On December 9th and 12th last, as the second millennium was easing
to an end, our 212-year-old American Republic was stolen from us.
After the secret four-month constitutional convention in
Philadelphia, a matron of the city asked Benjamin Franklin what
they had produced. ‘A Republic, if you can keep it,’ Franklin
Well, we haven’t kept it–we’ve lost it.
George W. Bush, his lawyers led by the crafty James Baker III,
Bush’s operatives in Florida led by his brother Jeb the Governor
and Secretary of State Harris, and five members of the Supreme
Court, inventing a new constitutional right for the occasion,
usurped from the people the right to choose the President of the
United States. The judges overthrew the government by selecting the
President themselves, 5 to 4, rather than letting events take their
constitutional course. When Governor Bush was sworn in as President
by Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Court that had stolen it for him
the government itself was seized in a judicial and presidential
Bush gave James Baker the dog’s assignment of seizing the
Presidency in Florida as if it were a bone. The resulting compound
crime was one clear line of events, each one pressed for or
performed pursuant to a determined and relentlessly prosecuted
scheme to abort the voters’ will in Florida. Bush was guilty from
the outset as an originator and throughout as the principal
beneficiary, moving on many fronts to stop the vote recounting in
Florida, refusing to agree to a total manual recount of the entire
state, accepting the Presidency from Rehnquist after the Court had
stopped that recount, selected him, and thereby stolen the office
for him. As James K. Galbraith perceived, by obstructing the
election of the President, the Bush people prevented it, causing
democracy to miscarry. Taking the oath, Bush knowingly accepted the
keys to the White House from the man giving him the oath and the
four of his fellow judges who had stolen them. Together they denied
the people of the United States the right to elect our President,
whether it would have been Albert Gore or George W. Bush, for the
four years 2001 to 2005.
Congress and the Presidency had already been delegitimized
across the past 20 years, for most of us, by the triumph over the
common good of uncontrolled campaign finance corruption and
bribery. Now, in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court delegitimized
itself and therefore the court system arrayed below it. These are
the only three branches that we have–this is no longer a
respectable government. We have lost our entire government to a
corporate oligarchy that now governs us without our permission.
Permit me to repeat what I said to you on January 20th. The only
basis for democratic legitimacy is the consent of the governed.
That was the deal. The Presidency has been seized. The government
has been seized. The covenant is broken.
What does it mean, to admit, and to say, that your government is
illegitimate? According to the Oxford English Dictionary it means
the government is ‘not in accordance with, or authorized by, law.’
What Bush ravaged when he accepted the stolen Presidency was much
more than our politics, more even than our self-respect as a
democracy–he made a mockery of our most fundamental agreement to
respect and obey the laws the government passes, to cooperate with
the government because it’s ours. This is what he has done to the
country that we love, he has undermined the authority of law here.
That is what we have lost, the very authority of law for our
Going about his first 100 days, he cuts funding for
international family planning groups. He cancels new rules to
prevent repetitive-stress injuries for millions of new workers. He
cancels a tightening of the standard for arsenic in drinking water.
He abandons his campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions
from power plants. He reinstates the federal subsidy for roads into
our trackless forests for corporate logging. He moves to weaponize
space, under the cover of star wars, so that we can destroy any
nation’s communications from space and thereby dominate all the
nations and peoples of the world. He puts a man over the Energy
Department who wanted to abolish it. He refuses to slap price
controls on power and gasoline profiteers. He shoves through the
supine Republican-and-Democratic Congress an insane
$1.3-trillion-dollar tax cut that further enriches the already rich
on a ten-year set of assumptions that nobody, nobody at all, can
accurately make, and which rises in the second decade to a
four-trillion cut which will destroy Social Security and Medicare.
He tries to ‘fast-track’–that is, to deny Congress the right to
amend in any way–the corporations-first trade agreements, NAFTA,
the WTO, the FTAA, that will destroy our local, state, and national
sovereignty over our own environment, commerce, and working
conditions. He calls protecting workers and the environment in
these agreements ‘protectionism.’ He and his allies in Congress
have crushed all talk of election reform because of the obvious
fact that it insults him for stealing the Presidency. And
everything he’s doing, everything, has no color of law, is illegal,
is illegitimate, is done in our names though not we, but five
tyrannical judges gave him the power that he is so tyrannically
If he had not stolen the Presidency we would have to accept it
when he and the Congress and their corporate paymasters abolish the
estate tax–abolish the tax that curbs, just a bit, the relentless
tendency of hereditary wealth to destroy democracy and economic
But he did steal the Presidency, and when and if the Congress
abolishes the estate tax–or does any of the legions of other
things akin to it that he and the corporate lobbyists he admires
are demanding–why, then, the hell we will accept it. That will be
just the action of a gaggle of thugs in our house at night dressed
up as hereditary aristocrats.
