The Myth of Majority Rule

The entire capitalist establishment are biting their nails about the Gore-Bush dogfight over the White House. They’re aghast at the conflict’s escalation as each side tries to counter the other. But the tension in the boardrooms, media and think tanks isn’t over which candidate will come out on top. It’s about how the system will fare. Who wins and who loses undoubtedly concerns particular factions of the ruling class. But the broader establishment’s anxiety is over how to insure–in the face of all the contradictions and reported irregularities–that the masses of people at home and abroad see the elections as “legitimate” and that the “process” of so-called democratic majority rule works. The capitalist media’s job is to manipulate the debate so that, whatever happens, bourgeois ideology triumphs and the masses see the issues in the narrow framework defined by them.

The entire capitalist establishment are biting their nails about the Gore-Bush dogfight over the White House. They’re aghast at the conflict’s escalation as each side tries to counter the other. But the tension in the boardrooms, media and think tanks isn’t over which candidate will come out on top. It’s about how the system will fare. Who wins and who loses undoubtedly concerns particular factions of the ruling class. But the broader establishment’s anxiety is over how to insure–in the face of all the contradictions and reported irregularities–that the masses of people at home and abroad see the elections as “legitimate” and that the “process” of so-called democratic majority rule works. The capitalist media’s job is to manipulate the debate so that, whatever happens, bourgeois ideology triumphs and the masses see the issues in the narrow framework defined by them.

Media remove racism from debate

In the quest for legitimacy, every detail of the balloting process, electoral law and political maneuvering is being chronicled by the corporate media. But one thing that has been hermetically sealed off from the debate is the enormous issue of racist disenfranchisement of millions of Black and Latino people. This has been accomplished through laws taking away the voting rights of those labeled “convicted felons.”

In fact, none of the mainstream U.S. media picked up on a story in the Guardian of Britain Nov. 14. It states, “Al Gore may have lost America’s presidential election not because of a badly designed ballot, dubious counting practices in Florida or the defection of Ralph Nader, but because of the criminal justice policy he and Bill Clinton have pursued for eight years.”

The article, using Sentencing Project statistics, shows that 4.2 million people were not allowed to vote Nov. 7 and that about 1.8 million of them were Black. “The Clinton-Gore administration,” continues the Guardian, “has been heavily criticized by penal experts for its ‘war on drugs’ which has led to more than 400,000 people being jailed, a disproportionate number being Black and Latino.”

The Guardian quotes Cedric Muhammed, editor of the Blackelectorate.com Web site, who wrote that “if [Gore] and his supporters are honest, they may have to blame the Clinton-Gore administration and a criminal justice system that locked up Blacks wholesale over the last eight years for non-violent offenses.”

Sasha Abramsky, writing in Mother Jones Nov. 8, estimated that three quarters of a million people in Florida alone were disenfranchised because of the felon laws. Florida is one of 13 states that bar people from voting for life if they are convicted of a felony.

In a pre-election Mother Jones article Oct.17, Abramsky cited the New York-based Brennan Center for Justice, which filed suit against this practice in Florida on Sept. 21. The suit showed that more than 6 percent of Florida’s voting-age population cannot vote.

‘Felon’ laws hearken
back to Jim Crow

The last time so many Black people were legally prevented from voting, said a Brennan Center attorney, “was before the Voting Rights Act, when you had literacy tests and poll taxes and so on.”

“All of these laws were overturned,” wrote Abramsky, “except for the web of laws created in the late 19th and 20th centuries, relating to those convicted of felonies. These laws were specifically designed by antebellum Southern politicians to bar Blacks from the ballot box. Indeed, when Alabama adopted such a law in 1901, John Knox, the politician presiding over the constitutional convention, stated that the aim of such provisions was to help preserve white supremacy without directly challenging the Constitution of the United States.”

It’s estimated that 33 percent of all Black males in 13 Southern states are disenfranchised as a result of this legacy of slavery and segregation.

If the Gore forces had wanted to, they could have long ago made a huge issue out of this, and they probably would have won hands down. But being representatives of the racist ruling class first and foremost, just as the Bush forces are, they would rather jeopardize their own chance for the White House than to open up a struggle against the racist denial of democratic rights for millions of Black and Latino people.

