A full year has now passed since the scandal of Election 2000 delivered an illegitimate presidency to American government, and, no, we have not moved on. We have not put it out of our minds, as pundits and politicians urged in the name of civic propriety. We have forgotten neither the raw power-grab engineered by hustler-statesmen from the Republican Party nor the blank-faced astonishment of Democratic leaders too slow to grasp what was under way. We have not forgiven the Supreme Court's rightist majority for its outrageous–felonious, as Vincent Bugliosi wrote in these pages–usurpation of the democratic process. We will not let it drop.
Yes, of course, Americans are now turned elsewhere in their thoughts. George W. Bush is leading the country in a perilous time and wins nearly unanimous approval in public opinion polls, since Americans want the terrorists to be brought to justice. But these circumstances do not rob us of independent minds and voices. Something terribly wrong happened to American democracy one year ago, and this grave injury has not been healed, or even honestly acknowledged and addressed.
As a recent report from the Election Reform Information Project described, virtually nothing of significance has been done by national legislators to clean up the mess in our election machinery or to approach more fundamental reform ideas. There have been notable exceptions: Senator Christopher Dodd and Congressman John Conyers, for example, have pushed for a bill that sets universal standards for voting machines and tackles problems of access. But bipartisan indifference has been more the order of the day. If there must be reform, politicians figure, let's wait until after our own 2002 re-election campaigns. By then, voters probably won't care, and the broken-down machinery that encourages low-turnout elections and safe incumbency can survive unchanged. Such an attitude amounts to further sabotage of the democratic faith.
The media, too, have fallen silent on the events of a year ago. It is not just the report of a consortium of major news organizations on the Florida vote that we await with growing impatience but more important, the return of ongoing coverage of reform efforts as well as attempts to get to the bottom of what happened.
Here is unsolicited advice for this President: The time will come, perhaps sooner than Washington imagines, when the approval polls are no longer at 90-plus percent and people are again focused on your shortcomings. At that point, voters will recall the irregularities that put you in power and your refusal even to acknowledge that there's anything wrong with the electoral system. It would be wise of you to prepare by spending a modest bit of your political capital on pushing for real reform.
To the opposition party, we offer a warning: In the long run, you will not be rewarded for your timidity and neglect. The fact that so many Democrats have lost their voice on a matter so important to democracy reminds people of your lack of leadership in many other matters.
To citizens we say: Hold on to your anger. Use it to fuel efforts to seek an accounting of what happened in 2000 and as an organizing tool to promote democratic reform.