U.S: Mugabe's Excuse and Ours
OPINION – I suppose this is as good of time as any, especially right after the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and before November, to draw a comparison between Zimbabwe's recent election and ours.
Several months ago when Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe stopped the recount and claimed "if he was not reelected then Zimbabwe would experience political unrest and war," it reminded me of the 2000 election when the Supreme Court stopped the recount in Florida and handed the presidency to George W. Bush. Justice Anthony Scalia, concurring for the majority, wrote in Bush v. Gore, "If the manual count continued, it does in my view threaten irreparable harm to the petitioner (Bush), and to the country, by casting a cloud upon what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Albeit different countries and different leaders, it was the same excuse.
Mugabe and the ruling party ZANU-PF is, of course, an outwardly authoritarian regime. Having at one time resisted remnants of colonial imperialism and implemented social, economic and educational reforms for the poor; in the last election they abducted, tortured and imprisoned hundreds of opposition candidates while using food and violence to win votes. The Republican and Democrat Corporate Dynasties in the U.S., on the other hand, are inwardly authoritarian regimes. They rule through archaic institutions like the Electoral College and use managerial political action groups to divide, alienate and discourage voters. Alternative political parties, (There are 178 registered.), and other well qualified candidates with differing opinions and ideas are censored. The Republican and Democratic Parties, along with the mainstream media, claim democratization is taking place within their closed conventions. It is not. Democracy-direct rule by the people, occurred outside in the streets. It does not wait for change to happen but instead creates change now! Democracy understands and confronts destructive and deadly institutions – something the elite virtual media is unable to recognize – since it is separated from reality and hardship.
In an internalized authoritarian system, voters are manipulated and controlled through historical myths and an all-consuming media that promotes passivity by over-emphasizing the casting of a vote every four years-which actually does not count. The more public and "needful" displays of democratic initiatives like petitioning, organizing, demonstrating, voicing dissent, and following one’s conscience, are either dismissed or derided. In an internalized authoritarian bi-regime, the voter sits on the sideline and watches the winner outspend his/her opponent with billion dollar campaigns. The political party that can tell the most outlandish untruths-through an expensive media blitz, and achieve the best makeover from previous mistakes-like 9-11 and Katrina, becomes the winner. National nightmares like the Vietnam Conflict-which was started on false premises, prevented elections and reunification, and murdered 4 million Vietnamese-is relegated to the single experience of a combat pilot who was imprisoned. The Federal Elections Commission remains an accomplice while citizens remain unaware. The soon-to-be incumbent: another outdated institution, is politicized to repeat this undemocratic cycle.
This is how inner authoritarian regimes work, they become internalized, institutionalized, mythic, and eventually believed. Unlike outer authoritarian systems, they are invisible but the ends are always the same: Absolute obedience is enforced (whether invisibly from within or visibly from without) and power and policies trickle from the top down.
Even though Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote by more 500,000 in the 2000 election, and even though the Florida Supreme Court abided by the State and U.S. Constitutions by ruling for a manual recount-since the counting machines did not properly record the votes; George W. Bush and the Bush Dynasty, with their "hit team" and connections to oil and financial industries, mobilized all political resources and subservient office holders. His brother Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, along with secretary of state Republican Katherine Harris-who later certified George W. Bush the winner, blocked all efforts at "hand" recounts-a symbol of too much democracy. They smeared the Florida Supreme Court and falsely accused it of acting unconstitutionally. The Republican-backed U.S. Supreme Court quickly ruled George W. Bush the winner along ideological lines. The five conservative judges pronounced a recount would be dangerous to democracy while the four liberal judges argued they had no jurisdiction. The people submitted and inner authoritarianism once again ruled the election.
