Monday, 10 November 2014 00:00

Call This Election What It Was: A Fossil Fuel Coup

Written by  Ben Ptashnik, Truthout | News Analysis
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his wife, Elaine Chao, celebrate his re-election to the Senate, in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 4, 2014. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his wife, Elaine Chao, celebrate his re-election to the Senate, in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 4, 2014. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)
Coup d'état: (noun) Also known as a coup, a putsch, or an overthrow; the sudden and illegal seizure of a government, usually instigated by a small group of the existing state establishment to depose the established government and replace it with a new ruling body. A coup d'état is considered successful when the usurpers establish their dominance.

In the aftermath of the 2014 elections many of my friends, especially environmentalists, are depressed.

But I'm not. I'm just angry.

Let's not hesitate to say what is obvious: This was an entirely corrupt and rigged election. What we witnessed last Tuesday, on Election Day, is just how dirty the right-wing corporate and fossil fuel oligarchy is willing to play. They exceeded our worst expectations and cheated so boldly that despite all we know about them, it still sent shivers up our collective spine.

The Senate takeover was a bald-faced, outright abrogation of democracy that felt and smelled like a political coup d'état. Not all coups require military force, as in Chile or Argentina. There are boundless examples of manipulated bloodless coups abetted by a moneyed political class. The accusation made in this article is not mere hypothesis, but a substantiated truth: The 2014 election was an illegal seizure of power enabled by forces within government itself.

We saw it coming. The fossil fuel industry headed by the Koch brothers and their allies in the Supreme Court, US Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and ALEC already had the Senate "in the bag" months ago. Or put another way, their bagmen had manipulated primaries, suppressed voters of color, and used Astroturf 501c3 "charitable" front organizations to funnel unlimited dark money into tight races, spending $200 million in attack ads to undermine the president and 11 key Senate Democratic candidates.

Since 2010, forces on the right have worked overtime preparing to rig the 2014 election, radically undermining election safeguards in Supreme Court decisions, drastically gerrymandering election districts, passing racially discriminatory voter ID laws, gutting the Voting Rights Act, shortening voting hours, "disappearing" mailed-in voter registrations and flooding election districts with misleading robocalls.

The voter suppression laws passed in 21 states were designed to keep millions of Americans from voting, critically affecting the outcome of tight elections. The New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Social Justice has listed four states where voter suppression alone was large enough to flip tight races: North Carolina, Virginia, Kansas and Florida. Add to that list stealth purging of voter lists, mysterious Election Day power failures in Democratic districts in Florida and Michigan, intimidation by "poll watchers" in Arkansas, and the robocalls that kept 2,000 election judges from showing up on Election Day in Democratic districts in Illinois.

Sure, some of the Senate victories can be attributed to the GOP's successful strategy to never cooperate with President Obama and undermine his every initiative, until the US public considered him a failure because obstructionist Republicans did everything they possibly could to make him a failure (their publicly stated goal).

The 2014 elections were rigged primarily for the sake of perpetuating the mother of all Wall Street bubbles: the carbon bubble.

But we must not allow the pundits to spin this election for what it definitely is not - a supposed shift to the right in the mentality and disposition of US voters. Most importantly, don't give unmitigated credence to the surprise "upset" victories by GOP candidates, who suddenly came from behind and upended pre-election poll numbers, now deemed "mistaken" by the media. Let's not swallow the revisionist excuses that pollsters had miscalculated their formulas, as the corporate media claim every time there is an unexpected shift to the right in the final vote count.

Pundits and election analysts continuously fail to report that not only are voter suppression and other dirty tricks a major factor, but that we are still facing a situation where hired guns like Karl Rove have the motivation and ability to manipulate the privately controlled electronic voting machine tabulators just enough to create "upsets," but not enough to cause many eyebrows to be raised. No one would notice in a swing or Republican district, if one or two votes out of a hundred were programmed to flip from the Democratic candidate to the Republican.

