Yesterday a friend sent me a message headed “The pending 2004 Coup d’Etat.” You may understand that when I started to read, I felt skeptical. It was a letter from a Unitarian minister in Atlanta, claiming that the Bush administration’s Homeland Security department is pursuing legislation that would allow it to postpone national elections in the event of a terrorist attack on election day. The first link was to Fromthewilderness.com, an expo site run by a former LAPD drug investigator named Mike Ruppert, whose main stock-in-trade seems to be debunking the war on drugs. From there you can link to a Reuters article, a \Newsweek\ article, and the text of a background briefing by senior intelligence officials substantiating the story.
The reasoning given is practical. If –God forbid–there were an attack on election day comparable to 9/11, that would certainly disrupt the normal electoral process. Voter turnout would be blocked in the place(s) targeted, and there could be disruptions of phone, broadcast, or Internet transmissions. It could be argued that people might be afraid to go the polls; although it could argued just as convincingly that they would turn out in record numbers so as not to give in to the terrorists. It could be argued that the vote for the sitting president would be higher than otherwise because people would be afraid to change horses in midstream; and it could be argued just as convincingly that people would clamor to be rid of the administration that had presided over the present mess.
But the fear this proposal evokes has little to do with practicalities and rational arguments. It is the fear that the legislation could permit postponement of the election in the event of a clear \threat\ of attack. If the legislative language is elastic enough to permit this–given that we have been warned almost daily of the threat of attack, and given the likelihood that those warnings will persist–then in effect, it would permit indefinite postponement, ushering in the reign of King George Bush. Right now, we need to watch for the introduction of this bill and review its language very, very carefully.
I wish I could write this off as nothing but a wild paranoid fantasy. But when you steal one election, it suggests you might not respect the sanctity of the electoral process in general. One of those cheerful British aphorisms is “Start out as you mean to go on.” That’s what I?m afraid of.