How, now, with a straight face, without provoking outcries of
contempt, can the man in the White House, trying perhaps to deal
with some crisis of order or rebellion here or abroad, invoke
respect for the law having himself stolen the Presidency?
He is no President of ours. Our Presidents in this free country
are only elected, they are never selected, never appointed. Only we
elect our Presidents and George W. Bush is not one of them.
I see from the signs among you that you know this next: Having
seized the awesome power of the Presidency to which he is not
entitled, he uses that power only as a tyrant. He feigns
law-abidingness as did the tyrant Peisistratus in sixth-century
B.C. Athens, who won over the lawgiver Solon by ‘shows of
obedience’ to Solon’s laws except, of course, to the one against
tyranny. Although the President of the United States has absolute
power only in some momentous areas, such as control of our foreign
policy and the use of our military might, including our hydrogen
bombs, Bush, having seized the office, fairly well fits the Oxford
English Dictionary definition of a tyrant, ‘One who seizes upon the
sovereign power in a state without legal right; an absolute ruler;
Looking back we should, and at least some of us will, label this
four years of the Bush illegitimacy as the Lawless Years, the
Tyranny in American history, the Tyrannical Interlude.
We trust that George the Second will not be succeeded by George
the Third–throwing us right back where we were in 1775–because we
are men and women and students on fire with controlled anger and we
refuse to consent.
We refuse to cooperate.
We refuse to accept.
We reject the Bush Presidency totally, altogether, in every
particular–we will not forgive the theft it rests on, we will not
forget that all its acts are ‘not in accordance with, or authorized
by, law,’ and we will work to turn back on these four years and all
the preparatory associated betrayals of the people’s good since the
early 1970’s and cancel the damage to the extent we can.
One idea for something that can be done now to limit that
damage–an idea from Professor Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law
School–is a firm resolve among the Senate Democrats to confirm
none–none–of Bush’s Supreme Court nominations, just letting the
high court drop low to seven justices, or six, leaving those
remaining to ruminate on the trust which their institution has
forfeited. The Senate Democratic leaders shy, of course, from this,
as from any bold idea, but Professor Ackerman has proposed an
The Constitution permits impeachment for high crimes and
misdemeanors. Seizing the Presidency ranks among the highest crimes
ever committed in the United States. Bush should be impeached, but
it’s not going to happen in such a Congress as this one.
A milder, but equally effective remedy is available, however,
for the crime committed by Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, and
O’Connor. Scalia told us all about Article II of the Constitution,
that the people don’t have the right to elect the President, but he
failed to tell us about Article III. Article III provides that ‘the
judges, both of the Supreme Court and the inferior courts, shall
hold their offices during good behavior.’ The five judges who
stopped the election and chose the President they preferred should
be removed under this clause in Article III. Resolutions should be
introduced in Congress to remove them; perhaps we will elect a
President and Senate who will throw out as many of the five as
still dare to sit up there in 2005.
Obviously this is a time, these are four years, when we citizens
must stand forth as citizens. How about some citizens’ indictments?
For purposes of discussion, I propose that we draw up and inscribe
our names en masse, on the Internet, to a citizens’ indictment of
George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, James Baker III, Katherine Harris,
Jeb Bush, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas,
Sandra Day O’Connor, and Anthony Kennedy for the high crime of
acting together to steal the people’s right to elect the
Democracy without the people controlling the counting of their
own votes is no democracy. Yet it goes unremarked in American
elections that in most of the precincts of the country the
votecounting is done invisibly in computers. Computers are not
adding machines, they are machines that obey orders. Computer
votecounting codes are prepared by computer programmers in the pay
of the private election-business companies, which jealously guard
the codes as ‘trade secrets.’ Elections can be stolen by the
computer programmers, for themselves or for their companies,
without leaving a trace. Democracy itself has been privatized–that
is, corporatized–and our elections are subject to the tyranny of
machines that conceal the counting of our votes from us. As
votecounting specialist Dr. Rebecca Mercuri wrote recently, ‘a
government that is by the machines, of the machines, and for the
machines can scarcely be called a democracy.’