Why do we not speak of this computer rigging, at least as a possibility, in the aftermath of the most corrupt election in US history? Ask yourself why these coup perpetrators, who would cheat and lie and scheme in a dozen other election categories, would stop short of hacking the vote counting tabulators if they possibly could. We have evidence that at least some computer tabulators had been "patched" or hacked to control or skew the final vote tally against Democrats in Florida 2000 (Gore), Georgia 2002 (Cleland), Ohio 2004 (Kerry), and in South Carolina 2010 (Rawls).

In fact, we witnessed a questionably high level of disconnect in voter preferences in the 2014 election where progressive ballot issues overwhelmingly won the day while far-right conservatives who were strongly opposed to those same issues mysteriously swept to victory on the same ballot. For example, Wisconsin voters raised the minimum wage while at the same time reelecting well-known Koch puppet Scott Walker, an opponent of the wage increase.

Ballot initiatives nationwide prove that the 2014 election marks a turning point, where democratic corruption, climate and clean energy become the galvanizing central issues for the 2016 elections. In many state referenda, citizens voted to overturn Citizens United, and fracking bans were victorious in Ohio, California and even, for the first time ever, in Texas.

While these power brokers have played the political long game masterfully, they have ignored the long-term damages to sustainable world resources, and have invited chaos - both economically and ecologically.

For this reason, instead of rolling over and accepting defeat, we must insist most emphatically that there is no mandate for the new majority in the US Senate to unleash the fossil fuel industry and bring on runaway global warming. The 2014 elections were rigged primarily for the sake of perpetuating the mother of all Wall Street bubbles: the carbon bubble. Scientists tell us that when this mother finally bursts, it will bring humankind to its knees, sink whole island countries, and may eventually cause the death of half or more of the species on the planet and billions of human souls.

The overwhelming majority of Americans do not approve of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), whose party in Congress had less than a 10 percent approval rating, and they certainly don't want the fossil fuel industry and Wall Street to determine our national policy on climate change. On the contrary, polls show that a majority of Americans want government to engage in climate mitigation, as 400,000 diverse demonstrators clearly stated at the People's Climate March in New York City this September - the biggest mass mobilization in US history.

The vibrant growth of the climate justice movement is precisely why a 2014 political coup was necessary for the Koch brothers, fracking boom exploiters and deep-sea drilling special interests. Tellingly, the first items on the McConnell agenda are undermining EPA environmental regulations, construction of the Keystone pipeline and passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreements that will further cede corporations hegemony over all national and community environmental law.

It's undeniable that the corporate oligarchy has performed this coup d'état almost flawlessly - pulling off a subterfuge that a few decades ago would have been impossible if not for the illegal and partisan Supreme Court decisions. Tragically, while these power brokers have played the political long game masterfully, they have ignored the long-term damages to sustainable world resources, and have invited chaos - both economically and ecologically.

To speak in their own language, they may now continue undermining, for their own shortsighted greed, the fundamental market principle that one should not "kill the goose that lays the golden egg."

Their new philosophy, simply put, is "Screw the goose, we want the gold."

Let's closely examine how this coup was rigged from the start:

1. Supreme Court decisions: Citizens United in 2010 and related right-wing Supreme Court decisions created an open house for buying and shooting down candidates by corporate interests. McCutcheon swung the gate open even wider for pay-to-play politics. Under the cover of PACs and 501c3 "charitable" fronts, powerful corporations and the wealthy can buy politicians and elections. The 2014 Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act did more to undermine democracy than anything attempted by partisans in the past 50 years. These moves, aimed at dismantling democracy and civil rights, should bring us all into the streets and in front of the Supreme Court with our pitchforks.

