Friday, November 26, 2004


Will the administration be going on "Orange alert"?

Today I was reading David Neiwert's conclusion to his excellent essay "The Rise of Pseudo Fascism." (Do put the whole series on your holiday reading list.)

Neiwert posted the Conclusion of the series before the November 2 election. Considering the near future, he wrote—

What's still lacking, however, from the basic recipe for genuine fascism is the emergence of a genuine crisis of democracy. Unfortunately, because of the extreme volatility of the political environment, the potential for such a crisis erupting exists regardless of whatever among the likely scenarios plays out in Tuesday's election:

Neiwert proposes four scenarios centered about possible outcomes or events. The last of these is "a major terrorist attack during the election"—

As Richard Hasen pointed out in Slate, this is "the true nightmare scenario": An attack on a major city in a battleground state could prevent thousands, even millions of voters from making it to the polls, triggering a political and legal fight over how to handle the matter afterward. It's worth noting, of course, that not only are Oklahoma City-style domestic terrorists the potential perpetrators of such acts, they are, under the current charged milieu, those most likely. But if such an attack does occur, the presumptive suspects of course will be al Qaeda.

Neiwert searches such an event for its potential contribution to the rise of fascism—

Of course, terrorist attacks needn't occur only on Election Day to have a potentially profound impact on American society. Indeed, if they are severe or frequent enough, it is clear that they would clearly represent a continuing source of crisis for democracy. Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's vote, the power of terrorism to spark such a crisis remains profound.

He's certainly correct from that perspective. But the phrase "a major terrorist attack during the election" may also be understood from a perspective in which the election is still underway.

This is of course the case, legally speaking, so long as votes are being counted and certified and so long as the true electors of the Electoral College have not cast their ballots.

But it is also the case politically in the minds of many voters, who under normal government would have considered the election over on November 3. While we are not seeing street demonstrations (yet) à la Ukraine, the voters' rights organizations have been making real progress in forcing an examination of the popular vote.

It occurred to me that the possibility of a terrorist attack, staged or real—an event we all feared might occur just prior to or during the election (and which did occur in verbal fashion via the bin-Laden video)—has not ended so long as the election is perceived as not really over.

Regarding election irregularities and voters' rights initiatives, many bloggers have commented on the silence of the media. A few have commented on the silence of the Democrats. But no one seems to be wondering about the silence of the Republicans, and most particularly, the top of this administration.

Of course, I realize that it is in the Republicans' interest to be seen as self-assuredly going about their business. But I cannot for a moment believe that they are not following the progress of the voters' rights efforts with an avidity equal to or greater than yours or mine. And it would be equally out of character for them not to have a Rovian plan on the ready should matters begin to get out of hand.

And what could end those voters' rights efforts faster than a terrorist attack, or even its baby brother the "Orange alert"? An end to any further questioning of the election would receive the full support of the Democratic party, in the interest of "national unity" at such a "grave time."

So remember—the election is not over, and neither is the threat of "terrorism." The administration just hasn't felt the need to raise the alert level—yet.

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