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People of color are always out of order, like uncloseted queers, white trash, and unruly women. Related Gully Coverage

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The dirtiest U.S. election in more than a century elicited nary a public peep.

black caucus

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, top right, D-Tex., listens with fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus whose objections to Florida's electoral vote were quashed by Al Gore himself. Wash., D.C. Jan. 6, 2001. Kenneth Lambert

United States

Sold Down the River—Again

by Kelly Cogswell

JANUARY 8, 2001. This is the little tableau that should haunt our new American century—a smiling, smug Al Gore tapping his gavel to silence the protests of twenty Democratic, mostly black Representatives, while in the background white Republicans shout "out of order," "out of order." It happened Saturday, in a joint session of Congress, where the electoral votes were officially tallied giving George W. Bush the White House.

Have you ever noticed how people of color, when they strike out on their own, are always out of order, like uncloseted queers, white trash, and unruly women?

Technically, it was true. An 1877 law requires that any objection to electoral votes by a House member be accompanied by the signature of a senator before the matter will even be discussed, much less considered by both houses.

And not one among the hundred extremely white Senators had the balls or tits to stand up, sign on, and get behind the black representatives, like Corrine Brown of Florida, and Maxine Waters of California, protesting that the Florida electors had been assigned their twenty-five votes without the annoying formality of counting all the ballots, especially African American ones.

black caucusGore's humor, though, was the shocker. While protesters denounced fraud and black voter disenfranchisement, the Tennessee boy just grinned and shrugged, the good-natured loser of a political game. "The chair thanks the gentleman from Illinois, but, hey...," a smiling Gore told Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.

The secret to his good humor is that Albert Gore, Jr. didn't really lose. A rich, white, straight son of a Democratic dynasty can't, as long as the party stands. And it does, hand in hand with the GOP who would do anything to protect the two-step of the status quo, even share power in the Senate if it buys electoral silence.

Trent Lott didn't concede those Senate committees seats out of the goodness of his heart. And if Ashcroft's confirmation as attorney general, like the electoral votes, is approved, black Florida voters and black House members may have been the price.

So now we know. When it comes to power, it's not Republicans against Democrats, Bushes against Gores. No, it's blacks against whites, shrubs against the leaves of grass, and the People against the career politicians, both GOP and Dems, who have forgotten they still need our consent.

To everyone asking what do we do now, the only answer is—everything. In direct action, letters, picket lines and civil disobedience, we have to keep declaring Bush's illegitimacy and our long memories. The point is not so much to depose King George, as to throw up a roadblock to the rest of the weasely politicians waiting to follow in his royal shoes.

Don't wait for help. If there isn't a group in your town start one. You just need a handful of people to demand accountability from local and state legislatures, and biased media. Be bold and imaginative and persistent.

Go to the mall and hand out helium balloons with pictures of the Supreme Court on them, explaining in a leaflet why the inJustices are full of hot air. Write your own Declaration of Independence from Sell-out Politicians and have a signing at a park. Crack a Liberty Bell. Enact a fake crowning of Prince Bush on Inauguration Day at the Burger King.

And call the press. Even if there are only three of you, you'll be worth a mention. So what if they call you crazy?—it's better than being invisible. Soon there will be twenty of you, and they'll call you radicals. When you hit twenty thousand, you'll be a movement.

Which is what we need. A garden variety, dare I say it—fundamentalist—pro-democracy movement with fundamental demands like liberty, equality, and justice for all, with new voting machines and campaign finance reform, so eventually there's someone to vote for who is worth more than the paper the miscast ballot will be printed on.

Related links:

For easy, step-by-step instructions on how to plan your own actions, check out the classic Lesbian Avenger Organizing Handbook.

For VoterMarch.org, dedicated to voter rights and election reform. Includes plans for a massive Inaugural Voter March: Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001.

For more Inaugural protests Jan. 20 in D.C. check out Infoshop.org and IndyMedia Center.

In Depth

Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

Bush Plus
U.S. politics and the Bush administration All about George W. Bush, Dems, Greens, GOPs, and the morass of U.S. politics.

New World
new worldOur Americas. Politics, democracies, failed utopias, and the sullen heirs of colonialism: from Canada to Argentina.

Gay Mundo
gay pride
The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Guatemala to Puerto Rico and more.

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