It is an honor to be among you again. On December 9th and 12th last, as the
second millennium was easing to an end, our 212-year-old American Republic was
stolen from us.
After the secret four-month constitutional convention in Philadelphia, a
matron of the city asked Benjamin Franklin what they had produced. "A Republic,
if you can keep it," Franklin said.
Well, we haven't kept it--we've lost it.
George W. Bush, his lawyers led by the crafty James Baker III, Bush's
operatives in Florida led by his brother Jeb the Governor and Secretary of State
Harris, and five members of the Supreme Court, inventing a new constitutional
right for the occasion, usurped from the people the right to choose the
President of the United States. The judges overthrew the government by selecting
the President themselves, 5 to 4, rather than letting events take their
constitutional course. When Governor Bush was sworn in as President by Chief
Justice Rehnquist of the Court that had stolen it for him the government itself
was seized in a judicial and presidential coup d'etat.
Bush gave James Baker the dog's assignment of seizing the Presidency in
Florida as if it were a bone. The resulting compound crime was one clear line of
events, each one pressed for or performed pursuant to a determined and
relentlessly prosecuted scheme to abort the voters' will in Florida. Bush was
guilty from the outset as an originator and throughout as the principal
beneficiary, moving on many fronts to stop the vote recounting in Florida,
refusing to agree to a total manual recount of the entire state, accepting the
Presidency from Rehnquist after the Court had stopped that recount, selected
him, and thereby stolen the office for him. As James K. Galbraith perceived, by
obstructing the election of the President, the Bush people prevented it, causing
democracy to miscarry. Taking the oath, Bush knowingly accepted the keys to the
White House from the man giving him the oath and the four of his fellow judges
who had stolen them. Together they denied the people of the United States the
right to elect our President, whether it would have been Albert Gore or George
W. Bush, for the four years 2001 to 2005.
Congress and the Presidency had already been delegitimized across the past
20 years, for most of us, by the triumph over the common good of uncontrolled
campaign finance corruption and bribery. Now, in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court
delegitimized itself and therefore the court system arrayed below it. These
arethe only three branches that we have--this is no longer a respectable
government. We have lost our entire government to a corporate oligarchy that now
governs us without our permission. Permit me to repeat what I said to you on
January 20th. The only basis for democratic legitimacy is the consent of the
governed. That was the deal. The Presidency has been seized. The government has
been seized. The covenant is broken.
What does it mean, to admit, and to say, that your government is
illegitimate? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means the government
is "not in accordance with, or authorized by, law. " What Bush ravaged when he
accepted the stolen Presidency was much more than our politics, more even than
our self-respect as a democracy--he made a mockery of our most fundamental
agreement to respect and obey the laws the government passes, to cooperate with
the government because it's ours. This is what he has done to the country that
we love, he has undermined the authority of law here. That is what we have lost,
the very authority of law for our everyday lives.
Going about his first 100 days, he cuts funding for international family
planning groups. He cancels new rules to prevent repetitive-stress injuries for
millions of new workers. He cancels a tightening of the standard for arsenic in
drinking water. He abandons his campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions
from power plants. He reinstates the federal subsidy for roads into our
trackless forests for corporate logging. He moves to weaponize space, under the
cover of star wars, so that we can destroy any nation's communications from
space and thereby dominate all the nations and peoples of the world. He puts a
man over the Energy Department who wanted to abolish it. He refuses to slap
price controls on power and gasoline profiteers. He shoves through the supine
Republican-and-Democratic Congress an insane $1. 3-trillion-dollar tax cut that
further enriches the already rich on a ten-year set of assumptions that nobody,
nobody at all, can accurately make, and which rises in the second decade to a
four-trillion cut which will destroy Social Security and Medicare. He tries to
"fast-track"--that is, to deny Congress the right to amend in any way--the
corporations-first trade agreements, NAFTA, the WTO, the FTAA, that will destroy
our local, state, and national sovereignty over our own environment, commerce,
and working conditions. He calls protecting workers and the environment in these
agreements "protectionism. " He and his allies in Congress have crushed all talk
of election reform because of the obvious fact that it insults him for stealing
the Presidency. And everything he's doing, everything, has no color of law, is
illegal, is illegitimate, is done in our names though not we, but five
tyrannical judges gave him the power that he is so tyrannically abusing.