2. Gerrymandering: In 2010, the Kochs and their allies targeted tens of millions of dollars toward key races that determined the control of state legislatures. This was a successful strategy to make sure the GOP controlled redistricting following the crucial 2010 census, allowing them to severely gerrymander a dozen states so that heavily Democratic districts (and especially cities like Detroit) were broken up and diffused into Republican strongholds. By 2014, this meant the GOP had manipulated voter preference to lock in their US House majorities in key swing states and Democratic strongholds like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. They also leveraged these statehouse advantages to promulgate voter ID laws, which depressed turnout and further suppressed progressive Democratic candidates. (Example: After severe gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, where statewide Democratic candidates get 45 to 55 percent of the vote and just won the governorship, Republicans control 14 out of the 18 congressional districts).

3. Voter suppression: Perhaps millions of voters were denied or discouraged from participation in the 2014 election by Koch, ALEC and GOP supported voter ID laws in 21 states, which were specifically aimed at suppressing people of color, student and elderly voters. This was topped off with misleading robocalls, intimidation by poll "watchers," purging of voter lists in key states and missing voter registration applications. Yet on Fox News, one reporter had the temerity to crow that the Democrats did not succeed in getting the usual number of voters of color to the polls.

4. Dark money and massive coordinated attack ads: The New York Times reported that the GOP set up a central provider for candidate research and made a central pool of negative anti-Obama attack ads available to all GOP candidates and 501c3 issue front organizations throughout the country. In a number of key states and races, hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into negative ads, and for sponsorship of right-wing "shock jock" radio programs, or far-right front organizations like Americans for Prosperity. This flood of money was masked by a shell game of bogus organizations with PO boxes for home base. Much of it is believed to have come from the Kochs and Exxon. Starting a year before the elections, ads began consistently attacking Obama. Then in the spring of 2014, primary ads appeared attacking moderate or centrist Republicans in order to shift the center of the Republican Party. Climate deniers were particularly targeted for support.

These smear campaigns were not attributed to the Republican candidates because they were made by supposedly unaffiliated PACs and "charitable organizations." Then in the general elections, the PACs and 501c3s attacked Democratic and progressive candidates, most often spreading lies and associating the candidates negatively to Obama. These smear campaigns were not attributed to the Republican candidates because they were made by supposedly unaffiliated PACs and "charitable organizations." In the last two weeks before November 4, millions of dollars more were slipped into key campaigns, late enough in the game so that the expenditures will not be reported until after the elections.

The result of the year long attacks on Obama was that his approval ratings kept dropping month after month, making him seem politically toxic to local and state candidates. This undermined Democrats in general, as campaign consultants foolishly advised their candidates to run away from Obama, thereby negating rather than applauding his administration's successful economic record. Whatever mistake or concessions Obama had made in negotiations with the House, he did fight against the austerity budgets they promoted, and the US economy has not suffered as drastically as European economies that embraced austerity. Unemployment is still a huge problem, but down to 5.8 percent; the stock market is up at all time records and growth is at almost 4 percent. The Democrats should have run with that record, but were too intimidated by the successful negative assault on Obama.

5. Voting anomalies and possible rigging: Right-wing candidates who only a few days before the election had polling numbers that were tight or losing, suddenly added 2 to 7 percent more votes than expected (average of 4 percent) - the precise anomalous "red shift" noted for over a decade by election integrity activists monitoring partisan right-wing-controlled computerized voting systems. Substantial poll discrepancies materialized at the last minute in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Maryland, Iowa, Michigan, Maryland and Wisconsin races.

Let Us Not Go Quietly Into That Night

We know the 2014 election was stolen by the 1%, the oligarchy, the fossil fuel and Wall Street cabal - call them what you wish - who have now placed their minions in charge of both houses of Congress. We should see this as a wake-up call to organize and fight back.

Instead of getting depressed, we should all be angry. We must use this coup to drive home the urgent need to engage and do battle on the election integrity front, and to fight back against illegal court decisions, voter suppression and gerrymandering. We should clean up our election process and establish full transparency so that we are assured all votes are counted as cast.

"A coup d'état is considered successful when the usurpers establish their dominance."

Let us work in the next election cycles to make sure that such dominance is not established. Our children and their children's future depends on it.

Link to the original article from Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

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