[Editor's note:  This column, which was inspired by
             reflections on the voting fiasco in Florida, originally
             appeared in THE TWIN-PORTS PEOPLE (Year End 2000), p. 3.]

Non-Random Thoughts


Jim Fetzer                                               

As a professor of logic and critical thinking, I have been dismayed by the use
of fallacies to promote one side of this political contest.  When briefs filed
on his behalf asserted that Bush "received the most votes cast by Floridians"
in the presidential election, they failed to acknowledge that many votes cast
remained uncounted.  So they were taking for granted a crucial issue at stake
by presuming what has to be determined.  That's called begging the question.

When they asserted that "unconstitutional procedures" were being used in an
"apparent effort" to change the election's outcome, they were not only assuming
the unwarranted conclusion of their question-begging fallacy but ignoring the
evident consideration that, if Gore actually received the most votes cast by
Floridians, then it is actually the Bush forces who were attempting to change
the election's outcome.  What they were doing is called stealing an election.

That a Leon County Circuit Judge decided that nothing improper had occurred,
alas, does not mean that nothing improper had occurred.  The man who designed
the punch-card voting machine admitted, under cross-examination, that it had   
the nasty habit of not counting every vote, where even he conceded that, in a
close election, a hand count should be performed.  He did not admit all this
quite willingly, however, but only after the plaintiffs presented him with his
own patent application for a new design intended to improve upon his machine.

The judge not only ignored his expert opinion but declared that there was no
credible evidence that counting the rejected ballots would be likely to change
the outcome of the election.  Such an opinion splashes like cold water in the
face of commomn sense.  If recounting these rejected ballots were unlikely to
change the outcome, then why were batteries of lawyers arguing--on every basis
the could dredge up--that it should not be done?  They knew, as the world is
gradually recognizing, that, given an honest and open count, Gore would win.

Bush campaigned on the slogan of "trusting the people", yet he opposed the
elementary right in a democracy of having every lawful vote count.  He has
argued in briefs that the Florida Supreme Court has "embarked on an ad hoc,
standardless and lawless exercise of judicial power", when their decisions
properly clarify voting processes and procedures.  He has eroded confidence
in the judicial system, corrupted the rule of law, and subverted democracy.

When "Republican observers" verbally assaulted officials of Miami-Dade County
and tried to forceably enter the elections office in an attempt to disrupt the
proceedings and, indeed, intimidated them into changing a decision to recount
the county, that was an appeal to force.  Even more disturbing were the photo-
graphs and images of an angry mob undermining an election recount.  Each of us
should think about what they saw, because that's called the face of fascism.

How many Americans observed Bush at his press conference, when he endorsed
the corrupt view that the Supreme Court "had rewritten the law" and asserted
that the role of the legislature is "to pass the laws" and the role of the
executive is "to interpret them"?  This guy seems to be a complete ignoramus
who does not posssess even a junior high school understanding of the role
of our three branches of government:  the legislature passes the laws, the
judiciary interprets them, and the executive enforces them!  Truly amazing. 

The nature of fascism deserves far more discussion than it has heretofore
received.  No doubt, the word "fascism" itself can be used as an emotionally
laden description serving as a convenient label that circumvents rational
discourse instead of promoting it.  It would be irresponsible of a professor
of logic and critical thinking to use this word without defining it.  Because
it is a concept that Americans increasingly need to understand, let's begin
with WEBSTER'S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY, 3rd College Edition (1988), as follows:

fascism: 1 the doctrines, methods, and movements of the Fascists; 2
a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forceable
suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized
government control, belligerant nationalism, racism, and militarism, etc.:
first instituted in Italy in 1922 3 a) a political movement based on such
policies b) fascist behavior (see Nazi).

What I have had in mind in describing the behavior of Baker, Bush, and Dole as
anti-democratic and subversive of the rule of law is that these individuals
and the party they represent has been displaying fascist behavior in
suppressing the opposition (even to the extend of taking steps to prevent the
counting of ballots) without respect for the rule of law (going so far as to
trash the Florida Supreme Court) and by pandering to militaristic attitudes (in
wanting overseas ballots count even if they were not lawfully cast).

An obvious question is the extent to which the candidate of the right
the interests of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us
about.  Surely it is obvious to everyone that Bush and his coterie represents
the interests of the big corporations.  The form of collusion between
government and corporations known as "corporate welfare" is only a most blatant
abuse of the government to benefit the rich and the powerful.  The government
should act on behalf of all of the people, not on behalf of special interests.