If he had not stolen the Presidency we would have to accept it when he and
the Congress and their corporate paymasters abolish the estate tax--abolish the
tax that curbs, just a bit, the relentless tendency of hereditary wealth to
destroy democracy and economic justice-
But he did steal the Presidency, and when and if the Congress abolishes the
estate tax--or does any of the legions of other things akin to it that he and
the corporate lobbyists he admires are demanding--why, then, the hell we will
accept it. That will be just the action of a gaggle of thugs in our house at
night dressed up as hereditary aristocrats.
How, now, with a straight face, without provoking outcries of contempt, can
the man in the White House, trying perhaps to deal with some crisis of order or
rebellion here or abroad, invoke respect for the law having himself stolen the
He is no President of ours. Our Presidents in this free country are only
elected, they are never selected, never appointed. Only we elect our Presidents
and George W. Bush is not one of them.
I see from the signs among you that you know this next: Having seized the
awesome power of the Presidency to which he is not entitled, he uses that power
only as a tyrant. He feigns law-abidingness as did the tyrant Peisistratus in
sixth-century B. C. Athens, who won over the lawgiver Solon by "shows of
obedience" to Solon's laws except, of course, to the one against tyranny.
Although the President of the United States has absolute power only in some
momentous areas, such as control of our foreign policy and the use of our
military might, including our hydrogen bombs, Bush, having seized the office,
fairly well fits the Oxford English Dictionary definition of a tyrant, "One who
seizes upon the sovereign power in a state without legal right; an absolute
ruler; a usurper. "
Looking back we should, and at least some of us will, label this four years
of the Bush illegitimacy as the Lawless Years, the Tyranny in American history,
the Tyrannical Interlude.
We trust that George the Second will not be succeeded by George the
Third--throwing us right back where we were in 1775--because we are men and
women and students on fire with controlled anger and we refuse to consent.
We refuse to cooperate.
We refuse to accept.
We reject the Bush Presidency totally, altogether, in every particular--we
will not forgive the theft it rests on, we will not forget that all its acts are
"not in accordance with, or authorized by, law," and we will work to turn back
on these four years and all the preparatory associated betrayals of the people's
good since the early 1970's and cancel the damage to the extent we can.
One idea for something that can be done now to limit that damage--an idea
from Professor Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law School--is a firm resolve among the
Senate Democrats to confirm none--none--of Bush's Supreme Court nominations,
just letting the high court drop low to seven justices, or six, leaving those
remaining to ruminate on the trust which their institution has forfeited. The
Senate Democratic leaders shy, of course, from this, as from any bold idea, but
Professor Ackerman has proposed an appropriate remedy. The Constitution permits
impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors. Seizing the Presidency ranks among
the highest crimes ever committed in the United States. Bush should be
impeached, but it's not going to happen in such a Congress as this one.
A milder, but equally effective remedy is available, however, for the crime
committed by Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and O'Connor. Scalia told us
all about Article II of the Constitution, that the people don't have the right
to elect the President, but he failed to tell us about Article III. Article III
provides that "the judges, both of the Supreme Court and the inferior courts,
shall hold their offices during good behavior. " The five judges who stopped the
election and chose the President they preferred should be removed under this
clause in Article III. Resolutions should be introduced in Congress to remove
them; perhaps we will elect a President and Senate who will throw out as many of
the five as still dare to sit up there in 2005.
Obviously this is a time, these are four years, when we citizens must stand
forth as citizens. How about some citizens' indictments? For purposes of
discussion, I propose that we draw up and inscribe our names en masse, on the
Internet, to a citizens' indictment of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, James
Baker III, Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia,
Clarence Thomas, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Anthony Kennedy for the high crime of
acting together to steal the people's right to elect the President.
Democracy without the people controlling the counting of their own votes is
no democracy. Yet it goes unremarked in American elections that in most of the
precincts of the country the votecounting is done invisibly in computers.
Computers are not adding machines, they are machines that obey orders.
