“Disenfranchisement” of African American voters
Time: 0:03:25 – 0:06:15
Michael Moore: On the day the joint session of both the House of Representatives and the Senate was to certify the election results, Al Gore, in his dual role as outgoing vice president and president of the Senate, presided over the event that would officially anoint George W. Bush as the new president. If any congressman wanted to raise an objection, the rules insisted that he or she had to have the signed support of just one senator.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings: Mr. President — and I take great pride in calling you that — I must object because of the overwhelming evidence of official misconduct, deliberate fraud and an attempt to suppress voter turnout.
Al Gore: The chair must remind members that under Section 18 of Title 3, United States Code, no debate is allowed in the joint session.
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings: Thank you, Mr. President. To answer your question, Mr. President, the objection is in writing, signed by a number of members of the House of Representatives, but not by a member of the Senate.
Congresswoman Corinne Brown: Mr. President, it is in writing and signed by several House colleagues on behalf, and myself, of the 27,000 voters of Duval County in which 16,000 of them are African-Americans that was disenfranchised in this last election.
Al Gore: Is the objection signed by a member of the Senate?
Congresswoman Corinne Brown: Not signed by a member of the Senate. The Senate is missing.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee: Mr. President, it is in writing and signed by myself on behalf of many of the diverse constituents in our country, especially those in the 9th Congressional District, and all American voters who recognize that the Supreme Court, not the people of the United States, decided this election.
Al Gore: Is the objection signed by a senator?
Congresswoman Barbara Lee: Unfortunately, Mr. President, it is not signed by one single senator.
Congresswoman Patsy Mink: Unfortunately, I have no authority over the United States Senate, and no senator has signed.
Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek: Mr. President, it is in writing and signed by myself and several of my constituents from Florida. A senator is needed, but missing.
Al Gore: Is the objection in writing and signed by a member of the House and a senator?
Congresswoman Maxine Waters: The objection is in writing, and I don’t care that it is not signed by a member of the Senate.
Al Gore: The chair will advise that the rules do care, and the signature of a senator…
Michael Moore: Not a single senator came to the aid of the African-Americans in Congress. One after another, they were told to sit down and shut up.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.: It’s a sad day in America, Mr. President, when we can’t find a senator to sign the objections.
Al Gore: The gentleman will suspend.
Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.: I object.
Al Gore: The gentleman will suspend.
The film then shows scenes from the congressional certification of the election results, in which a few members of the House of Representatives raised complaints about the Florida election results, but could not find a single member of the Senate to join them. Moore seems to imply that we should think the Senators were cowards for not joining the petitions of complaint, but in fact he offers no reasons why a Senator, or any responsible person, would have put their names on the petitions. He does not tell us what was in the complaints, nor whether the complaints were true and there was any reason to object to certifying the election results. In fact, the objections alleged all manner of voter intimidation, fraud, and disenfranchisement, none of which has since been proven correct and none of which were supported by any evidence that would have offered any Senator a reason to support them. (The Congressional Record transcript of the session can be found at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2001_record&page=H34&position=all.)
Reviewers Who Fell for the Deceptions:
In “Fahrenheit’s” opening section, which deals with how Florida put George Bush in the White House, “Fahrenheit” includes almost surreal footage of the joint session of Congress that, with Al Gore presiding, certified the election. One by one, African American members of the House object to the certification and fume when not a single senator agrees to join them in a written protest that could have derailed the certification.
[AB-1] This is a rule which obviously has its origins in racism. Since Black people rarely get into the Senate, in order to prevent them from speaking, someone came up with the brilliant idea (NOT!) to tie their free speech to a senator’s permission. This is major a###### b#######! A person’s objection is made when they, and they alone, make it. Since when does anyone need permission from a senator to speak? Especially Congressmen and women who have been elected by the people to speak on their behalf!!! Look how smug all these white guys are as they tell the Black people — mostly black women — to go take a flying f###! Major racist a#######! If this isn’t proof of a racist conspiracy in our government, I don’t know what is. THIS IS SO SHAMEFUL! Look at how they are laughing at these black women. M############, I HATE YOU! I HOPE YOU ALL DIE IN A FIERY INFERNO, B#######! GO TO HELL WHERE YOU BELONG! What these poor black people have suffered at the hands of evil white people is enough to make a feeling person cry forever.
The dramatic high point arrives too soon in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. One by one, in searing words and images, African-American members of the U.S. House of Representatives protest, on the floor of the Senate, against the disenfranchisement of black Florida voters during the 2000 election, against the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to stop the ballot re-count. Only no Senator had signed their objections, a technicality that quashed debate. Not a single U.S. Senator—certainly not Patty Murray—had the courage to sign the Representatives’ prepared statements. And so, one by one, then Vice-President Al Gore, presiding over the Senate, verbally shoots them down. “Has it been signed by a Senator?” Gore robotically asks each speaker in turn. Finally, one woman in exasperation cries, “I don’t care about the rules,” to which Gore, who surely stood to benefit from the Congresspersons’ cause, stumblingly responds, “The rules do care.”