To get our country back into our possession I believe that we
should count our own votes again with our own hands and eyes in our
own precincts on election night across the country–we are dumb to
trust the election corporations’ computerized systems, run by often
computer-illiterate local election officials relying heavily on
assistance from the companies, to count our votes in secret.
I believe, and challenge you to consider deep in your soul and
in your body, that we should now go into nonviolent rebellion
against the theft of our democracy last December in all its forms
And that the first step in this revolt is to agree that we will
not call Bush President.
Don’t Call Him President.
Although I am fond of the idea of calling him George the Second,
most people will probably feel better just calling him Governor
Bush. That’s OK. It’s civil, and acknowledges he was a
But can we agree never, in any context, written, spoken, or even
in our thoughts, to call him President Bush unless and until we
elect him? In all our references to him let’s call him, civilly but
noncooperatively, Governor Bush. Let’s write letters challenging
reporters and TV for calling him President. Let’s amiably, but
seriously tweak our friends over a cup of coffee or at dinner if
they call him President. This is one unmistakable symbolic way we
can nod to each other across political parties, recognize each
other across colors, and join together across this beautiful
continent as the free Americans who will not accept an appointed
President of the United States.
Second, how about a Back to Texas Movement? Bush and Cheney,
Back to Texas. Rove, Armey, and Delay, too-Back to Texas.
We should refuse to acknowledge the authority of any judge whom
Governor Bush appoints and the Senate confirms. Every federal judge
he appoints is illegitimate, whether confirmed or not, and can have
no lawful authority to sit in judgment looking down on us from
those high federal benches. On the door of any judge Governor Bush
gets confirmed should appear the word, ‘Illegitimate.’ And when we
get a President and a Congress with the courage to do right by the
United States every one of them, including especially any of his
people who may make it onto the Supreme Court, should be impeached
as unlawfully appointed by an unlawfully appointed President. When
you steal our country, ‘Let bygones be bygones’ is out, and out for
Unless the Democrats in Congress stand tough against the
illegitimate President all of us must demand to know, Why not? One
main reason the American Republic is in terminal trouble is the
fact that most of the officeholders of the Democratic Party, up at
this level, have sold their souls to the major corporations and the
very rich. Now our collective civic disaster has gone far beyond
the tumults of party politics. This is the country we love and
would die for and millions of our fellow citizens have. We must, I
believe, ask Al Gore, too, why, when the Supreme Court announced
that it had stolen the Presidency from him by a 5 to 4 vote, he
said that he accepted it. This was his moment as a leader to say,
‘No–this is our country–we love it–you cannot have it–I am not
the issue here, the United States is, and your decision is judicial
tyranny.’ I believe Gore has to get right on this if he wants to
continue to lead.
When the world’s superpower ceases to be democratic it’s the
world’s business, too. We should get together into a movement in
order to invite a small group of distinguished former officials
abroad, comparable in stature to our former President Jimmy Carter,
to form a small international commission to investigate the 2000
presidential election–the outrages against African-American voters
in Florida, the standing of an election when the Supreme Court
aborts the votecounting, what we Americans are supposed to do about
the fact that the President of our country was appointed by five
judges who preferred his election, how we have come to let private
corporations take over our votecounting and do it secretly,
invisibly, in computers.
Governor Bush’s people become indignant when the United States
gets thrown off the UN body on human rights–as if his seizing the
most powerful and the most dangerous office and military in the
world leaves our government with the same standing we had before
that happened, in the eyes of democratic civilization. –As if when
the people in the rest of the world, told that he, himself, has
decided that we will violate the ABM ballistic missiles treaty and
the Kyoto treaty on global warming, should meekly accept this
world-convulsing tyranny with what Governor Bush calls
We citizens fighting to save our country not only from
injustice, but now from illegitimate injustice, should demand that
the Senate ratify the treaty establishing the proposed
international criminal court not despite the fact that some
Americans might get indicted, but because they might.
Finally, it is time, oh, it is time, for us to form now, among
all our organizations, with all the sad, drifting citizens looking
for hope for our country–it is time for us to form one national
people’s movement, independent of any political party, the
Independent Allies, to demand and fight, for example, for–
Public funding of our elections.
Single-payer national health insurance.
