The New American Democracy
By Ronnie Dugger

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 Presidency?

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 example, 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 revenues.

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 dutifulness.

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 police.

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 peaceable people.

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 from space.

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 Movement.

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.