It’s a heartbreaking sequence. Heartbreaking for the pain of the African-American men and women, confronted with still more evidence of this country’s regard for them, and so, too, for the benighted Gore—playing by policy and looking like an idiot. Time’s passage, even a Republican could hardly fail to grasp, has made this bit of C-Span footage all the more tragic. One scribbled, illegible signature might very well have saved us from the ensuing global fiasco known as the Bush presidency.
The video clips of black Congressional representatives attempting to initiate an investigation into the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African American voters in Florida who had been inaccurately classified as felons was powerful. Not a single Senator – not John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, or even Paul Wellstone – is willing to sign on to the motion, effectively burying it. The scene is damning, and depicts a Senate apparently unconcerned about marginalizing an entire segment of the voting public, led by a haughty and obviously conflicted Al Gore.
Was I naïve to have been surprised and upset by Moore’s silencing of the left? Early on in F911, I sensed reasons to hope that Moore would point beyond the two-party-system, towards the need for independent political movement and action. Near the beginning of the film, after all, recounting the “theft” of the 2000 election by George W. Bush, Moore shows the Senate Democrats complicit in Bush’s rise to power by refusing to sign onto the protests of African-American Representatives from the House when they speak out against the exclusion of non-white voters from the rolls in Florida. The all-white US Senate, including forty-odd white Democrats and Al Gore, sit silently, shamefully passive in the face of Republican power.
He shows us Al Gore, presiding over the Senate in his last act as vice-president, using his gavel to silence African American members of the House of Representatives, whose protest against certifying the election results cannot go forward because not one member of the all white U.S. Senate will sign their appeal against the massive racist disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida.
As I have already mentioned, the film begins strongly enough. Moore opens with a brief recap of the Florida election debacle that placed an arguably unelected man in the presidency. Al Gore’s concession, which was portrayed by the mainstream media as a gracious gesture that allowed the country to “move on” with its business, is instead shown, very skillfully, as the betrayal of African-American voters by the Democratic party that it really was. The scenes of African-American legislators lining up on the Senate floor to register a protest in the face of Governor Jeb Bush’s illegal and unconstitutional disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of African Americans in Florida, only to be shot down for purely procedural reasons (they couldn’t get a single, solitary white senator to sign on) is the first “Kleenex moment” for anyone who truly values America’s all-too-often broken promise of justice and equality to her minority citizens.
It was painful to watch Vice President Al Gore in Fahrenheit 9/11 presiding over the Senate confirming the 2000 election of George W. Bush, as no one in the chamber (including Gore) would co-sponsor the motions of African American Congressmen who protested Bush’s electoral victory on the basis that many of their constituents had been denied the right to vote on Election Day. By accepting the Supreme Court’s ruling against him and strictly adhering to the rules of order in the Senate, Gore stoically helped America avoid the constitutional crisis of a contested election. But the constitutional crises America had to endure over the next eight years make Fahrenheit 9/11 one of the saddest tragedies ever filmed.
Likewise, plenty of footage is uncovered demonstrating the utter irrelevance of political processes purporting to protect against executive excess. First the top judges and senators (Democrat and Republican alike) refused to invalidate Bush’s election in the first place – better to disenfranchise a few thousand mainly poor Black Florida voters (and that’s just the ones known about) than question the integrity of the electoral system.
The movie begins with a review of the 2000 Florida election recall. After Moore feels he’s made his point (and he makes a great one about how cowardly our racist senators are)
Then Moore cuts to none other than the defeated Al Gore, in his capacity as president of the Senate, presiding over the ratification of the 2000 election. As several Asian American and African American members of Congress attempt to protest the results of the stolen election, a cardboard Gore gavels them to silence because not a single member of the Senate would sign their protest.
After a sad and irksome section about Congress’ lack of desire to deal with the election controversy in 2000, effectively disenfranchising thousands of mostly African-American voters in Florida, Moore focuses on the terrorist attack on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001.
Going back to a time when none of this happened, he regales us with a heartbreaking congressional moment when the African-American members of Congress express their rage and frustration that not one senator will back their effort to de-certify the court-decided election.
More starts the film with the stolen presidential election of 2000, highlighting the disenfranchisement of thousands of African-American voters. The most effective scene in this section is the footage of the joint session of Congress to ratify the election results. When Black Representatives try to move a motion highlighting this scandal they are unable to gain the support of even one Senator to have it debated. Repeatedly Al Gore, the defeated presidential candidate in his role as chair, rules them out of order. This is a powerful indictment not only of the Republicans who carried out the fraud but also the Democratic leaders who failed to challenge it.
The film revisits the night of the 2000 election and the subsequent Congress sessions at which not a single senator was prepared to sign a letter from black caucus members that would permit them to debate the flawed voting procedures in Florida.