Computervotecounting codes are prepared by computer programmers in the pay of
the private election-business companies, which jealously guard the codes as
"trade secrets. "Elections can be stolen by the computer programmers, for
themselves or for their companies, without leaving a trace. Democracy itself has
been privatized--that is, corporatized--and our elections are subject to the
tyranny of machines that conceal the counting of our votes from us. As
votecounting specialist Dr. Rebecca Mercuri wrote recently, "a government that
is by the machines, of the machines, and for the machines can scarcely be called
a democracy. "
To get our country back into our possession I believe that we should count
our own votes again with our own hands and eyes in our own precincts on election
night across the country--we are dumb to trust the election corporations'
computerized systems, run by often computer-illiterate local election officials
relying heavily on assistance from the companies, to count our votes in secret.
I believe, and challenge you to consider deep in your soul and in your body,
that we should now go into nonviolent rebellion against the theft of our
democracy last December in all its forms and manifestations--And that the first
step in this revolt is to agree that we will not call Bush President.
Don't Call Him President.
Although I am fond of the idea of calling him George the Second, most people
will probably feel better just calling him Governor Bush. That's OK. It's civil,
and acknowledges he was a governor.
But can we agree never, in any context, written, spoken, or even in our
thoughts, to call him President Bush unless and until we elect him? In all our
references to him let's call him, civilly but noncooperatively, Governor Bush.
Let's write letters challenging reporters and TV for calling him President.
Let's amiably, but seriously tweak our friends over a cup of coffee or at dinner
if they call him President.
This is one unmistakable symbolic way we can nod to each other across
political parties, recognize each other across colors, and join together across
this beautiful continent as the free Americans who will not accept an appointed
President of the United States.
Second, how about a Back to Texas Movement? Bush and Cheney, Back to Texas.
Rove, Armey, and Delay, too-Back to Texas.
We should refuse to acknowledge the authority of any judge whom Governor
Bush appoints and the Senate confirms. Every federal judge he appoints is
illegitimate, whether confirmed or not, and can have no lawful authority to sit
in judgment looking down on us from those high federal benches. On the door of
any judge Governor Bush gets confirmed should appear the word, "Illegitimate. "
And when we get a President and a Congress with the courage to do right by the
United States every one of them, including especially any of his people who may
make it onto the Supreme Court, should be impeached as unlawfully appointed by
an unlawfully appointed President. When you steal our country, "Let bygones be
bygones" is out, and out for life. Unless the Democrats in Congress stand tough
against the illegitimate President all of us must demand to know, Why not? One
main reason the American Republic is in terminal trouble is the fact that most
of the officeholders of the Democratic Party, up at this level, have sold their
souls to the major corporations and the very rich. Now our collective civic
disaster has gone far beyond the tumults of party politics. This is the country
we love and would die for and millions of our fellow citizens have. We must, I
believe, ask Al Gore, too, why, when the Supreme Court announced that it had
stolen the Presidency from him by a 5 to 4 vote, he said that he accepted it.
This was his moment as a leader to say, "No--this is our country--we love
it--you cannot have it--I am not the issue here, the United States is, and your
decision is judicial tyranny. " I believe Gore has to get right on this if he
wants to continue to lead.
When the world's superpower ceases to be democratic it's the world's
business, too. We should get together into a movement in order to invite a small
group of distinguished former officials abroad, comparable in stature to our
former President Jimmy Carter, to form a small international commission to
investigate the 2000 presidential election--the outrages against
African-American voters in Florida, the standing of an election when the Supreme
Court aborts the votecounting, what we Americans are supposed to do about the
fact that the President of our country was appointed by five judges who
preferred his election, how we have come to let private corporations take over
our votecounting and do it secretly, invisibly, in computers.
Governor Bush's people become indignant when the United States gets thrown
off the UN body on human rights--as if his seizing the most powerful and the
most dangerous office and military in the world leaves our government with the
same standing we had before that happened, in the eyes of democratic
civilization. --As if when the people in the rest of the world, told that he,
himself, has decided that we will violate the ABM ballistic missiles treaty and
the Kyoto treaty on global warming, should meekly accept this world-convulsing
tyranny with what Governor Bush calls civility. We citizens fighting to save our
country not only from injustice, but now from illegitimate injustice, should
demand that the Senate ratify the treaty establishing the proposed international
criminal court not despite the fact that some Americans might get indicted, but
because they might.
