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Obama Must Use Military to Ensure a Free and Fair Election
By Jonathan Klate
Witnessing this presidential election drama is like a nightmare in which a catastrophic multi-car collision on a fog shrouded, rain-slicked interstate is developing in slow motion. You see it from above, the helicopter view. The cars begin to skid and spin slowly out of control, hurtling towards each other, the inevitable crunches of steel and cascades of splintered glass anticipated. You are powerless to stop it. And, what is worse, in the surreal dreamscape, you are also a passenger in one of the cars.
Newly enacted rules regarding who may vote, when they may register, what sort of never before required ID will be required and who faces discouraging obstacles in obtaining it, how underserved will be certain voting precincts resulting in lines and waits so long as to effectively disenfranchise many hoping to vote, and challenges to citizens rights by vigilante mobs are widely forecast to compromise and potentially cast doubt upon the outcome of this election.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, featuring some of the most prestigious scholars in the field of voting rights, reports that the breakdown of those without government issued photo ID includes 6 million seniors, 5.5 million African Americans, 8.1 million Hispanics, 4.5 million eighteen- to twenty-four-year olds, and 15 percent of voters with household income under $35,000 a year.
There's some double-counting due to group overlap, but the net result is that some five million voters are losing their civil rights, overwhelmingly in twelve "battleground" states.
This is compounded greatly by the purges in Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere of likely Democratic voters. And all of this comes before the actual voting and counting which is itself egregiously suspect due to privately owned, coded, and operated electronic voting machines by companies without federal oversight including notoriously those in Ohio where the election may well be decided by an outfit in which the son of candidate Romney has an influential financial interest.
Things are so ominous that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places and efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.
All signs indicate that the election will be dramatically close and likely come down to a contest between Democratic turnout efforts and Republican suppressive action, according these corrupting factors the potential to be decisive. Obama's strategy seems to be winning with enough of a margin to render cheating too problematic for the opposition to overcome his actual advantage. But, with current polls projecting a photo finish, this is a dubious game plan.
If the election process is compromised the only mechanism for remedial action will be in the courts and the only venue with sufficient authority to mandate adherence to a decision determining the outcome will be the Supreme Court. The justices perpetrated one of the grand travesties of American judicial history in 2000, and the right is lawyered up and ready to bring the fight across all of the swing states and to the Supremes in the event of disputed outcomes. If they do it again, will Obama deem it his solemn responsibility to enforce a blatantly political, extra-Constitutional decision, acquiescing meekly as did Gore and our president at the time, Bill Clinton? One is compelled to imagine that he would.
Thus Obama must pre-empt such an eventuality and use every mode and method of power at his command to guarantee the right of every citizen to vote wherever it is deemed to be threatened, whether by jurisdictional authority or by vigilante activism.
In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and sent the 101st Airborne into Little Rock when the governor of that state refused to enforce the rights of all Americans to attend school together. It was the right thing to do then and similar action is required now. After the election devolves into dispute will be too late.
Here is the kind of speech I would hope to hear President Obama deliver, and the sooner the better.
"My Fellow Americans, When you elected me as your president, I placed my hand upon the Holy Bible, and I swore to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Nothing is more fundamental to our nation and its constitution than the right to vote.
Brave Americans have fought and died through the centuries and are doing so today to guarantee the right to free and fair elections in far flung places around our world, so important to us as a people is this principle, not just for ourselves, but for everyone.
Nobody should be able to vote who does not qualify to do so according to the Constitution of the United States of America. Fortunately, this has rarely happened. In our long national history, however, many people, whole classes of people, have been denied this right. We must ensure that those days of disenfranchisement of our citizenry never return.
Everybody who does qualify and wants to vote must not have that right compromised, hindered, threatened or violated; not by any state or municipal authority; not by accidental misapplication of constitutional law; not by inadequate facilities or personnel; not due to discriminatory difficulties in accessing polling places that privilege one group of voters over another; and certainly not by the intimidation of vigilante mobs. Furthermore, the counting of votes must be done without the slightest suspicion of discrepancy. This is how we determine the will of the people.
In my view, the obstruction or intimidation of one single American from exercising their right to vote must be regarded as akin to terrorism, and must be prevented from occurring anywhere.
In order to uphold and defend the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote I will, as your president and Commander-in-Chief, utilize any and all powers of our federal government to observe, monitor, and - when and if necessary - enforce this right if it is in the process of being infringed. Monitors, backed by any required presence of federal authority, will be sent to any jurisdiction where information suggests infringement may occur, according to information gathered by the Department of Justice.
We will rely upon local law enforcement to do its job in every jurisdiction. We will reinforce this presence, should in our judgment it be required, by the armed forces of the United States of America to guarantee the absolute integrity of our democracy as the foundation stone of our liberty and as a model for the world. In this way, we will ensure that our government truly still is and evermore will be of the people, by the people, and for the people, so help us almighty God."
The presence of armed forces would underscore the serious nature of the threats to democracy posed by the tactics of disenfranchisement being deployed by those determined to wrest the presidency from Barack Obama by any means necessary. Is it radical? Of course. Is there another way? The petitions flying around the web urging the Department of Justice to "Do something!" are exercises in futility. And it must be emphasized again, once the election is stolen there will be no effective recourse. The theft must be prevented.
The troops would serve as observers and peace keepers to ensure that there is no intimidation of voters such as that which is promised by vigilante groups issuing "citizen challenges" to, for example, voters of color, in swing states. Local law enforcement cannot be relied upon to adequately prevent this particularly if these intimidators turn out to number in the thousands as they threaten to. Vigilantes would be monitored, controlled, and prevented from harassing citizens. Also, violence could erupt between the challengers and those challenged which could disrupt voting by perhaps even leading to riots at some polling places. This would be welcomed by the vigilantes since disruption of voting by any means required is the point. So federal troops would be charged with ensuring public safety by preventing such confrontational escalation.
In precincts with inadequate numbers of voting facilities yielding long lines and waits of many hours, the military could keep those polls open until all who wish to vote have done so.
Technicians would be deployed to monitor voting machines to ensure recording and counting is properly supervised, and they would be protected in turn and enabled to do their job by the military.
The precincts selected for deployment would be only in those swing state districts where justice department intelligence strongly suggests that violations of civil right are likely to occur.
If the deployment of the military seems ill advised, I would ask, what is the alternative? Is refraining from such a radical course worth the subversion of the election and the commandeering of the White House in what would amount to a bloodless coupe; or, depending upon one's interpretation of the 2000 debacle, another coupe?
Recommending military presence in our streets does not make me happy. One can imagine what a Romney administration might do with such a president. But then, the imagination of that possibility, achieved through obstruction of the voting process to obscure the will of the majority of those who intend to vote and have their votes counted, is the ironic impetus animating this suggestion.
Jonathan Klate is a frequent contributor to Tikkun magazine.