It's Even Worse, And Better, Than We Thought:
An Address to Democrats Abroad
By Bernard Weiner,
The Crisis Papers
October 17, 2006
Author's Note: The Democratic Party sponsors chapters around the world
for ex-pat citizens working and living abroad; representatives of these
chapters are entitled to attend the party's conventions and help shape the
platform. Two years ago, I was invited to speak to the largest chapter in
Germany, in Munich, and last week once again visited that lively group,
which in large part echoes the progressive positions of its stateside
Democratic activist base. Below are my introductory comments, summing up
what the American political situation looks like on the ground; after the
talk, we spent another hour on ramifications of U.S. policy toward Iraq,
Iran, North Korea, the badly mangled Constitution, torture, the sluggish
U.S. economy, etc. These folks are sharp.
Two years ago, six months after the November 2004 election, Democrats
Abroad still had no official confirmation that their absentee-ballot votes
had been received and accurately registered. I was appalled to learn from
DA-Munich chair Shari Temple and Germany DA chair Mitch Wolfson, along
with other members, that two years later, the situation, though a bit
better, still remains unclear. The chain of custody of those ballots, and
of those coming from troops serving abroad, has not improved in all
electoral districts and the U.S. voting procedures appeared to be as
dangerously manipulatable as in stateside America as well. Disgraceful!
Here is that address to Democrats Abroad (Munich), delivered 11 October,
Two years ago, when we last met in this same building shortly after the
debacle of the 2004 election, the situation in the U.S. was really bad,
but not yet desperate. The question then was "how bad would it get under
CheneyBush?" The short answer to that question now is "Very VERY bad."
Today, things are so bad in the States for liberals,
progressives, Democrats of all stripes that a kind of permanent
political depression is the operative mode for so many of us laboring in
the anti-Bush, pro-democracy fields.
So bad that many of my friends and colleagues, depending
on what happens November 7, are seriously thinking about getting out
while the getting is good, like those who emigrated in fear from
So bad that one almost doesn't want to open the
newspaper in the morning or listen to the news at night, for the latest
Bush&Co. atrocity or policy-disasters -- and for how the mainstream,
corporate media ignores them or takes the White House spin as its
So bad that, at least on the fringes -- from the far
Right and the far Left -- there is starting to be talk about the
possible need for some kind of revolution, even if undefined.
So bad, that some liberals -- yes, liberals! -- are
starting to float speculation about a military coup to overthrow the
That's how far we've come in two years.
ON THE OTHER HAND...
The short answer also is: Things are better than they were two years ago.
Mainly because the extremism, incompetence and recklessness of the Bush
Administration have finally led huge numbers of Americans, especially
traditional Republican conservatives, to back away in revulsion from the
greedy crooks and arrogant, war-mongering ideologues who rule the GOP
This movement is most significant within the military and intelligence
establishments, appalled at what they are being tasked to do; many of
these true conservatives are making their views known, sometime openly as
retired generals and colonels and CIA agents but also by currently
employed operatives and military officers covertly leaking damaging plans
and information to civilian spokesmen like Congressman Jack Murtha and
reporters like Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker and to leading reporters
for the New York Times and Washington Post.
In short, as the polls have been showing for some time, Bush, for the most
part, is locked into firm support from only one sector of the populace:
his fundamentalist base. His approval numbers have been fluctuating within
a fairly narrow range for many months now -- roughly mid/low 30s to
On the Iraq War, the numbers are even worse; it's clear that about 2/3 of
the American people have come to a collective judgment that the war is a
terrible mistake -- started from the wrong premises, botched in execution,
trapped in an unwinnable stalemate -- and that it's time to figure a way
As you can see, the bad news and good news create a kind of emotional
roller-coaster ride for those of us politically active types in the
States. What it's like for you up to 6000 miles away, I have no idea, but
I'd guess the roller-coaster analogy resonates with you as well. The
Democrats cave on Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and down you go, but
Abramoff and Mark Folely explode into the headlines on another day and
your mood shifts upwards.
VICTORY FOR DEMS, WITH A BIG "IF"
So, if you ask me what will happen on November 7, I'd have to give you
answers from both camps.
My gut tells me that IF the election is an honest one, the Democrats have
a good shot at taking back the House, and now they even have a possible
shot at the Senate. (Today on the internet, I saw a story that indicated
that Republican officials themselves are anticipating a loss in the House
of between seven and 30; the Dems need 15 to retake that body.)
The desire for change is so wide-sweeping in the country (aside from that
one-third base, who would stick with the Republicans even if photos
surfaced of Bush servicing a sheep in the Oval Office), and the Democratic
base so fired up, that a sea-change sweep could happen in the House, with
a lot of votes coming from disenchanted Republicans across the country. A
House victory would mean that starting in January, real investigations
could begin, with the Democratic majority in charge of subpoenas, putting
witnesses under oath and so on. Even an impeachment resolution is not
outside the realm of possibility, though probably not likely, at least not
That's my gut. My more realistic side reminds me that I thought much the
same in November 2004, and even headed for dinner that evening convinced
we'd done it, only to cotton to the theft of that election later that
night. (And I, for one, will NEVER forgive Kerry for capitulating so
quickly, especially after he promised that he'd fight to the end for a
full and fair vote count.)