This is perhaps the most important social and political fact brought to light by the election fight. And it cries out for a voting-rights struggle to overturn these so-called “felony” laws, as well as the “tough-on-crime, war-on-drugs” policies of the Reagan-Bush and Clinton-Gore years. These are vicious forms of racial profiling.

Furthermore, Gore, Warren Christopher, William Daley and other high Democratic officials have not addressed the exclusion of ballots and the racist harassment on Election Day in heavily Black districts of Palm Beach county. They haven’t addressed the sit-in by Black students from Florida A&M, Tallahassee Community College and Florida State University against the Democrats’ arch-enemy, Bush loyalist and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Nor have they denounced the racist pro-Bush thugs who attempted to block a West Palm Beach rally called by Jesse Jackson.

Myth of ‘majority rule’

Rather than focus on fundamental issues such as racism, the capitalist media have the entire population riveted on the increasingly ugly details of the political knife fight between the capitalist parties.

What the media are really fighting to preserve is the fundamental concept, drummed into the head of every school child, that democracy means the majority rules and the masses of people get their legitimate political representation through the two-party electoral process.

If Bush should win the electoral vote with a minority of the popular vote, this would call into question the Electoral College system. The ruling class, much to its dislike, might have to engage in a debate about correcting the system. This in itself is destabilizing.

If Gore should win with the majority of the popular vote, the ruling class could breathe a sigh of relief on the question of majority rule. But they would probably still have to go through a process of reassessing the Electoral College. New York Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton has already called for its abolition.

The Electoral College is a reactionary institution designed by landed aristocrats, slave owners and businessmen in 1789 to flout the will of the masses should they get out of hand. Of all the electoral systems employed in the modern imperialist countries, it is the most unfavorable to independent electoral action by the working class and progressives. Certainly the workers and oppressed should take the opportunity to intervene in any struggle over the revamping of this system.

But it must be understood that, even if Gore emerges the winner, his popular-vote victory does not legitimize the election results for the masses. If Bush wins with a minority of the popular vote, it is not this alone that casts the election’s legitimacy into doubt.

The people don’t rule–the rich do

The entire election process is illegitimate as an exercise in majority rule.

Whatever the outcome, the majority of the people will not rule–they will be ruled by a tiny minority of the rich.

Two rich white men are running at the head of two parties controlled by billionaires with world corporate empires that exploit hundreds of millions of workers every day. This is the class truth about this election and every presidential election in this country over the past century.

Corruption and political dirty tricks, bribery and unprincipled partisanship are rife in capitalist elections, particularly when the parties are fighting to get their hands on the right to dispense close to $2 trillion to their friends and collaborators and to make thousands of political appointments.

But even if every vote winds up being counted correctly–that is, the way the voter intended–and even if every improperly excluded vote were included, the assumption that this election thereby becomes legitimate is a complete fraud.

Ronald Reagan won by a significant majority in 1980 and proceeded to open up a huge anti-labor offensive, a racist attack on the poor and a $2-trillion military build-up. Lyndon Johnson won in 1964 by the biggest landslide in history against Barry Goldwater, and then proceeded to send half a million troops to Vietnam. He sent U.S. troops into Detroit’s Black community during a rebellion against racism and poverty, killing many.

The majority of the people are workers, including a large number who bear the burden of national oppression as well as class oppression. As a class, they are not enfranchised in any capitalist election. On the contrary. Their oppressors have the legal and political right, under the capitalist U.S. Constitution, to continue upholding the system of exploitation, racism and imperialist expansion.

The majority of the people make society run. They do all the work. If they really ruled, there would not be people sleeping on the streets while the rich lived in luxury.

If the majority really ruled, 1 percent of the population would not have as much wealth as 90 percent of the people. There would be no racist police shooting and beating people. There would not be hundreds of thousands of families waiting for childcare. There would not be 43 million people without health care or a 20-percent child-poverty rate.

If the majority ruled, they would not permit the epidemic of occupational deaths and injuries or environmental destruction. Every worker would have a union. The elections would not be controlled by the rich.

None of these evils would exist because the majority–if they really ruled–would abolish them immediately. After all, it’s the majority that suffers from these evils. But they are unable to eliminate them as long as the capitalists, their state, and their parties are in charge.

There’s no such thing as a “fair election” when the workers are confined to the program and candidates of their class enemy.

Author: Fred Goldstein

News Service: Workers World News

URL: http://www.workers.org/ww/2000/election1123.html

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