A Scheme to Cancel the Elections?

We’re fighting a war to export "democracy" to Iraq – as U.S. government officials openly discuss the possibility of canceling the November elections. While it’s no surprise that a government official of any nationality would talk out of both sides of his mouth, in the Bizarro America of the post-9/11 era a distinctly double-jointed rhetorical style seems to have become an all-pervasive aspect of political discourse.

In late June, DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., head of the freshly-minted U.S. Election Assistance Commission (USEAC), started talking about "reviewing" possible scenarios in which the November elections would be canceled, or delayed, in response to a terrorist attack in the U.S. "Guidelines" for dealing with such a situation "do not currently exist," bemoaned Soaries, provocatively pointing to the example of the terrorist attacks on the eve of Spain’s elections. According to the neoconservative party line, the Madrid bombings handed the victory to the antiwar Socialists, and this proved the Spanish to be a nation of "appeasers," in spite of polls that showed the Socialists pulling ahead before the bombs went off. Never mind that such an attack on American soil would almost certainly ensure Bush’s reelection. If the Spanish reference didn’t set off alarm bells at the time, then surely the breathtaking assumptions contained in Soaries’ comments might lead us to wonder what they’re smoking over at the USEAC:

“Look at the possibilities. If the federal government were to cancel an election or suspend an election, it has tremendous political implications. If the federal government chose not to suspend an election it has political implications. Who makes the call, under what circumstances is the call made, what are the constitutional implications? I think we have to err on the side of transparency to protect the voting rights of the country.”

Yes, George W. Bush and his minions putting the kibosh on their upcoming landslide defeat certainly would have "tremendous political implications." It would usher in an era of political instability such as accompanied the rise of Caesarism in ancient Rome, marking the transition from Republic to Empire in a formal sense.

As for the constitutional implications, Soaries’ concern is vastly understated. Since there are no provisions in the U.S. Constitution providing for the cancellation of elections by the federal government, Soaries is asking us to consider "under what circumstances" the Constitution ought to be overthrown. His proposal amounts to a usurpation of power: in effect, a coup.

The Bush administration, in any case, was quick to pick up on the Soaries proposal – in tandem with the latest terrorist scare, as Michael Isikoff reported:

"American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call “alarming” intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, Newsweek has learned."

It’s the same old color-coded cacophony of scaremongering that has had the Bush administration manipulating the American people from one end of the manic-depressive scale to the other. Go shopping: buy duct tape: "They hate us for our freedom" – oh, and, by the way, we’re canceling the elections….

It’s funny how all this mysterious "chatter" we’re always hearing about invariably feeds the paranoiac convenience of the Bush administration, and once again this is proving to be the case, as Newsweek reports:

"The prospect that Al Qaeda might seek to disrupt the U.S. election was a major factor behind last week’s terror warning by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. Ridge and other counterterrorism officials concede they have no intel about any specific plots. But the success of March’s Madrid railway bombings in influencing the Spanish elections – as well as intercepted “chatter” among Qaeda operatives – has led analysts to conclude ‘they want to interfere with the elections,’ says one official."

Short of nuclearizing every major American city, Al Qaeda, in and of itself, is powerless to "disrupt" our electoral process: the only ones who seem to want to directly interfere with the elections are Mr. Soaries, the USEAC, and, now, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which, according to Newsweek, will "analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place." In a letter to Ridge, Soaries asks the Department of Homeland Security to submit "emergency" legislation to Congress empowering the USEAC to "make such a call."

Soaries, an unsuccessful 2002 Republican candidate for Congress, is also pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. His appointment as secretary of state by former Governor Christine Todd Whitman was celebrated at a two-hour February swearing-in ceremony described by inSpire, Princeton Theological Seminary’s alumni magazine, as "a religious service, a rarity for government events." According to the magazine, "Soaries later heard a high-ranking official say he’d heard the word ‘God’ in the ceremony more times than he’d heard it in his life to date."

Given Soaries’ religious predilections, the question of "who makes the call" seems all too settled. The Reverend Soaries presumably asked for divine guidance in this matter of suspending the electoral process, and George W. Bush, who believes God appointed him to lead a crusade against "the evildoers," would no doubt undertake a similar consultation with the heavenly powers. Together they would come to a divinely inspired conclusion.

One marvels at how far the Republicans have come down the road of "big government conservatism": their leaders are now calling for an unelected commission to be given absolute dominion over the "democratic" process, and, in effect, granted the power to jettison the Constitution. It used to be that the Democrats were the champions of administration law over the formerly constitutionalist Republicans, but the GOP, in this instance, has surpassed them.

The irony here is that no matter which wing of the War Party wins out, come November, the results, in terms of foreign policy, are likely to be very similar. One could even make a convincing argument that, under Kerry, the War Party would gain some political traction. Having lied us into Iraq, the Bushies lack the credibility to extend the war into Syria, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, whereas as a Kerry administration, operating with a clean slate, would be given an opportunity to prove its toughness.