Articles Related to the Deceptions:
PRESSURING SENATORS The Rev. Jesse Jackson was furious with Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle for not supporting efforts by the Congressional Black Caucus to challenge the certification of George W. Bush as winner of the electoral vote. One member after another of the Black Caucus rose to protest the decisive Florida vote during the joint congressional session Jan. 6, which tabulated the electoral vote. But all failed for lack of the necessary signature by any senator. Jackson berated Daschle for not helping. The Senate leader did not attend the joint session, but advised Democratic senators not to cooperate. They did not…
watching F 9/11 for third time now
at the part where congressman are objecting to election results without a senatorial signature. I feel so sad watching this and can only imagine how sad Gore must have felt. He had to have been on the verge of tears.
it has the same effect on me
its like watching a soviet politboro session. its like democracy died.
Gore should have signed the damn thing.
Sad my a##. He was stupid, IMCPO. The black Caucus had a legitimate complaint and Al Gore didn’t stand with them to help them. Shame, shame, shame on every one of those Senators.
Gore had no choice
I don’t think the President of the Senate can vote in such matters or Gore had to excuse himself on ethical grounds. Not really sure why.
Gore couldn’t sign and no Senator didn’t want to sign it because
they were afraid of another civil war breaking out in our country. They did what they thought was best for our country.
Nonsense. What happened is that Daschle had made a deal
with the Repugs for NO action on this (they all knew it was coming) in exchange for “more equitable sharing” of the Senate resources because the Senate was so evenly split.
He sold us out.
I’m just about to watch it for only the second time
Its actually been many weeks since I saw it first in the theaters.
And yeah, I remember Representative after Representative of the House coming forward yet powerless without the support of ONE Senator – and there were none.
Angry is an inadequate deiscription.
I also watched Farenheit 911 last night for the second time
My girlfriend had never seen it before and I wanted to remind myself of the evils of this administration.
This is actually one of the weaker moments of the film. While factually accurate it does not go into any detail of what would have happened had a Senator objected. Here is what the procedure is.
If a Senator and a house member sumbit a written objection to the vote count certification both houses will adjourn and debate the objection seperately. They can choose to uphold the objection and not certify the vote/s in question or override the objection and certify the votes as is.
Given that at the time both houses of Congress were controlled by republicans the most likely outcome would have been few hours delay before they overrode the objections and certified the elections anyway.
If by some miracle the objections were upheld then since neither candidate would have had 270 electoral votes the election would have been decided by the house of representatives. Each state gets 1 vote and 26 votes wins. Republicans having control of 28 delegations in the house would again after a short delay most likely certify Bush as the winner.
So in summary Even if a Senator had objected the outcome would have remained the same after a day or two delay at most. At the time very few people though Mr. Bush would be the divider and total disaster as president he turned out to be. Most people like myself figured he would be bad, but not this bad.
So while in hindsight it may have been a mistake and the Democrats should have gone down fighting, their actions were an attempt to make the best of a no win situation, and for what was known at the time the most sensible course of action.
So while I think they should have gone down fighting I understand why they did what they did and the reasoning behind it and given the circumstances can not fault them for what they did.
Here’s what you’re missing — and it ain’t procedural
We ALL know, but thanks for the refresher, that it would not have resulted in a different outcome of who sat in the White House. No big deal there, at all.
What you’re missing is this:
FIRST AND FOREMOST you stand UP for what’s right, to confront injustice and wrong. That election was STOLEN; 60,000 – 90,000 Floridians were disenfranchised. No matter what the outcome, you STAND UP FOR THAT.
Second, you let the commander-in-thief know we’re onto him. You put him on notice that he’s not going to get away with ANYthing, that we (they, our Dem so-called Leaders) will hold him to account for ALL his transgressions and that NOTHING untoward will happen on their watch.
THAT way, you let people who were disenfranchised (and the rest of us who ALSO were disenfranchised by virtue of their disenfranchisement) know SOMEONE aside from the courageous CBC knows what they went through and give a damn by standing up for them;
you put yourself as the “loyal opposition” in a far more powerful negotiating position vis a vis an illegitimate administration and a Congress controlled by enabling, complicit Repugs.
Instead, they rolled over. They fucking rolled over. They let us ALL down — no, they BETRAYED US; they let — no, BETRAYED democracy ; they let the world down because NO ONE WHO STEALS AN ELECTION does so to “do good.”
Yeah, the person sitting in the White House would’ve been exactly who it is now. But that’s not the end of the story by any means.
had to have made it all the more painful
no wonder he grew a beard and got fat afterward.
everytime I view F 9/11…
….it gets better and better….Mike has made this film work on so many levels….
I sobbed when I saw that…
And I still cry when I see it. It quite literally breaks my heart. I wonder, if we have a contested election this year, will any Democratic Senator speak up?
Also, why wouldn’t some of the more “liberal” Senators have signed it? Where was Wellstone? Kennedy?
I tear up at that point
Out of frustration with the Democratic Senators and out of sadness for all those people that DID try to do something while the rest of our party just sat around and watched.
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