Hacks in Black Robes Ignored Racial Concerns

In a few days, whilst Laura Bush holds up a Bible, Bill

Rehnquist will look across its open pages at the face of the man whom he and

his four pals made President. Then he will administer the oath of office to the

little Texan.

The act will have been consummated, but no amount of

sonorous incantation and invoking the Foresight of the Founding Fathers and the

Wisdom of the Framers will lessen the conviction of millions that five

black-robed mothersuckers have given them a royal fucking.

Be that as it may, the bull-ditty of stand-pat, stay-still

politics blares from every lamppost. The noise of do-nothing, say-nothing,

move-nothing, change-nothing politics is deafening.

Your honors, I offer as evidence of this thesis the

following words published in The New York

Times , written by God knows what hack and signed by an ancient quartet of

former office holders, Howard H. Baker Jr., John C. Danforth, Sam Nunn and

Robert S. Strauss: “America, showing the sagacity of our founding fathers and

the Constitution they created, has weathered a storm that would have sunk less

stable ships. The conduct of the people since Nov. 7 is a tribute to the

country. The wisdom and sensitivity of the statements … by Vice President Al

Gore and President-elect George W. Bush should set the tone for a time of

healing.” These caricature politicians go on to say, “What the American people

are looking for is not confrontation but rather consensus, not militancy but

moderation …. The agenda should not be the platform of Philadelphia or the

platform of Los Angeles. It should be the politics of moderation that the

American people, in their wisdom, endorsed on Nov.  7.”

The clonky language aside, I wonder how these antique

worthies know what the hell the American people want. Who told them? How did

they, in their wisdom, find out? Not from the election returns; they are under

dispute. Even as the formulaic, high-toned chanting about unity, healing,

putting “it” behind us and ending divisiveness, etc., gets tom-tommed from

every broadcasting tower, the smell, the suspicion and the resentment grow.

Just before Christmas, Newsweek reported that Justice Sandra

Day O’Connor had a fecal fit on election night when Mr. Gore was declared the

winner in Florida (a projection that lasted no more than 90 minutes or so)

because, the 70-year-old Republican judge was overheard to say, she would now

have to postpone her retirement in order to keep her seat out of Democratic

hands. Only a few days later, this jurist with an intense personal interest in

the outcome would sit on the election case and-ain’t we surprised?-vote for her

retirement back home to Arizona.

Next were rumors hanging

like cigar smoke in a closed room, rumors explaining why Miami-Dade

County never hand-counted its thousands of disputed ballots. Rumor hath it that

certain Democratic politicians prevented the counting in return for a

Republican promise that no indictments would be pursued in certain unspecified,

unrelated criminal matters. Given Miami-Dade’s recent history of corruption and

turmoil, the rumor doesn’t strain credulity.

Beyond all, race hangs over this election as it was decided

first in Florida and then in a Washington courtroom. The four farti antigui cited above prescribe that

“The new president and the new Congress, in a spirit of bipartisanship and

common sense, must tell powerful groups within their respective ranks,

representing important elements of their political bases, that their

ideological agendas will not shape American policy in 2001 and 2002.” By

“ideological agendas,” the old alligators mean that the black people, in

particular, should stuff it. (The word “ideology,” whenever it is used by

bipartisan oligarchs, can be reliably translated to mean “African-American

concerns.”)

I would imagine it would be hard for African-Americans in

Florida-the seat of two of the three worst race riots in the recent past-to

heed the advice of these wizened white men. Black people made an enormous

effort in the Florida elections. Black voting was up an astounding 65 percent

over 1996! One of the reasons was fury against George Bush’s brother Jeb, the

governor of Florida and a man who is seen by black people there as a dedicated

anti-African-American. So many blacks registered and voted (more than 800,000)

that a state assumed to be safely Republican was turned into an electoral

cockpit where we can’t decide even now which rooster won. All we know is that

eyes were pecked out and blood was spilled. You would think that under the

emotional circumstances of the Florida election, the utmost care would have

been taken to see that every ballot was correctly counted.

Far from it. After the election, The Washington Post did a

precinct-by-precinct analysis of whose votes got counted and whose didn’t.

