Today is a historic day for America. For the first time since 1877, members of Congress chose to contest the certification of electoral votes. The vote count stopped when Vice President Dick Cheney reached Ohio. Based on concrete facts about voter disenfranchisement compiled by John Conyers and his staff, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) stood together and forced debate in both houses of Congress about certification of Ohio's electoral votes.
The Senate's debate convened quickly, as only 75 Senators were available to vote and it takes only a simple majority to turn down such an objection. Out of 75 Senators, 55 were Republicans. The objection was overturned 74 to 1. This means that 19 Democrats voted with the Republican Party on this. The dissenting vote was cast by Senator Barbara Boxer, who had cosigned the objection with Stephanie Tubbs Jones.
Even in Congress, there seems to be an air of unfairness to this debate -- some Democrats were given only 10-30 seconds to speak their minds on this issue, while some Republicans were allowed as long as 5 minutes to decry the stand-up Democrats as conspiracy-theorists and "noise-makers."
The report put out by the Conyers staff was over 100 pages long, and details, very specifically, instances of blatant voter disenfranchisement as well as serious problems concerning numbers of voting machines, length of lines, and the like.
In the face of this and other irrefutable evidence, Republican Congress members fought back with rhetoric, not facts. They stood up and called us on the left liars, noise makers, conspiracy nuts, while providing NO, repeat NO, concrete evidence whatsoever. Why did the Republicans fight against an objection that would not take their chosen leader out of office, but simply allow the government to reform the voting system and make sure that all Americans are able to vote and have their votes counted? What are they afraid of?
Perhaps they are afraid that actually allowing every eligible American to vote will hurt them? If this is the case, then I say, "Shame on you!" To vote in favor of the disenfranchisement of the American people shows all too clearly that these people do not care what the American people want--they care about winning and staying in power. And the fact the 19 Democrats could not stand up and present a united front on this is absolutely pitiful.
135 House members did not bother to show up to vote. 173 Republicans turned down the objection and will certify what they cannot verify. 81 Democrats also turned down the objection and will certify what they cannot verify. Only 33 Democrats in the House were willing to uphold the objection. Only 33 members of the House of Representatives fought for democracy today. Only 34 members of Congress stood up and fought for democracy today. The result of all this is clear. Democracy is dead.
The United States is now, for all practical purposes, a one party state. With the Democrats lying wilted and beaten on the Senate floor, there is little hope that they will make any organized effort to fight against the Republican majority for the next two years.
There is little recourse for those of us outside the power structure at this point. We can do what we have been doing -- calling, writing, emailing our representatives, protesting, and communicating here on the net, until 2006. In 2006, we can show up in unprecedented numbers to vote in the midterm elections and we can oust these pathetic Democrats from their comfortable seats of power and replace them with members of the left who actually care about voters. We must replace these 100 Democrats with people who will demand democracy in the United States, and we must demand answers from those Congress members who didn't bother to show up to vote --why? What could possibly be more important than upholding the rights of your constituents? Isn't it your job to protect us? Isn't it your job to look after our interests?
Today is a day of mourning, but also a day of renewed anger and energy. We must fight! We, the little people, are all that is left to protect democracy for the future.
Katherine Brengleis a 23-year-old college student and aspiring writer from Massachusetts. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org