When 64-year-old Wallace McDonald went to vote four years ago, he ran up against an old ghost. In 1959, he'd been arrested for falling asleep on a bus stop bench, and even then--and even for a black man--that offense was a misdemeanor. But in Katherine Harris's Florida, it was enough to get his name on the felon purge list. The vote McDonald intended to cast in 2000, his contribution to America's destiny, was denied.
About midway through this gawdawful campaign season, a friend told me a lady he goes to church with had learned we were friends and complained to him that my writing was full of hate. I have no way of knowing if she was referring to any specific article or everything I say. Does she read my stuff every week? Or did she happen to snag a stray BW on her way to the john and caught me on a bad day? I just don't know.
My bet is, though, this lady was referring to things I've said about George W. Bush. It's been a common claim against Democrats that we hate him. I've even heard prominent Demo spokesmen--Paul Begala and James Carville for example--bend over backwards to say they regard Bush as a nice, likable guy, and that they merely disagree with his policies.
Not me. I speak only for myself, but I don't regard him as nice and I can't fathom how anyone could find him likable. The church lady is right. I disagree with Bush's policies, obviously, but it's the man I hate. And I've been waiting almost four years to tell you now, on the brink of this election, why.
First of all, it's not because he's a Republican. My maternal grandparents were Republican and I loved them. I still have Republicans in my family and I love them all. I have more Republican friends than not, and they wouldn't be my friends if I hated Republicans, now would they?
It's not because he lied about Iraq or because he exploited 9/11 for political gain. Certainly, such vile behavior doesn't help me like him any better, but I hated him before 9/11 ever happened.
It's not because he dodged Vietnam 35 years ago. So did I. Nor is it because he's an arrogant, pampered, entitled little snot in an aging body. There are plenty of that sort around, and I'm not going to waste energy hating them all.
And it's not because he's stupid. Stupidity is so universal that to hate all of it would inevitably lead to madness. Truth is, I'm not beyond a bit of stupid myself.
It's what he let happen in Florida four years ago. That's why I hate Bush.
Johnny Jackson Jr., 32, lost his vote because his name appeared on a felon list imported from--go figure--Texas as "John Fitzgerald Jackson." It didn't matter that Johnny had never been to Texas, or that his middle name wasn't "Fitzgerald." The similarity was close enough for Harris' election board.
You can forget about the hanging chads. And the dimpled ones, too. All that chad crap was merely a distraction those screaming GOP goons on the street were howling about to keep America's attention off the larger travesty.
Forget about the butterfly ballots and the Supreme Court shenanigans and the decrepit voting machines and everything else. And forget about the 700 military ballots. Even had every last one of them been legal--which they weren't--they were misdemeanor peanuts compared to the grand larceny that truly determined the outcome.
No, the 2000 election was about the Bush machine depriving black people of the vote. Plain and simple. There was more than one strategy employed: shifting polling stations, intimidating police blockades and ID requirements that weren't required of anyone else. But to this Bush-hater, the most insidious of all was the felon purge list, where Harris (and before her, Sandra Mortham, another Jeb Bush groupie) relied on an 1868 Florida law to throw at least 57,700 people off the registration rolls. Incidentally, that law was enacted by ex-Confederates to accomplish the very same end.
Now listen, church lady, if this isn't starting to piss you off, you're not half the patriot you think you are.
Like Jackson, 28-year-old Thomas Cooper has a middle name different from the one listed. Plus, he's a different race. And to top it off, the list placed the date of his crime in the year 2007. When it was pointed out to an election board official that such a thing is largely considered impossible, that official directed underlings to blank out the conviction date if said date hadn't happened yet. Just shy of 5,000 conviction dates were blanked out. Cooper's was among the 300-plus future dates they missed.
It goes on and on. Of the thousands of individuals who were not allowed to vote, I'm sure many were indeed ex-criminals. But only one county bothered to double-check all the names on its list before the election, and out of 694 names, only 34 were found to be former felons. When the company hired to compile the list offered to do the extra work necessary to ensure the info was accurate, Harris herself wrote a note on their verification plan: "DON'T NEED." (I must acknowledge the work of British reporter Greg Palast, whose article in the March 2002 issue of Harper's provides most of the detail herein. And every American should thank him from the depths of our democracy for doing the sort of reporting most homegrown journalists seem to have no backbone for.)
It's simple: half of those on Florida's purge list were black people, and over 90 percent of Florida's black population votes Democrat. Figure it out for yourself. That's in the neighborhood of 25,000 votes stolen from Gore in just this one maneuver. Bush's final margin in Florida was 537 votes. It's no wonder to me that the Religious Right insists God made him president, because I firmly believe even they, in their guts, know fully well the American people didn't.
Obviously, Bush didn't figure this scheme out by himself. But in my book, no person with an ounce of integrity or honor would have accepted the office under these circumstances. But it's worse than a matter of a sneaky sonofabitch stealing the most powerful position on Earth. What happened in Florida was a kick in the nuts to generations of freedom fighters who worked and died like dogs to eliminate this sort of Jim Crow, Klan treachery. I personally regard it as an act of treason. Our entire democracy was subverted in 2000, and what could be more treasonous than that? Frankly, I am appalled that everyone out there doesn't hate the crime--and the man who got away with it--as much as I do.