I just now finished watching the HBO movie Recount. It awoke some old anger.
In 2000, I was in my mid-20s and not yet fully cynical. Maybe I was naive at the time, but I assumed that American democracy was a real thing. I had been apolitical up to that point in my life. The 2000 election was the first time I voted.
I should add that my anger had nothing to do with Gore losing, as I didn’t vote for Gore. Instead, I voted for Nader because he was the first politician I ever felt wasn’t lying to me (and don’t get me started with the bullshit scapegoating of Nader). Some of my anger in response to the movie was how easy it let Gore off the hook for his having given up the fight. Bush didn’t win. Rather, Gore conceded. He put ‘nation’ before party. But whose nation was it that trumped democracy? It obviously wasn’t the nation of “We the People”.
I couldn’t care less about Gore. What I cared about then and what I care about now is democracy. The movie barely touched upon the issue of the voter purge, one of the greatest civil rights infringements in modern American history. Democracy failed or rather we failed democracy. I still remain unconvinced that our country has recovered from that failure or ever will recover. Democracy is more easily destroyed than rebuilt.
But maybe that is a good thing. There is power in losing hope. It is only when we lose hope in the system that we can seek a justice that is greater than the system, that we can seek a new and better system. Our democracy was already broken or else the 2000 fiasco never could have happened. The recent Princeton study adds further proof that we no longer live in a democracy, assuming we ever did. If we can collectively acknowledge this, then and only then we could move toward creating an actual democracy.
It is only in losing false hope that we can gain a something more genuine. We don’t need hope. What we need is a righteous demand for justice. Democracy won’t be given to us. We the people must take it. Democracy isn’t the power of the vote. Etymologically and fundamentally, democracy is power of the people.
That realization should be taken very seriously. Power is something that only exists in its being used. Imagine if we were to take back our power from politicians and from Washington. Imagine if we let outrage move us to action. Anything would be possible, even democracy.
7 thoughts on “Failed Democracy and the Demand for Justice”
You know, it begs the question, what might have the US looked like had Gore won?
Certainly, it would be a more “green” nation perhaps, one that made serious efforts to address the global warming crisis.
I would have expected that a more measured response would have occurred hat the 9-11 attacks occurred (and with greater competence in the intelligence community it may very well have done so).
Gore never “invented” the Internet. But he did play an important role in pushing government funding towards it. I suspect that the US would be in a better position technologically today and in terms of science education.
Drawbacks – he’s into neoliberal economics. He may very well have kept the Clinton surplus rather than invest it in social programs. On the upside, the Bush wealthy tax cuts probably would not have happened under Gore.
I guess the key takeaway is that there’s no perfect candidate. There are even things I disagree with Nader about. But Gore is unquestionably a better man than Bush and perhaps would have played a role in setting the US towards the right direction.
Even though I didn’t vote for Gore, I’d rather he have won than Bush.
Those who did vote for Gore should be angry at Gore for giving up the fight for democracy and conceding to the theft of the presidency. Those people supported Gore when Gore ended up not supporting them. He threw away all their votes, as if the American citizens meant nothing to him. If the candidate I voted for did that, I’d be protesting in the streets rather than scapegoating someone else.
Simple accounting of the votes shows that Nader didn’t cause Gore to lose. Not even Bush caused gore to lose. In fact, according to a full recount, Gore won or would have won, if he had been willing to fight for democracy. Gore has no one else to blame but himself for his loss.
I always wonder what deal he was promised behind the scenes in order to give up that fight. What was he given that was worth more than the presidency, worth more than democracy itself?
We can guess at what kind of leader he might have been based on his policies as Vice President and before.
I’d recommend reading his books, the Assault on Reason and his works on global warming. He seemed like he would have been like Obama, only a more effective leader, more committed to the causes he believed in, and probably with a far less militaristic foreign policy.
There are two things I’d bring up.
First, the national election process is so controlled by an elite that only established professional politicians are capable of getting nominated as viable candidates for president. For someone to become a professional politician, they have to be willing to play the game of power and money. And they can never seriously threaten the status quo.
Gore, for certain, is a professional politician and seemingly of a more or less standard variety. What that might have meant if he had been president is an unknown. He probably would have been a moderate president, neither great nor horrible. It might have been a forgettable presidency, but that would have been better than Bush’s memorable presidency.
One doesn’t need conpiracy theories to explain Gore’s backing down from a political fight that he would have won, if he had been willing to push the issue. He had the presidency in his grasp and he let it go. A simple reason would be that he is first and foremost a professional politician. I doubt he was actually putting nation first. Rather, he was likely just putting his career first. For him to have pushed the issue, it might have been political suicide. His career was more important tha the fight for democracy. Gore is a creature of Washington and he plays by the rules of Washington, corrupt as they are.
Second, I’ve increasingly come to doubt presidents these days have much real power, even if they would like to be able to use power to force change. They are surrounded by handlers who are party loyalists. A president is probably the most manipulated person in the country. The last president who was a genuine political player was probably Bush Sr who had close ties with the CIA and so had his own sources of insider information.
I have suspicions that the president has become a figurehead position. The real power is hidden behind the scenes. If you want to find those holding the strings, you’d need to look at the high political positions, from advizors to generals, that remain unchanging across administrations.
Still, I do wonder what a difference it might have made for someone like Gore to have been president when the 9/11 attacks happened. It’s nice to think a different respone was possible in this political system a it is, but that is far from certain.
“Second, I’ve increasingly come to doubt presidents these days have much real power, even if they would like to be able to use power to force change. ”
They don’t. The very wealthy are in control. Whoever has the most money is in control. That’s why people like the Koch brothers have so much power.
For what it’s worth, Gore did briefly mention this in his book. That is not to say that he would not have perpetuated the status quo though. We will never know what a Gore presidency may have looked like – we can on speculate. At best, we could have hoped for someone like Russ Feingold, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren. At worst, probably something like Obama. I think that the most likely is something in between.