SLIME, SLEAZE & SUPPRESSION
I am cognizant that there are still several weeks to go before Election
Day, and Karl Rove and his minions are out in full force trying, by hook
or by crook (emphasis on that latter word), to organize vote totals that,
at the least, will minimize the Dem victory to manageable proportions,
and, at most, eke out slim victories in enough key districts to retain
control of the House.
Democratic candidates are being slimed by Rove's dirty-tricks folks and
the 527 Swiftboat-like PACs. Poll taxes (under the guise of photo IDs)
will be keeping many poor, minority and rural voters away from the
election polls in many, mostly Southern states. Suppression of minority
voting in urban inner-cities moves ahead, right on schedule. A massive
get-out-the-vote campaign is being mounted by GOP-supporting churches.
And I haven't even included discussion of possible October "surprises,"
such as bombing Iran's nuclear facilities because of some claimed
"imminent" danger to U.S. interests, or announcing the death or capture of
Osama bin Laden, or claiming to have averted a major terrorist attack
inside the U.S. (None of those possibilities, of course, have to be true;
merely asserting them, true or not, gets the job done for Rove&Co. prior
to the election.)
MANIPULATING THE NUMBERS
Then there is computer-voting. We know, because it's been demonstrated in
public many times, how easy it is -- taking less than a minute -- to alter
the software programs in computer-voting machines, and in vote-tabulating
computers, producing just enough of a secret, undetectable tweak to ensure
a 1 or 2% majority for enough Republican candidates to continue
controlling the House. Sure it would look downright suspicious and prima
facie proof of vote theft. But the key question for the Republicans would
be: So what? What would Americans do about yet another election that
clearly seems to have been stolen from the people? We know what the
Ukrainians did, and the Philippinos did, and so on, but Democrats tend to
concede early, and tamp down the flames of angry protest.
Per usual, Democrats are a day late and a dollar short on the
electoral-integrity issue. Since they didn't put up much of a fight after
2000, 2002 in Georgia and elsewhere, and in 2004, their trying to play
catch-up in the final weeks before the 2006 election could turn out to be
a disaster. Only in the last days before Congress' pre-election
adjournment, for example, did a few Democratic senators try to get a
national bill guaranteeing verified paper ballots as emergency back-ups
for precincts that were having demonstrable problems with their machines.
If this stolen-election scenario were to play out, with Bush&Co. still in
control of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government,
along with the Fourth Estate, the mass media, what would America look like
for the next two years of Bush's term?
Short answer: Not good. Domestically, the slide to a native American
fascism has been solidified with the recent vote by Congress authorizing
torture as state policy, electronic eavesdropping as state policy,
military tribunals for those suspected of being terrorists, arrest and
detention of American citizens with no access to the courts as state
policy, a controlled press under the thumb of the administration, the
Judiciary warned into staying out of the Executive's way, etc.
(Heretofore, one could accuse the CheneyBush Administration of skirting
the law and Constitution; now that authoritarian approach has been
ratified by Congress, supposedly representing the population as a whole.
That's the real depressing aspect of these votes.)
Abroad, CheneyBushRumsfeld would feel emboldened by their electoral
"mandate" to ratchet up their war machine, with Iran in their bombsights
and perhaps Syria and even Venezuela and North Korea in the on-deck
circle. More and more troops would have their rotations delayed or
postponed, more and more Guard and Reserve soldiers would head for the
Middle East, more mercenaries ("contractors") would be put into that
region. Only as a last-resort would a military draft be re-instated --
because Bush&Co. saw what happened during the Vietnam War with such a
draft in terms of helping build a huge antiwar movement.
So, what can possibly stop this development toward fascism and imperial
Short answer: Not much. We've just about played all our legal cards.
THE HOPE IN AVALANCHES
The one remaining card is a massive, landslide defeat of GOP candidates in
the House and/or the Senate. If the Democrats were to take over one or
both of those chambers, they could throw a giant monkey wrench into the
policy momentum of the CheneyBush juggernaut, begin to initiate honest
investigations of corrupt and dangerous CheneyBush policies and programs,
subpoena witnesses, require them to testify under oath, indict them for
possible perjury, etc. etc.
At the very least, a Democratic victory in November would offer some hope
that the dire situation could be addressed and steps taken to turn this
country around and back to political sanity. The courts likewise would
read the election returns and begin to act more circumspectly. Similarly,
the mass media would feel more empowered to dig deeper into Administration
crimes and misdemeanors.
At the very most, Cheney and Bush and Rove and Rumsfeld and Rice would see
the handwriting on the wall and moderate their views. Not bloody likely,
of course, as these guys will be driven from power only when a political
stake is driven through their shriveled hearts.
Alternative point of view: Even if the Democrats were to win big, the Bush
bunker crew might well try to ram all their policies through, by executive
fiat if necessary, while they still control the military apparatus, the
Justice Department, FEMA, etc. -- and dare anybody to stop them. That's
been their M.O. to date, so why would they want to, or feel the need to,
If the GOP can be decisively defeated on Nov. 7, there won't be an
immediate turnaround, of course, but there will be hope for major changes
down the road. If the GOP, through dirty tricks or otherwise, squeaks
through the midterm election not too badly hurt, all those extreme
reactions I mentioned at the start of my talk will begin to look more and
more necessary to many in order to save our country.
As Tiny Tim might have said: "God help us, everyone."
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international
relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked
as a writer-editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits
The Crisis Papers.