Finally, it is time, oh, it is time, for us to form now, among all our
organizations, with all the sad, drifting citizens looking for hope for our
country--it is time for us to form one national people's movement, independent
of any political party, the Independent Allies, to demand and fight, for
Public funding of our elections.
Single-payer national health insurance.
The restoration of the corporate taxation system and the progressivity of
the income tax, replacing the Social Security payroll tax with the increased
Limits on the size of corporations, the cancellation of their alleged
"personhood" and their alleged personal constitutional rights, a stiff criminal
law taking them completely out of our politics, and the confirmation of their
original nature as our artificial creations totally answerable to and totally
subordinate to democracy.
Limits on personal wealth, and a guaranteed annual family income.
Free education as high as any student can make the grades.
First-home building subsidies and the opening of some public lands as trust
lands for homesteading to redeem the American dream of a home for every family.
Equal rights and equal pay for women.
A living wage by law for every working person.
Repeal of the Taft-Hartley law and criminal prosecution of corporations that
bedevil union organizers.
That's just for starters.
And it is far past time that such a new national people's movement should
link up with the citizens' movements abroad that are in nonviolent rebellion
against the corporatization of human life, to work together worldwide for such
attainable goals as-
Clean energy, wind and solar, and the as-rapid-as-possible phasing down and
out of oil, coal, and nuclear power.
For international trade for people and the environment everywhere, not just
for the rampaging transnational corporations.
And for world citizenship, and an international democracy with a
constitution worthy of the human race.
None of this can we get just because our government has been stolen.
Some of this we can get fairly soon only if we rebel and organize and
mobilize, as independent allies for communication, education, and action, in
coalitions of coalitions, and then in one confederal, interacting coalition of
independent organizations, all together.
Let's start with a bumper-sticker rebellion.
Don't Call Him President.
Governor Bush/Is Not the President.
The Supreme Court/Is Not Supreme.
Bush and Cheney-Back to Texas!
Much of the work of building the movement is not high-profile--it's
demonstrating, registering voters, teaching people about instant runoff voting
and proportional representation, marching and rallying as we are today,
confronting our representatives, getting out the vote--it's day-in, day-out
More and more of us will move gravely into nonviolent civil disobedience,
too, as history requires--direct civil revolt--risking ourselves, peacefully
putting our bodies where our patriotism is, facing handcuffs, locked doors,
frozen faces, tear gas, police phalanxes.
The time has probably come to quit going where they go, Seattle, Washington,
Davos, Quebec City, Qatar--and to go where we want to go to do what we want to
do. To mobilize and to go meet in small numbers and large, to act for and plan
the society we want and organize to get it.
Whatever we do, let's do it nonviolently. Only nonviolently.
Let's have a rule among all the people we agree to work with that we are
against violence against persons and will not enter into coalition or cooperate
with anyone who reserves the right to engage in any kind of violence.
At Seattle, the only people who committed violence against people were the
police. But at Washington last year, as policemen charged crowds on horseback
and idly knocked over young people armlocked together blocking streets,
demonstrators threw rocks and other objects at police--I saw them do it. At
Quebec City last month, the police gassed the protesters, and people from the
Alliance saw some in the crowd throw rocks and other heavy objects at the
Learning from Gandhi and King, if the police attack us we will not respond
physically--we will not oppose them--we will not touch them.
Violence against people? No. Violence against the police? No. Violence
against property? No.
You won't pledge not to be violent? Then you're off on your own.
Learning since Seattle that the municipal police forces in major U. S.
cities and in Canada are trying to repeal the freedom of assembly, we will
assemble when and where we wish in crowds as large as we wish--always
nonviolently, anti-violently--and we will morally overpower the marching,
militarized, pepper-gas-firing police by the simple fact that we are the
We need the leader for all this. God, we all know, we need her or him. We
don't have this yet.
So I have a proposal.
Let's bring back Martin Luther King.
Let's join our African-American brothers and sisters in their just call for
reparations for slavery. Slaves worked to build this nation. They helped build
this Capitol in front of you. They hoisted Lady Liberty up to the top of that
dome. For this their pay rate was $5 a day. The United States government cut the
checks for their work not to them, but to their owners.