After looking at the returns from north Florida’s Duval County, the newspaper

reported that “In the most heavily white precincts, about 1 in 14 ballots were

thrown out, but in largely black precincts more than 1 in 5 ballots were

spoiled-and in some black precincts it was almost one-third. (By comparison, in

the District of Columbia, fewer than 1 in 50 ballots were not counted as votes

for president.)” The paper also reported that in those “Miami-Dade County

precincts where fewer than 30 percent of the voters are black, about 3 percent

of ballots did not register a vote for president. In precincts where more than

70 percent of the voters are African-American, it was nearly 10 percent.”

You don’t have to have been a Gore voter-I was not-to be

troubled that Mr. Bush got in only because thousands of black votes were not

counted.

The reason given for the discrepancies is that some blacks

were too dumb, too ignorant or too careless to follow instructions as the

smart, educated and careful white people did. In light of the racial history of

the United States, it beggars belief that the Supreme Court, of all places

(considering its role in that selfsame history), would pick a winner in the

election without so much as a glance at what had happened to thousands of black

voters. The dumb/ignorant/careless argument has been used for decades to

prevent black people from voting. Why in hell do those Supreme Court dodos

think that the March to Selma is memorialized every year? What was going on in

their thick, selfish and political-or is it dumb, ignorant and careless-heads?

When the Court took the responsibility of the election on

itself, it also took on the responsibility of the election’s integrity in the

eyes of everyone, of every race and persuasion. The Court should have ordered a

re-count supervised by an interracial committee of masters in chancellery. If

it was legitimate to disallow black votes at the cost of the black voters’

candidate losing, then blacks should have certified to it.

Instead, the lawyers

representing Mr. Gore and the Democrats-and therefore, by extension, the

African-American voters-made it easy for the four white Republican judges and

the one black Republican judge to turn an election into a selection of their

fellow party member. The Democratic lawyers were so inept that they allowed the

Republicans to take the equal-protection clause of the Constitution-the clause

which has been used so often to uphold the rights of blacks and other

minorities-and use it in favor of white Republican voters.

This strange turn of affairs could not have happened had

Laurence Tribe and David Boies, the Democratic mouthpieces, not been so

enamored with the law’s trivia; they presented a case about chads and dimples,

but not about blacks and whites, about race and justice. So for three hours,

these two men stood in front of the Supreme Court and looked up at the nine

empty black robes and never mentioned race. This whole struggle had come down

to race-and nothing but race-and these guys thought it was about section number

this and paragraph number that and Humperdumper

v. Popsnyder , U.S. Circuit blah-blah, 1938 et al. These two characters were

given dozens of hours of free television time by every network, and not once

did they understand that this was a political proceeding, not a legal one; not

once did they understand that the election had come down to the politics of

race in America.

Had Mr. Tribe and Mr.

Boies stood on those many courthouse steps in front of those many television

cameras and spoken over and over again about race, about who was getting

screwed and who was doing the screwing, the Court could never, ever have come

down with that ruling. It was time for these two proper white lawyers to play

the race card, and play it responsibly and honestly, and they were too taken up

with the minor minutiae of their tiresome calling to realize that the clock had

sounded the moment to stop being lawyers and become advocates of the people.

Instead, it was left to the dreadful Alan Dershowitz to jump

in front of the cameras and tell his slow-witted fellow counselors at law that

this was a political case which had to be tried politically. It fell to him to

explain that this was about racial justice, not mandamuses and estoppels. No

one listened much, because every day Alan Dershowitz pays the price of having

made himself into the living emblem of everything we hate about lawyers.

It was left to the Reverend Jesse Jackson to explain that

this was about race, truly about race-and, for once, it wasn’t a racket, it

wasn’t a self-serving deal, it wasn’t one of those see-me-see-how-big-and-loud

my-mouth-is operations. It was he who shouted about justice until his throat

was red and the words he spoke were sounded with a hoarse grrr . Nobody white listened much, because Mr. Jackson has become a

walking advertisement for himself and nobody has time to sort out which of what

he says is truth and which is kapok.

For the time being, as the two men’s eyes- the kingmaker and

the king-meet over the Bible, the complacent choirs of yea-sayers and

time-servers lift their voices in bipartisan anthems. The Panglossian chorus of

media personalities sing their psalms of civic unity, but this business is not

done. It is not over yet.

Hacks in Black Robes Ignored Racial Concerns