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10/19/00 nader.C.Thalken

  Volume 101, No. 75   Thursday, January 18, 2001  

Inaugural protests justified

Don't kid yourself about government of, by and for the people.

By Travis Metcalfe
Daily Texan Columnist

Shortly after the Yugoslav government nullified the results of a presidential election last October, half a million Serbs took to the streets of Belgrade, seized control of the parliament building and demanded the resignation of Slobodan Milosevic. The world community cheered and extolled the popular uprising as a victory for democracy.

After seeing democracy work in Yugoslavia, but fail miserably in our own country, we are left to wonder: Where is the outrage in America?

Michael Albert, editor of Z Magazine, argues that "if people sincerely believed before this election that we live in the world's foremost democracy, then they would be irate. But people are not irate so we have to conclude that most folks don't really believe this is the world's foremost democracy, or even a democracy at all."

This directly contradicts what the television pundits appear to believe. To them, an election this close could only mean that the country is evenly divided along party lines, with each side firmly behind their candidate but reluctantly willing to concede defeat when duty calls.

MIT Professor Noam Chomsky has a slightly different interpretation. Why were 100 million votes divided evenly within the margin of error? "There is a very simple model that would yield such expectations: people were voting at random." Flip a coin. Half of the time it will come up heads, the other half tails. The more you flip it, the closer you'll get to an even split. This analogy is so good, the Washington Mint is now selling a one-ounce silver coin with Al Gore on one side and George W. Bush on the other.

Of course, not everyone voted at random. Some people considered the limited choice very seriously. A few million people voted for one of the third-party candidates, but the majority of the voting-age population decided to just stay at home on election day. To be fair, they probably didn't know about a third-party candidate who may have really represented them because television regularly featured only the two guys who nearly tied for second place. One of those two will soon be sworn in as the new president because of some technicality that would have roused half a million people to the streets if it had happened in Belgrade.

Fortunately, many people who didn't vote for either George W. Bush or Al Gore will be taking to the streets on inauguration day. They would have done this regardless of which one had succeeded in stealing the election because they recognize that the process is inherently flawed, no matter what the particular outcome. Both candidates have been marinated in special interest cash, and both would have been accountable to those special interests after the election. Don't kid yourself about government of, by and for the People. That only happens in places like Yugoslavia.

If you insist on having a real democracy, a good start might be to show your support in the streets. About 750,000 people are expected to attend the inauguration of George W. Bush on Saturday, Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C. Not all of them will be happy. The demonstrations are expected to be the largest inaugural protests since Richard Nixon took the oath of office for the second time in 1973, and the police presence will be three times larger than it was four years ago. The same non-violent demonstrators who shut down the anti-democratic World Trade Organization summit in Seattle are organizing a march at what they call the "inaugur-auction."

If you can't make it all the way to D.C., the Austin group Democracy Now! is organizing several events on Jan. 20. The anti-inaugural events will begin downtown at Republic Park on 4th and Guadalupe streets at 2 p.m. followed by a march down Congress to the state capitol at 2:30 p.m. and a rally on the capitol steps from 3 to 5 p.m. Cindy Beringer, one of the organizers, expects 500 to1,000 people to participate in the march. Clearly this isn't Belgrade, but it's a start.

Metcalfe is a doctoral student in the Department of Astronomy