The restoration of the corporate taxation system and the
progressivity of the income tax, replacing the Social Security
payroll tax with the increased revenues.
Limits on the size of corporations, the cancellation of their
alleged ‘personhood’ and their alleged personal constitutional
rights, a stiff criminal law taking them completely out of our
politics, and the confirmation of their original nature as our
artificial creations totally answerable to and totally subordinate
Limits on personal wealth, and a guaranteed annual family
Free education as high as any student can make the grades.
First-home building subsidies and the opening of some public
lands as trust lands for homesteading to redeem the American dream
of a home for every family.
Equal rights and equal pay for women.
A living wage by law for every working person.
Repeal of the Taft-Hartley law and criminal prosecution of
corporations that bedevil union organizers.
That’s just for starters.
And it is far past time that such a new national people’s
movement should link up with the citizens’ movements abroad that
are in nonviolent rebellion against the corporatization of human
life, to work together worldwide for such attainable goals as–
Clean energy, wind and solar, and the as-rapid-as-possible
phasing down and out of oil, coal, and nuclear power.
For international trade for people and the environment
everywhere, not just for the rampaging transnational
And for world citizenship, and an international democracy with a
constitution worthy of the human race.
None of this can we get just because our government has been
Some of this we can get fairly soon only if we rebel and
organize and mobilize, as independent allies for communication,
education, and action, in coalitions of coalitions, and then in one
confederal, interacting coalition of independent organizations, all
Let’s start with a bumper-sticker rebellion.
Don’t Call Him President.
Governor Bush/Is Not the President.
The Supreme Court/Is Not Supreme.
Bush and Cheney-Back to Texas!
Much of the work of building the movement is not
high-profile–it’s demonstrating, registering voters, teaching
people about instant runoff voting and proportional representation,
marching and rallying as we are today, confronting our
representatives, getting out the vote–it’s day-in, day-out
More and more of us will move gravely into nonviolent civil
disobedience, too, as history requires–direct civil
revolt–risking ourselves, peacefully putting our bodies where our
patriotism is, facing handcuffs, locked doors, frozen faces, tear
gas, police phalanxes.
The time has probably come to quit going where they go, Seattle,
Washington, Davos, Quebec City, Qatar–and to go where we want to
go to do what we want to do. To mobilize and to go meet in small
numbers and large, to act for and plan the society we want and
organize to get it.
Whatever we do, let’s do it nonviolently. Only nonviolently.
Let’s have a rule among all the people we agree to work with
that we are against violence against persons and will not enter
into coalition or cooperate with anyone who reserves the right to
engage in any kind of violence.
At Seattle, the only people who committed violence against
people were the police. But at Washington last year, as policemen
charged crowds on horseback and idly knocked over young people
armlocked together blocking streets, demonstrators threw rocks and
other objects at police–I saw them do it. At Quebec City last
month, the police gassed the protesters, and people from the
Alliance saw some in the crowd throw rocks and other heavy objects
at the police.
Learning from Gandhi and King, if the police attack us we will
not respond physically–we will not oppose them–we will not touch
Violence against people? No. Violence against the police? No.
Violence against property? No.
You won’t pledge not to be violent? Then you’re off on your
Learning since Seattle that the municipal police forces in major
U.S. cities and in Canada are trying to repeal the freedom of
assembly, we will assemble when and where we wish in crowds as
large as we wish–always nonviolently, anti-violently–and we will
morally overpower the marching, militarized, pepper-gas-firing
police by the simple fact that we are the peaceable people.
We need the leader for all this. God, we all know, we need her
or him. We don’t have this yet.
So I have a proposal.
Let’s bring back Martin Luther King.
Let’s join our African-American brothers and sisters in their
just call for reparations for slavery. Slaves worked to build this
nation. They helped build this Capitol in front of you. They
hoisted Lady Liberty up to the top of that dome. For this their pay
rate was $5 a day. The United States government cut the checks for
their work not to them, but to their owners.
Let’s go with the slaves’ descendants and with every other
oppressed group to renew, to revive, Dr. King’s great project,
which he was raising money for just before he was murdered, to have
a vast encampment for peace and economic justice in Washington, to
end poverty, and stop the Vietnam war.
It was bad then, people in poverty, blood in the streets, people
dying on TV every night. But it’s bad now–we know the world’s
great misery is within our reach to ease–the corporate oligarchy
has stolen our government from us–and they are blowing up the ABM
and Kyoto treaties and reaching to control the world from
We are not going to just stand quiet for this.
