August 2nd, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

If Gore Had Been as Smart as He Thought He Was

While I'm willing to give the 2004 election the benefit of the doubt, even though I know that there are experts who don't, one thing of which I am absolutely certain is this. If every vote had been counted in the 2000 election, George Bush wouldn't have been able to run for re-election in 2004, because he would have been running (if he were running at all) against the incumbent president, the real president-elect in 2000, Al Gore. Even with extensive fraud and a tame Supreme Court, Bush was only barely able to eke out the narrowest of "wins," though, for three reasons. First of all, Al Gore always knows that he's the Smartest Man in the Room. Secondly, he has never, ever been able to hide this smug certitude for even 5 minutes at a stretch. And, as events in Mexico are serving to remind us right now, he's of (at best) average intelligence. If you want to see a candidate who's unmistakably smarter than Al Gore was, take a good, close look at the real president-elect of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador.

The first thing that he's doing right that Al Gore did wrong is that he's being deadly serious about refusing to shut up until the courts investigate every allegation of fraudulent ballot box stuffing, legal ballots that weren't counted, illegal voter intimidation, the right-wing party having had illegal access to the voter lists, and people having been illegally denied the right to vote based on fraudulent claims that they weren't eligible to vote. If those allegations sound familiar, they ought to. As Greg Palast of the The Guardian has been documenting for the last month, based on in-person reporting from the scene, the (then ruling) party whose right-wing candidate was backed by George Bush, the current temporarily so-called president-elect Felipe Calderon, hired the exact same firm that handled the blatantly fraudulent election process in the US in so many places in 2000, ChoicePoint, to handle the voter registration lists. In Mexico in 2006, as in the US in 2000, certain right-wingers are taking no chance on the voters electing someone "unsuitable."

But he's doing two other really big things right that Al Gore did wrong, too. The second thing he's doing right is that his demand is simple: count every vote. It's easy to understand. The justice of it is indisputable. He is clearly not trying to game the system to his advantage, the way that Gore's lawyers stupidly did in 2000 by asking for a selective recount that looked dishonest, wasn't supported by law, and as if that weren't bad enough, wouldn't have done him any good anyway. Well, President-elect Lopez-Obrador isn't making that stupid mistake. His message is simple, clear, unambiguous, and impossible to argue with: count every vote. Even that won't root all all the election fraud, but he doesn't need it to; even with every dirty trick the National Action Party pulled, they (like Bush in 2000) only barely managed to steal a squeaker. The first time human judges look at the so-called "blank" ballots and realize that virtually every ballot that was thrown out as "unreadable" is a vote for Lopez-Obrador, which is clearly what the exit polls show (there as it was here in 2000), he can settle the issues of ballot-box stuffing and voter intimidation and so forth after he's sworn in.

The third thing that he's doing right is that he's not just relying on lawyers. In Mexico as in the US, an election victory handed to you by lawyers looks hollow and technical and whiffs vaguely of trickiness. So instead, Lopez-Obrador has invited everybody in Mexico who thinks that the votes need to be manually recounted to come to Mexico City and peacefully wait in the streets for it. There are so many people clogging the capital city that they look like a majority, all by their lonesomes ... and oddly, there are no matching counter-demonstrations of people who think that Calderon won fair and square, which is what you'd expect if he actually won the election now, isn't it? No violence, no threats, no attempt to seize power -- just a lot of peaceful people, peacefully waiting for an honest vote count, so many peaceful people that the country is grinding to a standstill.

When I imagine how much better it would have been if Al Gore had been half the man, and half the brain, that Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador is, if he'd stuck to a demand that every vote be counted, saved his lawyering for sincere efforts to subpoena ChoicePoint and other voter-intimidation firms, and called on those of us who thought that the Republicans were stealing an election they couldn't win at the ballot boxes to come to Washington and wait, patiently, for the court to order the ballots counted, and to refuse to leave until we got it, what a beautiful world it would be.