American Democracy: people don't like their government used for purely partisan gain

American Democracy

by digby

They will take this to court. Who knows what will happen. But this is just the latest in a line of Republican end runs and undemocratic processes used explicitly for the partisan purpose of weakening and emasculating the Democratic party over the past few years. The impeachment of President Clinton was the first, followed by the stolen Bush election, the recall of Gray Davis, the gerrymandering in Texas etc. It's distinctly different than the sort of thing you saw when Democrats passed the final health care bill with a majority instead of a supermajority. That was a policy dispute that broke on party lines. These are purely partisan political actions designed to create a political advantage --- as the top Republican in the Wisconsin senate openly admitted.

I have written about this a lot over the years. This is one of my favorite little anecdotes that illustrates their thinking:

The new deadline for all recounts to be submitted to Katherine Harris was 5 p.m. Sunday, November 26. Now, that Sunday afternoon you could watch any of the television coverage and see that Palm Beach was still counting. And by late afternoon you heard various officials in Palm Beach acknowledging that they were not going to be finished by five. Now, we maintain that was completely illegal, because the law said you had to manually recount all ballots. [See Village Voice top five outrages for why this is such a slimy position for him to take.]

But as five o'clock approached, we heard that the secretary of state was going to accept the Palm Beach partial recount --- even though the Palm Beach partial recount was blatantly illegal. We were told that the secretary of state's view was that unless Palm Beach actually informed her --- in writing or otherwise --- that the returns were only a partial recount, she could not infer that on her own.

So we made some calls to a few Republicans overseeing the Palm Beach recount. We told them to gently suggest to the canvassing board that it might as well put PARTIAL RETURN on the front of the returns that were to be faxed up in time for the deadline. The reason we gave was clarity --- that the words PARTIAL RETURN would distinguish those returns from the full count that would be coming in later that night. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I think the Palm Beach board did in the end write PARTIAL RECOUNT on the returns. We all know that the Secretary of State, in the end, rejected them. [By rejecting them, he means that she said that a partial return missed the deadline altogether and all the previously uncounted votes that were counted in the partial recount were never added to the tally. This had the effect of never allowing Gore to take the lead.]

I think the board members probably agreed to write the PARTIAL RECOUNT notation for two reasons. First of all, I think they hadn't slept in 48 hours, so I think they'd sort of do anything. Second of all, I don't think they or anybody else would have suspected that it would actually make any difference. Who would imagine that without the simple notation of PARTIAL RETURN the partial count would have been accepted as a complete count by the secretary of state? Even while the television showed them still counting?

But I don't think it was Machiavellian to suggest to the board that it write PARTIAL RECOUNT, because that is what it was. I think it would have been sort of Machiavellian to suggest to pretend they were not partial returns. [Talk Magazine, March 2001, p. 172
This is a political war about power not policy. The people usually understand that once they engage and they aren't crazy about it. (They certainly didn't approve of the impeachment) They really do expect the government to work on their behalf and even if they disagree with the policy they are far more forgiving of politicians who use the power of their office for the good of the people than they are of politicians who use their power purely for partisan advantage. Wisconsin may be one of those situations that gets their attention. They already don't like the idea of ending collective bargaining and union busting. I would imagine that doing it in this unconventional fashion will not sit well at all.

There are many possibilities for responses being discussed and planned. Recalls, upcoming elections etc., which will undoubtedly be followed up by local activists and their national allies. But they have done something much bigger than just end collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. They've raised awareness of the labor movement at a time when the middle class is under stress after years of being exploited. They wanted to deliver a coup de grĂ¢ce and have inspired a movement instead.