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The Cost of Living
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A United Front To Mobilize Millions For Democracy on January 20
For several years thousands of Black people and our allies braved the bitter January cold to rally in Washington, DC, under the leadership of Congressperson John Conyers and Stevie Wonder, to fight to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. But what good is it to have a Martin Luther King Holiday when this nation is trampling on King's legacy, including the hard won Voting Rights Act of 1965? What we have witnessed is the massive disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida and across the nation and the hijacking of the presidency with the sanction of the highest court in the land. In recent years, the “million march” phenomenon has become quite faddish. But if there was ever a time for a million people's march, the time is now. Black civil rights/human rights, political, civic, labor and religious organizations, and grassroots groups need to launch a unified effort to mobilize millions for democracy. January 20, 2001, Inauguration Day, should be a Day of Resistance.
As Manning Marable noted in a recent television interview, there is a straight line between the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision which declared that “the Negro has no rights that white men are bound to respect”; Plessy vs Fergusion in 1896 which was the judicial capstone of the Post Reconstruction era (which began with the infamous compromise/betrayal of 1876); and the events of the presidential election of 2000 where countless thousands of Black voters have been disenfranchised. By a vote of 5 to 4, with Justice Thomas voting with the wrong side again (what a historical irony), the conservative majority on the Supreme Court used “strict constructionist,” bureaucratic and technical interpretations of the U.S. Constitution to overrule the Florida Supreme Court's decision ordering a manual recount in several counties in Florida. Many of these counties have heavy concentrations of African American, Haitian, and Hispanic voters. By ordering a halt to the recount, in effect, the Supreme Court of the United States spat in the face of millions of Black voters who had mobilized massively to promote and defend their interests and aspirations through the electoral process.
On November 7, Black folks marched on ballot boxes in record numbers, nearly 90 percent in Miami Dade County in Florida, to fend off what they perceived to be the dangers of a Bush administration. Black voters were not as much enamored with Al Gore as they were determined that the right-wing counter attack and white backlash against the progress of the civil rights movement, as represented by forces behind George W. Bush, would be blocked from capturing the highest office in the land. Black voters, along with their allies in labor and other liberal-progressive constituencies succeeded in that quest only to have victory snatched from their hands.
Though election irregularities in Florida and across the nation were widespread, the most egregious violation was the thousands of Blacks who did manage to cast ballots only to have them thrown out by voting machines. This problem was aggravated by the disproportionate locating of antiquated voting machines in predominantly Black precincts in Florida. Hence, huge numbers of ballots with valid votes for President and other offices were not counted. These are the ballots that constitute the “undercount” which would have been rectified by the manual recount halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of the United States, as it has in the past, aided, abetted, and sanctioned the disenfranchisement of Black voters. By refusing to respect what is supposed to be the most fundamental right in the American democratic system, the right of citizens to vote and have their ballots counted, the highest court in the land altered the outcome of the election. The disenfranchisement of Black voters has produced an illegitimate president in the person of George W. Bush. It is an outcome that African Americans and all proponents of authentic democracy must reject.
As in the past, the systems of government have failed Africans in America, leaving us no alternative but to take to the streets to express our outrage and opposition to the coronation of an illicit regime and to put forth an agenda for genuine democracy and social, economic, and racial justice. The disrespected, dispossessed, and disenfranchised— Black people and people of color—must be at the forefront of a massive mobilization to finish the unfinished democracy, to perfect the imperfect union, to move from “democracy for the few” to a new society where the will of the people reigns supreme. It's time for the second American Revolution.
There can be no place for egoism and organization turfism at this critical juncture in our history. We urgently need Black civil rights/human rights, political, religious, civic, and grassroots leaders to forge a “united front,” to gather up and galvanize the anger in Black America and the nation over the imposition of a fraudulent administration, to mobilize millions for democracy. On January 20 the nation and world must see true patriots and democrats in the streets of the nation's capital engaging in non-violent direct action, declaring our intent to become ungovernable in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence in pursuit of real democracy. In the words of Malcolm X, it must be “freedom for everybody or freedom for nobody.” Z
Ron Daniels is a veteran political activist and one-time candidate for preseident of the U.S. He is chair of the Campaign for a New Tomorrow and director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York. His weekly colum appears in over 100 African American and progressive newspapers.