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Perhaps the most powerful moment in Michael Moore’s film "Fahrenheit 9-11" was the stony silence in the hall of the joint session of Congress as a line of African- American and other non-white representatives stood up and pleaded for just one senator to issue an official challenge to the Florida electoral college delegation and its vote in favor of candidate George Bush.
This Thursday, we are destined to have a repeat of that dramatic event.
Congressman John Conyers, (D-Michigan), the representative who has chaired hearings into the Republican-led efforts in Ohio to keep people from registering, to keep voters from voting, and to mess with the vote totals to keep the vote for Democrat John Kerry as low as possible-in short the "vote suppression" effort that was deliberately made over the course not just of election day but of the months leading up to the balloting–has vowed to challenge the state’s delegation to the Electoral College.
Under the Constitution, it requires only one representative and one senator to initiate a challenge, which would then mandate an official inquiry into the state’s election, and delay certification of the national presidential election results.
While it is unlikely, with a Congress firmly in the hands of the Republican Party, with the attorney general’s office packed with Bush appointees, and with the FBI run by Republican party hacks, that any serious effort would be made to find out what actually happened in Ohio, such an investigation would at least serve to embarrass Republican officials, and to undermine the ludicrous Bush claim of a mandate for his second term of office.
With so many leading Democrats in Congress and the Democratic National Committee falling over each other calling for a cave-in to Republicans on issues from abortion rights and prayer in schools to social security "reform" and foreign policy, it will be fascinating to see if this time around, somebody on the senate side has the guts to join Conyers in his call for a challenge to the Ohio delegation.
One big difference in the new Senate, which has a net five more Republicans than the last one, is that it has a new black senator, Democrat Barack Obama from Illinois. Obama has not made his views known about the Conyers’ call but he is sure to be at least respectful of this senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus. A number of other more liberal members of the Senate-including Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ), the latter eyeing a run for governor in New Jersey where Democratic candidates depend on heavy support in the state’s African-American communities–clearly embarrassed by their silence in the widely viewed Moore documentary, may also want to take a stand this time around.
Democrats, particularly in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and New Jersey, but also across the country, may want to send messages to these and other critical liberal senators (how about the loser himself, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts?), urging them to heed the call from their African-American colleagues from the House this time, instead of lamely sitting on their hands.
No doubt, thanks to Moore, there will be more than just a private filmmaker’s camera in the hall this time around, panning the Democratic senators in their seats. (Last time, the event didn’t even make the news, despite the public passion over the outcome of the Florida vote in 2000, which is what made Moore’s film sequence so striking.)
The 2004 efforts to suppress the Democratic vote, made in not just Ohio but in Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and many other states at the hands of the Republican Party and its elected officials in state and county offices across the country, are a scandal of epic proportions, reminiscent of the old days of Jim Crow in the South. Whether or not these schemes and frauds altered the outcome of this latest presidential race, they need to be exposed and ended.
A Congressional challenge and inquiry would be a great place to start.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org