What Election Challenge Means

Jan. 6, 2005

Thirty-three Members of the US House of Representatives, and one all-important Senator — one more than four years ago — voted not to accept Ohio’s 20 electoral votes for George Bush.

The votes were 33 to 260 and 1 to 72. The protesters lost. What does it mean?

First, it’s worth noting that more than one Senator took action. Barbara Boxer announced her intention to challenge the election on Thursday morning. By midday Senators Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, and Barak Obama had let it be known that they would support Boxer. During the discussion in the Senate, Richard Durbin, Debbie Stabenow, Edward Kennedy, Ron Wyden, Frank Lautenberg, and Tom Harkin joined the others in speaking in support of Boxer’s challenge. And in the House, numerous members spoke, one after another, until the time was up, and the number voting for the challenge jumped to 33 from the 8 that had been known early in the day.

Yet, those looking for as strong as possible a challenge were disappointed. Plenty of Democrats voted No, including Senators who had spoken in support. And one Democratic Senator, Mark Dayton, actually rose and spoke against the challenge. Several Senators and Congress Members spoke in support of the challenge but said they were not questioning Bush’s victory. (The election system is broken, but the election system worked — a notion that makes political sense to some if logical sense to few.) Not a single Republican joined the Democrats in either chamber. The certification of the vote was not stopped. Nothing was changed.

Or was it? I would suggest that the following things have been changed:

1. The topic of election fraud has been forced into the corporate media. Reporters wanting to write about it now have a “hook.” They can report on it now in the way they could have two months ago if Senator John Kerry hadn’t crawled under his bed to hide. Sure, much of the media today treated the story as one of “political theater” and “grandstanding Democrats,” but until now the story had not been there at all.
Now the Democrats have the opportunity to explain why fighting for Democracy is the only decent thing to do, even when success seems unlikely.

2. We now have solid evidence that a political party can challenge a stolen election without causing national trauma of the sort Kerry tried to protect us from by conceding. Most Americans are not now in agony over the tensions felt on January 6th in Congress.

3. We have demonstrated that a grassroots movement of minorities and progressives can mobilize around an issue completely blacked out of the media and move US Senators to act. The reason Barbara Boxer stood tall today, while not even Paul Wellstone would do so four years ago, is that four years ago there was no massive grassroots lobbying effort. Nobody was holding “Boxer Rebellion” demonstrations at Boxer’s offices four years ago. There were no hearings and bus rides, telephone and fax campaigns, nothing like what we’ve seen for the past two months. We also lacked the leadership that Congressman John Conyers has shown, but Conyers will be the first to say he couldn’t have done this without a movement behind him. The rally Thursday morning across from the White House (report and photos here:
was a celebration of success against the odds, of accomplishment in the face of scorn and ridicule with only justice and determination to keep people going. There will be momentum coming out of this for supporters of democracy all over this country.

4. A coalition has begun to form and to feel its power. Cliff Arnebeck of Alliance for Democracy and Common Cause Ohio told me Thursday morning that the way the Cleveland AFL-CIO worked with the white public interest crowd and the black civil rights folks on this issue is matched by the way the Ohio state AFL-CIO is working with these groups in opposition to a Republican proposal in Ohio to eliminate campaign finance limits. Labor, Arnebeck said, is one of the three key parts of a coalition that must be built nationally.

“Labor has to be viewed as a public interest organization,” he said. “Every organization has its own selfish interests. But the labor union movement stands for democracy and not for benefiting a small elite, but for the vast majority – not for this CEO club. It’s going to come together

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