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Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Closer They Bring Themselves To Their End

Reminiscent of Ukraine's Orange Revolution:

Thousands of Belarusians defied a massive show of force by the hard-line government Saturday, protesting in streets swarming with riot police and gathering peacefully in a park to denounce President Alexander Lukashenko after a disputed election returned him to power.

Rows of black-clad police blocked a central square where opposition leaders had called for a rally at noon, pushing crowds back in a bid to end a week of unprecedented protests in the tightly controlled former Soviet republic. Demonstrators shouted "Shame!" and "Long live Belarus!"

Tensions mounted swiftly around October Square as police in full riot gear arrived by the busload to shove protesters back. The crowd at a major intersection near the square — where Lenin Street meets Independence Avenue — quickly swelled from a few hundred to some 3,000.

After gathering on the other side of the sprawling square with a crowd of about the same size, opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich led supporters to a nearby park and the group swelled to as many as 5,000 people.

"The authorities can only confront the striving of the people for change with persecution and violence," Milinkevich told the crowd. Demonstrators held flowers and waved the red-and-white historic flag of the opposition.

"The people have come out today, they have come out in the face of truncheons, in the face of arrests. We are working against dictatorship," Milinkevich said. "The more the authorities conduct repression, the closer they bring themselves to their end."

I've seen a lot of folks lament that we didn't engage in similar protests in 2000 after our election was decided by 9 people in black robes.  I do too, but keep in mind that life was drastically different in 2000.  Yeah, we anti-Bush folks knew the guy was an idiot and a fraud and a thief, but I honestly don't think many of us realized just how much of a disaster it would be.

We didn't like the result nor how it came about, but the Republic lived on and our democracy has survived plenty of other disasters, so what would be our motivation to engage in massive protests?  Sure it shows that we're complacent.  It also illustrates how much inherent faith we have in our system overall, despite its flaws, and our experience has been that in the end things work out.  That's not necessarily a bad thing--it's something to be expected after a couple centuries under a system that generally runs fine.

The Ukrainians and Belarusians have no such history.  Theirs is one of oppression and tyranny, and the taste of democracy has whet their appetites and made them hungry for real freedom, not some faux liberty with sham elections.  So when a despotic president pulls the usual stuff out of the dictator's playbook, they are going to rebel, just like our Founders did.

Now it's our turn to learn about democracy and the power of the People.  As with Las Madres, and the Velvet Revolution, and the Orange Revolution, and what's happening in Belarus, we have a variety of examples showing us what a motivated populace can achieve.

We kind of forgot here that the political process doesn't end with elections.  That's the point the braggart Bush apologists always fail to understand as they dismiss their boy's falling support: polls don't rule this country, but they do indicate the mood of people who are calling their Representatives and Senators, donating money to parties and candidates, and are willing to stand up to a government that is failing its duty.

I don't think we're going to see thousands of Americans take to the streets just yet.  Frankly, I don't want to see that.  As bad as I think Bush is, as much power as he's grabbed, as complacent as we've all been, I'm still optimistic about our chances to use legal mechanisms--the 2006 Elections, Censure, Impeachment--we already have in place to bring about constructive change.  The People have already woken up, the Press is starting to arise, and even members of Bush's own Party are fitful in their slumber.

As I've said before, I think the worm has turned.  Bush was unable to destroy Social Security, even with single-party rule and all the powers he claims to have.  The more he's tried to act like an unaccountable king--warrantless wiretapping, Dubai Ports, pushing the same lies about Iraq over and over--the more unpopular he has become, the more the media narrative has changed, and the harder it is for him to push his agenda.  The more he tries to retain control, the closer he brings himself to his end.

ntodd

[Update: just so you know, Americans do take to the streets sometimes.  Even when it actually matters.]

March 25, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

question for you ntodd: given the really stellar approval ratings bush and the rethugs in general are, and the likelyhood that there will be more bad news for them before the election, do you agree with me that it's likely that 06 will result in poor showings for congressional rethugs all over?

what i'm getting at is this: if the rethugs maintain or even increase their numbers in congress this fall, will that be "proof" enough for moderates like yourself to agree with people like me- we don't have fair elections anymore. i'm not just blaming the machines; there's been lots of chatter about such old fashioned voter suppression at places like gilly's. but after 04 i became convinced that the dems are either clueless or in on it, and that the rethugs have a very well functioning "machine" to ensure continual victory.

i think when more people agree with me, we'll be much closer to a belarus like situation over here.

Posted by: chicago dyke | Mar 25, 2006 7:26:18 AM

I don't think we'd see a Velvet Revolution here, simply because this country is too vast and too many people are lazy and/or apathetic.

Posted by: watertiger | Mar 25, 2006 7:37:45 AM

All empires eventually fail. I would expect the U.S. to come apart at the seams much like the former Soviet Union before I would expect to see an extra-political, popular uprising. If that stretches your imagination, just remember back to the eighties when Reagan denounced the evil Soviet empire.

It's just something to think about, that's all.

Posted by: Houston | Mar 25, 2006 8:13:01 AM

If, and only if, the Dems can get together behind Feingold's censure resolution will I believe that the worm has turned. If that happens it will mean two things: Our cowardly elected Dems will have finally convinced themselves that there is no downside to opposing our "popular wartime preznit" and it just might be enough of a sign of real opposition that there will be decent Dem turnout at the polls this fall.

chidy:
I honestly don't think the Rethugs will need to pull much by way of dirty tricks to win this fall. As long as our elected Dems continue to play least in sight we'll suppress our own turnout thru disgust and apathy.

Dems had better do something to fire up their own base, and do it damn soon, if they want to win in November.

Posted by: flory | Mar 25, 2006 11:32:54 AM

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