Think of it: If God had made Strom Thurmond just six weeks older,
Senate would still be under Democratic control.
It's enough to shake one's faith -- and mine was none too strong to
with. But then it became apparent that the Almighty was, as usual,
step ahead. He had devised a divinely devious plan.
First He induced Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to blackmail President George W. Bush. Lott
did this by threatening to resign his Senate seat if forced to abdicate
leadership. Because Mississippi has a Democratic governor, this would
put the Senate back at 50-to-50 and the Democrats within one defection
control. The device worked, of course. Bush rebuked Lott but
short of pushing him overboard.
But that merely moved the drama on to the next scene. There are
senators, such as Lincoln Chafee, John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Susan
Collins and Richard Lugar, who have a certain honor to defend. Let them be
reminded. Strom Thurmond ran for president in 1948, not merely to
segregation but to actually oppose a federal anti-lynching law. The
card passed out for Thurmond in Mississippi put it this way:
REMEMBER: A vote for Truman electors is a direct order to
Congressmen and Senators from Mississippi to vote for passage of
so-called civil rights law in the next Congress. This means the
FEPC -- anti poll tax -- anti-lynching and anti-segregation proposals
become the law of the land and our way of life in the South will be
Can these men and women really allow Lott to stay in his post?
possibly afford not to stand up and be counted against him? Will the
blackmail work on them? We shall see.
Meanwhile, Bush may be losing on another front. It appears that
President Hugo Chavez is holding out in a tense struggle over the
fate and future of democracy in that country. Chavez is bitterly opposed by
Venezuela's upper crust, just as he is strongly supported by the
as I write, the oil lockout has been at least partly broken; tankers
filled and sailed for the United States. The military has remained
shops are open, subways are running and (mostly) peaceful crowds
gathered around the pro-coup commercial television stations. Perhaps
importantly, a sniper (like the provocateur most likely responsible for
killings at an anti-government rally last week) has not yet found
Clearly the United States is involved. A Uruguayan politician blew the whistle
request for help from the administration in support of a coup. In a
desperate move, Bush issued a public statement on Dec. 13 calling
early elections. But why? Unlike Bush himself, Chavez was elected.
is no reason for him to step down other than the intransigent
of the Venezuelan upper classes. The "rebellion of the spoiled
they are calling it. Canada quickly distanced itself from Bush's
The American press has been even more than usually disgraceful on
matter, aligning itself uncritically with official disinformation.
want to read the real news, check out the indispensable Narco News Network. The game is not yet over, but so far it
hasn't gone exactly to plan.
Meanwhile, speaking of free, fair and democratic elections, it was a
pleasure to visit Brazil in late November. There was a palpable
the election of Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, an authentic trade
(can you imagine?) whose bumper stickers everywhere read, "Por um
Lula recently visited Washington, where, it appears he placed a
bargain in front of Bush, that great free trader: Give us
trade, said Lula, and we will pay our debts. It is too bad, of
that Brazil's orange juice, currently excluded by a steep tariff,
flood Florida more effectively than an Antarctic meltdown. Lula made
threats. But if Bush wants to defend the Jebberglades more than he
free trade, why then should Lula put himself out over the big banks,
insurance companies, pension funds and others? Choices, choices,
Government is hell.
And finally, in Iraq news, there is no sign yet of the slightest
mass destruction. The inspections go forward, undercutting -- even if
final analysis they may not be able to stop -- the rush to war.
Perhaps the Almighty has not yet wholly abandoned stray cats, small
children and the United States of America. Happy New Year.
James K. Galbraith teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.