The only antiwar candidate – albeit an inconsistent one – in either of the two "major" parties, Howard Dean, was driven out of the race when it seemed he had the nomination in hand, by a bizarre media assault that focused on a single instant of a single speech, in which the candidate let loose with a yelp that supposedly disqualified him from any further serious consideration. An odd occurrence, to be sure.

The pro-war Kerry then sent his operatives into the Green Party, snatched the nomination from Ralph Nader – the only antiwar candidate of any consequence left on the national stage – and soon afterward threw him off the ballot on a technicality in Arizona, moving to do the same nationwide.

In Arizona, the Democraps brought in no less than five corporate law firms to train their sights on disqualifying Nader’s petitions for ballot access. These sharks targeted the Nader campaign’s top petitioner, who, they somehow discovered, was an ex-felon – – who had paid his debt to society, but not the $400 fine required. All 550 of his signatures were disqualified, and a similar hunting expedition is on in many other states, with Democratic lawyers even seeking to disqualify the petitions filed by the minuscule "Socialist Equality Party" in an Illinois congressional race. No opposition to the Democratic Borg will be tolerated on the left.

It’s easier for a political party to get on the ballot in Iraq than it is in the U.S. Which is why it is possible that, in spite of the majority’s negative opinion of our widening war in the Middle East, both "major" parties oppose any talk of a U.S. withdrawal. A leaflet handed to me on San Francisco’s Fillmore Street, bearing the Kerry for President imprint, calls for "burden sharing," wants NATO to relieve 20,000 American troops (leaving well over 100,000), and wants to overlay the colonial administration with a fresh coat of bureaucracy, a "High Commissioner" who would "move Iraq forward on the road to sovereignty." There is, of course, no indication of just how long that particular road will be, but, in any case, it depends on the success of Kerry’s third recommendation: re-arming Iraq. We need "a massive effort to build an Iraqi security force," i.e. a new Iraqi Army.

Okay, so, let’s see if I get this straight: we just fought (and "won") a war, one that John Kerry voted to authorize, in which the ostensible casus belli was that Iraq was thought to be too heavily armed for the good of the neighborhood. Now we’re told we can’t leave until the disarmament process is reversed. The dizzying irony of this tortured rationale is the perfect Democratic complement to the Republican concept that we must cancel or postpone elections in order to preserve democracy.

It was the Bush administration, you’ll remember, acting through its Imperial Viceroy, Paul Bremer, that opposed direct national elections in Iraq – against the will of the Shi’ite mullahs, such as the Ayatollah Sistani – and instead proposed an indirect and complicated "caucus" system, in which the natural "leaders" and wise men (and women) would assemble in solemn conclave and rubberstamp American-approved candidates. Now they’re pulling the same tactic in the U.S., using the buffoonish Soaries and his Potemkin "Commission" of political hacks as a means to test the waters – and assert their ultimate supremacy.

I get a lot of letters from readers who agree with me, in essence, when I point out Kerry’s limitations (to utilize a considerable understatement), yet they honestly believe that, by getting rid of the present gang in Washington, we can at least avoid the worst. As William F. Buckley, Jr., who recently disavowed his previous support for the Iraq war, put it to the New York Times Magazine this past weekend,

"Neocons would suffer a great blow, conceivably mortal, if Bush were defeated because of Iraq."

This is true only in the limited sense that the neoconservative foreign policy of perpetual war would cease to be the official doctrine of the GOP. The war would become the property of the Democrats, who would be running it, and, naturally, defending it. The Republicans, on the other hand, would become more critical of the war effort, but not, for the most part, from a noninterventionist perspective, although some might evolve in that direction. The upshot is that, with a Kerry victory, all meaningful debate on the war – such as over the question of whether Iraq is worth it – would be effectively ended, with both parties competing to see who can "win" a war that cannot be won, short of eviscerating and "transforming" the Middle East while bankrupting ourselves and suffering untold thousands of casualties in the process.

Many sincere peace activists support the Kerry campaign, and I don’t question their motives. I want only to prepare them for the stunning disappointment of a Kerry regime eager to prove how well the Democrats can manage – and even expand – the American Empire.

Thanks to the Democratic party’s fanatical and well-financed campaign to knock Nader off as many ballots as possible, we don’t have a choice this election year. Also thanks to the short-sighted sectarianism and political cowardice of the Greens and the Libertarians, both of which rejected credible candidates, the third party milieu provides no natural outlet for antiwar sentiment at the polls this November. Betrayed by the Left, and ignored by ostensibly anti-interventionist elements on the Right, such as the LP, the antiwar voter (constituting, at this point, something pretty close to a majority), is the man without a party.

Cancel the elections? They needn’t bother. Whichever wing of the War Party wins out, come Election Day, the continuity of our imperial foreign policy remains unbroken.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].