We are, after all, Americans.
Let us declare ourselves, here and now together, the Democracy
and Justice Movement.
We are Democrats, we are Republicans, we are Greens, we are
independents, we are progressives, conservatives, populists,
moderates, libertarians, everyday Americans, we are whites,
African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, men, women,
workers, students, we are straight, gay, bi, and God knows what
else, and what we are all is free, standing whole in the same
dignity, self-respect, and power of being persons, just as our
forebears did when they launched the American Revolution.
We are patriots–we are patriots–we all want to be just, we all
want to participate in governing our own town and our city and our
country and our world, and we will not be cooperative and obedient
as usurpers make over the United States into dominator of the
Let’s pay more heed to the likes of Scalia, William Buckley, Tom
Delay, and George Will when they instruct us that the American
Republic is no democracy and we should be grateful for the chance
to serve our betters.
Through the past two centuries by our many struggles we have
been realizing the promise of the American Revolution, step by
step. We have added, to the Republic, with one citizens’ uprising
and movement after another, freedom from slavery (though not yet
from penury) for blacks–the legal right to form labor unions–an
effective revulsion and rebellion against an unjust war that we
were waging smack dab in the middle of that war–the vote and legal
equality for blacks and women–equal treatment for gays.
But our persecuted labor unions are still ravaged by laws
written for the corporations that are now exporting our industries
and raging out of control all over the world, and the disparities
of wealth and poverty among us, and between us and the rest of the
human race, are becoming morally unbearable.
If Bill Gates stopped to pick up $100 bills all over the street,
he’d lose money. The assets of the 450 billionaires in the world
are equal to the assets of half of humanity. Two billion people
have no toilets, and no schools, but they do have anemia. The sales
of the 200 largest corporations are 18 times the combined annual
income of the 1,200,000,000 people, one in every four of us on
earth, who live in absolute poverty on $1, or less, a day.
Perhaps finally now, taking all this and the theft of the
Presidency into account, we have to square our shoulders a bit and
just let the old American Republic go, they’ve ruptured it, so
let’s just let it go, and get about the work of forming, how we
don’t yet know, but together, and sooner, not later, a new American
–wherein we accept each other in deepest equality,
–where everybody’s vote is counted and every material body of
opinion is represented proportionally in the government,
–where our President is the one who gets the most votes,
–where the members of the Supreme Court must stand in a
contested election every eight years,
–where the fairness of democracy has come to mean, also, a
democratic distribution of the goods and services that everyone has
a right to in order to have a fair chance to realize his or her
Let’s come together here in Washington–next fall?–next
spring?–let’s decide when and how together–and occupy the place,
after all it’s ours, and stop the government. Just stop it. Make
the Capital the epicenter of a national nonviolent revolt, for full
citizenship for the citizens of the District and full citizenship
for us all. Stop the crimes against democracy here in the Capitol,
and over there at the White House, and over there at the Supreme
Court, stop them just by being here, peacefully, eloquently,
honoring, remembering, and reciting from, Martin Luther King. An
encampment, speaking out, picnics, singing, dancing, sleeping on
the grass! And, when we’re ready, we’ll start things up again as
the New American Democracy–the American Revolution–Democracy, and
Justice–at last more nearly realized among us,
And then, we whisper, to each other, and to ourselves,
The New American Democracy.
To communicate with Dugger, or for further information about the
Alliance for Democracy, email Dugger at
In this speech Dugger was expressing his own opinions and was
not speaking for an organization. He wishes to thank, for ideas
which one way or another are included in this speech, Marcus Raskin
of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., Professor
Steve Russell of San Antonio, Tx., Nick Seidita, Northridge, Ca.,
and colleagues of Dugger’s on the Council of the Alliance,
especially Ted Dooley, St. Paul, Minn.; Nancy Price, Davis, Ca.;
Sue Wheaton, Tacoma Park, Md.; Stefanie Miller, Indianapolis, Ind.;
Vikki Savee, Sacramento, Ca.; and Dolly Arond, Northridge, Ca.
Ronnie Dugger, a founder and first co-chair
of the Alliance for Democracy, speaking about 2 p.m. May 19, 2001,
on the West steps of the Capitol to about 1,500 persons
participating in the second Voters’ March protesting the Supreme
Court’s designation of the President. Copyright Ronnie Dugger 2001.