The Next Step: Securing Our Democracy

Published: Wed 10 Dec 2003 01:21 PM
The Next Step: Securing Our Democracy
by Barbara Villela
A very important question was posed to me the other day, regarding the aftermath of the police’s abusive handling of the Miami protests, ''What do we do now?'' This is a simple question that brought me to a simple but dramatic conclusion: We need to do absolutely everything (within the parameters of our constitutional rights) to see that Bush is not reelected in 2004.
After living in Miami for the past nine months and having numerous conversations with individuals (from groups such as the League of Women Voters) I do not think it is a coincidence that this abuse of power took place here in South Florida, the epicenter of the fraud that put Bush into office. We cannot afford to ignore the paradigm the Bush administration is implementing before our very eyes. It seems like at least twice a day I find myself reeling from the news that Bush is yet again, taking corporate giveaways to a whole new level or further legislating the destruction of the environment. It is hard not to get discouraged by the daily progression of the Bush hegemony. But we cannot become immobilized by the fear or dread of what the reality of a second term for Bush would mean for our country.
This is why we cannot afford to make the mistake of thinking our situation is unique in the larger context of history. Turning a lens back on history, there are many movements and regime changes that we can learn from. This past fall I had the opportunity to go to South Africa and visit the site of what I consider to be one of the most breath-taking regime changes in history. Of course the new South Africa is still in a precarious transition phase, and scars left over from the Apartheid regime are still very visible, but I found the re-constitution of this country no less-inspiring.
My visit to South Africa was encouraging and uplifting because here, the struggle for democracy had won. It validated ideals that I hold close to me, and led me to conclude the following: If Nelson Mandela (while in prison for almost thirty years) was able to build a successful movement to end the Apartheid in South Africa, those of us who care about the continuation of democracy in our own country can mobilize and get George “W” out of office in 2004. This does not mean I am suggesting that three years of Bush’s administration are analogous to forty-plus years of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, but I do wish to hold-up this historical example in order to reflect on what is possible. Recently Mandela has stated that he thinks the U. S. poses the greatest threat in the world today. If Mandela has won any credibility through his Herculean accomplishments, I think his statement needs to be respectfully considered.
The next twelve months are very critical for the future of democracy in our nation. In addition to the “irregularities” that manifested in the conventional voting technologies used in Florida during the 2000 election, many experts are expressing grave concern over the new electronic voting systems to be implemented for the first time in the 2004 election. The controversy surrounding these new machines, centers on the fact that as of yet, no standards have been set for this new voting technology. These machines need to offer independent verification of independent voting choices, the possibility for recounts, and the software code used in these machines needs to be accessible for scrutiny despite proprietary trade secrecy agreements. We must demand that standards for this new technology be implemented before the 2004 election, so that we can be reasonably assured that we will not have another debacle like the one we saw in 2000, or worse.
On a personal level, I am going to take a hard look at how my life is organized and will try to make as much time as I can for participating in the upcoming election. Going to events sponsored by organizations like and finding opportunities to register people to vote are definitely on my agenda. I am also considering walking precincts like I did for the Clinton-Gore campaign in ’92. During that election I was in my early 20’s and I remember many of the engaging conversations I had with people and those experiences definitely helped form me into the person I am today. I am going to take personal responsibility for getting Bush out of office, and I hope to see a ground-swell of other people doing the same. When my daughter is in her 30’s and asks me about this period in our history and how I participated in it, I hope to have some answers I am proud of.
- Barbara Villela is a free-lance photographer (and closet writer), who now resides in Miami, Florida. She can be contacted at This article was originally published on Friday, December 5, 2003 by It is republished here with the permission of the author.

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