class, and I had grown up speaking a kind of dialect. It’s called Geechee. But some people call it Gullah now, and people praise it now. But they used to make fun of us back then. And the problem was that I would correct myself in mid-sentence. I was trying to speak standard English. I was thinking in standard English but speaking another language. So I learned that-I just started developing the habit of listening.’ Here was a grown man, a member of the highest court in the nation, telling students that he doesn’t ask questions because he got his feelings hurt back in high school.”

The kids were evidently unimpressed. “Justice Thomas,” one of them asked, “how does the Court handle a Justice that has become mentally incapable of serving the court?” “Hopefully, that doesn’t happen here,” Thomas replied. “But there are statutory provisions for that.”

Hear! Hear! CP

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

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