The problem is that, without big government to oppose them, big corporations
people merely as mechanisms to produce profit without respecting them as human
beings.  Does anyone think that Firestone and Ford would ever have considered
recalling their products, no matter how defective, were it not for the
influence of our government?  When governments are controlled by corporations,
the forces of fascism thrive and flourish.  That is the problem--THE CENTRAL
PROBLEM, I submit--confronting us in this day and age.  We must understand it.

Fascist tendencies are most obviously evident in ongoing activities that deny
voters the right to have their votes counted, rights that are properly
by the courts of Florida and of the United States, where inviting the
legislature to take the appointment of electors into its own hands subverts the
rule of law, corrupts the judicial process, and undermines the basic principles
of democracy.  Yet this is the behavior we have witnessed over the past several
weeks from the shrubbery with our own eyes and ears over the past several

Let there be no doubt.  It promotes the interests of fascism to weaken and
belittle the judicial system, because it represents a barrier against the abuse
of citizens, who are now valued only as consumers, as sources of profit.
one has a value, within this scheme of things, which turns out to be more or
less equal to each of our own net worth. The aim of big corporations is to
separate fools from their money all of the time and ordinary folks from their
money most of the time.  The rest of us must fend for ourselves.

For the same reasons, it serves the ends of fascism to abuse and malign the
of attorneys, especially trial lawyers, as though they were not indispensable
elements of the system of checks and balances that keeps the country strong
and constrains some of its most powerful forces from exerting disproportionate
influence.  Let no one doubt that "tort reform", which would impose caps on
lawsuits brought against corporations, reflects another aspect of a fascist

Lies and distortions are part of the plan.  The suggestion that Jesse Jackson,
who came to Florida to protest voting abuses, was morally on a par with young
Republican thugs, who assaulted the Elections Board in Miami-Dade County, is
a nice example.  Jesse was protesting on behalf of voters whose right to vote
had been denied them; the gangs were protesting the acts of those who were
attempting to correct the denial of rights to voters.  They are morally
diametically opposed.

Republicans have openly acknowledged that their ongoing protests, including
vocal public displays, were intended to weaken the public interest in a fair
and just conclusion of this most troubling of recent presidential elections.
Everyone who believes in democracy must recognize that what Gore has been doing
in Florida has been an attempt to combat a form of fascism that ought to be
condemned by all sides as a threat to democracy and the rule of law, which have
made this a nation a nation of laws, not of men, standing for equal justice
under law.

So fascism, American style, includes promoting the interests of corporations
above those of ordinary citizens, abusing the legal system by belittling the
courts and the lawyers who make the system work, violating even the most
basic procedures of a functional democracy by dening the right to vote, and by
using lies--large and small--to promote the interests of the few at the expense
of the many.  This sounds more and more like what we have been witnessing in
Florida.  It reads like the G.O.P. party platform.

The outcome was decided by a decision of the US Supreme Court that should have
been made by the American people.  An incoherent and partisan ruling held that
the Florida Supreme Court could not change electoral laws after the election,
which it found unconstitutional unless they were changed (by imposing some more
precise standard than "the clear intent of the voter"), and that no remedy was
available because there was insufficient time for a recount (after halting a
recount that would have been completed in time).  The face of fascism is also
called Scalia.

Let us give thanks that someone named Al Gore had the courage and decency to
stand up for the American people.  Thank God that there are great lawyers who
are willing to represent the interests of all the American people.  We cannot
have a democracy if our elections are rigged.  We cannot be free if we are
unable to govern ourselves.  This has been a serious contest over the heart and
soul of this nation--a contest we lose at the peril of our liberty and freedom.

Not all fascists wear brown shirts, of course, and some of them wear blue
If their contemporary incarnations fashion button-down shirts or even black
robes, we can acknowlege their differences from their predecessors by calling
them, not "Nazis", but "neo-Nazis".  That, after all, is close enough.

And if anyone wonders where Dubya stands--whether he might be a closet champion
of the American people and the best interests of our nation--just ask yourself
why he, of all people, did not state in plain and simple words the plain and
obvious.  The silence is deafening.  It speaks volumes.
Jim Fetzer, a professor of philosophy at UMD, learned from his father that
the Democrats are better at governing but the Republicans are better at
campaigning and that the Republicans all too often accuse their opponents
of those offenses of which they themselves are most guilty.  Gore committed
minor exaggerations, no doubt, but the Bush campaign relied upon deception.





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