In an internalized authoritarian system, certain individuals and regimes are above the Supreme Law and beyond history. Although Article II Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution and Amendment Twelve states electoral college disputes are to be settled in the House of Representatives (HOR), which consists of the elected versus the appointed-as in the case of the Supreme Court, and although a historical precedent (1800, 1824, and 1876) had been set to settle contested elections in the HOR, George W. Bush still managed to become president, although an illegitimate one. It is estimated that over two million ballots were discounted, 10,000 in Palm Beach alone. Before the election, registrations were purged, voters were harassed, and as usual, the Few were enfranchised while the Many were disenfranchised.
As the world watched the entertaining coverage of the conventions and the race for the White House, it did not hear about the disrupted and banned protests, nor did it see peaceful demonstrators clubbed from behind and arrested. People did not observe the massive Iraq Veteran’s Against the War (IVAW) march that was barred entry into the conventions, nor did they hear their voices calling on the candidates to endorse their goal of immediate withdrawal from Iraq, full veterans benefits, and reparations for the Iraqi people. The world did not witness the police and National Guard, funded with $100 million from Homeland Security, fire tear gas and attack the peaceful Poor Peoples Campaign for Economic Human Rights. People did not see the steel cages interning demonstrators and neither did they notice Recreate 68. Internalized authoritarian regimes repress national memories and rewrite democratic movements by mislabeling them the "Summer of Love." In doing this, they are able to expand the national security state at home while forever initiating wars and bombing innocent people overseas.
Neither did the global community, even before the start of a convention, witness police clad in riot gear and armed with batons and pepper ball guns breaking down doors, arresting organizers and the press, and then denying them attorneys while threatening them with years of imprisonment. People did not see authorities confiscating computers and pamphlets such as "The Struggle is Our Inheritance: A History of Radical Minnesota." The world did not observe controversial documentaries broadcasted live on large billboard movie screens, for they were banned. In an internalized authoritarian state, dissent is disloyalty while obedience is patriotic; protesters are tarred and feathered while oppressive officials are protected; organizers and the alternative press are surrounded and assaulted while war criminals and elite propagandists remain at large; and pamphlets like Common Sense, with the idea of making the world anew, are confiscated and destroyed. Democratic actions like civil disobedience and demanding meetings with governing officials-which led to the expansion of voting rights-are forbidden. In the end, the U.S. is an example of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed, and how access to the political process and to equality is limited to only the Few, at the expense of the Many.
At least Zimbabwe has an opposition party. When President Mugabe opened Parliament he was heckled and shouted down with the words, "We have a pact with the people!" In the U.S., there is no opposition to the Democrat and Republican regimes. Nor is there resistance to their corporate, financial and military supporters. And sadly, there is no pact with the people. This is why universal health care, once a part of the Progressive Platform over one-hundred years ago, has not been made a reality. And even though there was a dramatic shift in the HOR and Senate in 2006, this is why U.S. troops are still in Iraq, one million people have lost their homes, and millions of Americans have slipped further into poverty. If President Mugabe "stole the election and murdered democracy," as one member of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) exclaimed, so did the Republicans, the Supreme Court, and a yielding Democratic Party. And for the citizen who despairs, "What can I do," then this approach presupposes internalized authoritarianism.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who once said Supreme Court judges should not write laws but interpret them, wrote, "Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself…and counting every legally cast vote could not have constituted irreparable harm." Violence and death do not only occur through visible armies and their brutal tactics, but also through institutions like an injudicious Supreme Court, an imperial Executive, an acquiescent Legislature, a domineering two-party political system, and a Corporate-Military-Academic Complex that favors the wealthy and perpetual war over the under classes and permanent peace. "A hungry man," said MDC Nelson Chaimisa, "is an angry man." So is a person who awakens from an internalized authoritarian state of being and realizes he/she has been exploited, and is now hungry for change!
(Dallas Darling is the author of The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. While a pastor and social-activist living in the U.S, he served the poor in rural communities and inner cities. Dallas also traveled and worked extensively throughout Latin America participating in peace with justice movements. Dallas teaches U.S. and World History and is a regular contributor to www.worldnews.com)