Let's go with the slaves' descendants and with every other oppressed group
to renew, to revive, Dr. King's great project, which he was raising money for
just before he was murdered, to have a vast encampment for peace and economic
justice in Washington, to end poverty, and stop the Vietnam war.
It was bad then, people in poverty, blood in the streets, people dying on TV
every night. But it's bad now--we know the world's great misery is within our
reach to ease--the corporate oligarchy has stolen our government from us--and
they are blowing up the ABM and Kyoto treaties and reaching to control the world
We are not going to just stand quiet for this.
We are, after all, Americans.
Let us declare ourselves, here and now together, the Democracy and Justice
We are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are Greens, we are independents, we
are progressives, conservatives, populists, moderates, libertarians, everyday
Americans, we are whites, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans,
Asian-Americans, men, women, workers, students, we are straight, gay, bi, and
God knows what else, and what we are all is free, standing whole in the same
dignity, self-respect, and power of being persons, just as our forebears did
when they launched the American Revolution.
We are patriots--we are patriots--we all want to be just, we all want to
participate in governing our own town and our city and our country and our
world, and we will not be cooperative and obedient as usurpers make over the
United States into dominator of the world.
Let's pay more heed to the likes of Scalia, William Buckley, Tom Delay, and
George Will when they instruct us that the American Republic is no democracy and
we should be grateful for the chance to serve our betters.
Through the past two centuries by our many struggles we have been realizing
the promise of the American Revolution, step by step. We have added, to the
Republic, with one citizens' uprising and movement after another, freedom from
slavery (though not yet from penury) for blacks--the legal right to form labor
unions--an effective revulsion and rebellion against an unjust war that we were
waging smack dab in the middle of that war--the vote and legal equality for
blacks and women--equal treatment for gays.
But our persecuted labor unions are still ravaged by laws written for the
corporations that are now exporting our industries and raging out of control all
over the world, and the disparities of wealth and poverty among us, and between
us and the rest of the human race, are becoming morally unbearable.
If Bill Gates stopped to pick up $100 bills all over the street, he'd lose
money. The assets of the 450 billionaires in the world are equal to the assets
of half of humanity. Two billion people have no toilets, and no schools, but
they do have anemia. The sales of the 200 largest corporations are 18 times the
combined annual income of the 1,200,000,000 people, one in every four of us on
earth, who live in absolute poverty on $1, or less, a day.
Perhaps finally now, taking all this and the theft of the Presidency into
account, we have to square our shoulders a bit and just let the old American
Republic go, they've ruptured it, so let's just let it go, and get about the
work of forming, how we don't yet know, but together, and sooner, not later, a
new American democracy,--
--wherein we accept each other in deepest equality,
--where everybody's vote is counted and every material body of opinion is
represented proportionally in the government,
--where our President is the one who gets the most votes,
--where the members of the Supreme Court must stand in a contested election
every eight years,
--where the fairness of democracy has come to mean, also, a democratic
distribution of the goods and services that everyone has a right to in order to
have a fair chance to realize his or her best self.
Let's come together here in Washington--next fall?--next spring?--let's
decide when and how together--and occupy the place, after all it's ours, and
stop the government. Just stop it. Make the Capital the epicenter of a national
nonviolent revolt, for full citizenship for the citizens of the District and
full citizenship for us all. Stop the crimes against democracy here in the
Capitol, and over there at the White House, and over there at the Supreme Court,
stop them just by being here, peacefully, eloquently, honoring, remembering, and
reciting from, Martin Luther King. An encampment, speaking out, picnics,
singing, dancing, sleeping on the grass! And, when we're ready, we'll start
things up again as the New American Democracy--the American
Revolution--Democracy, and Justice--at last more nearly realized among us,
And then, we whisper, to each other, and to ourselves,
The New American Democracy.
Ronnie Dugger, a founder and first co-chair of the Alliance for Democracy,
speaking about 2 p. m. May 19, 2001, on the West steps of the Capitol to about
1,500 persons participating in the second Voters' March protesting the Supreme
Court's designation of the President. Copyright Ronnie Dugger 2001.