Our Unfortunate Slice of US History

The Nov. 22, 2000, Florida Brooks Brothers Riot disrupting the mandatory Bush-Gore recount in a Miami-Dade County polling office (Photo by Colin Braley for Reuters).

While the culture navigated its way though the AIDS pandemic, union busting and environmental stress, punk rock and rap were giving the music some renewable juice. From the Punky Reggae Party that was Rock Against Racism in the UK and USA to the fall of Soviet totalitarianism in the rubble of the Berlin Wall, the 80s were pretty fun.

The 90s had so much potential, from “peace dividends” to the birth of the European Union and its common markets and open borders; from a “bridge to the 21st century to the development of the information superhighway.

It all went south, near the end of Y2K, with that Brooks Brothers Riot. Alot of us who watched the Capitol putsch on January 6 were reminded of the time that Trump’s old buddy Roger Stone, to some extent or another, helped engineer a mob of Republican congressional staffers to monkey wrench the Florida recount and create an opportunity for the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to reverse its consistent tradition of “states’ rights” by canceling Florida’s mandatory election recount and handing the state’s deciding Electoral College votes to George W. Bush.

From there, it was onto the edge. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, the 2008 financial crash, a vain and relatively brief glimmer of hope and change before the star spangled goons traded their Brooks Brothers blazers for tri-corner hats and threw a Tea Party. Why? Because they stayed engaged. When Barrack Obama assured us that “Yes We Can,” We The People checked out to let him do it alone and the teabaggers recovered the legislature, death-paneling and Benghaziing their way to making America great again.

Alot of characters from the Brooks Brothers Riot might seem familiar to some but more so to the most policy nerdy among us.

“This is Matt Schlapp,” reported Rachel Maddow back on August 7, 2009. “Now, Mr. Schlapp went from fake outraged citizen rioter in Miami to work at the Bush White House for a while. And then, he got a new gig as the executive director of federal affairs for Koch Industries. Huh. Koch Industries is the largest privately held oil company in this country.”

Matt Schlapp is number 6 in the above Brooks Brothers riot photo. Until recently, his wife Mercedes Schlapp was White House Communications Director for the Trump administration. Today, Matt Schlapp is Chairman of the American Conservative Union and runs CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, where former President Trump carved his signature flag-grope into the consciousness of 21st century political theater and to which the twice-impeached former president has been scheduled to return on February 28.

Number 1 in the photo above is Tom Pyle from the office of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX). Since the 2005 indictment of Rep. DeLay for conspiracy to violate election law by campaign money laundering, Pyle worked as a director of federal affairs for Koch Industries. Koch Industries was instrumental to the campaign of town hall disruptions as Democratic lawmakers tried to bring clarity directly to their constituents during Congressional recesses about the effort to pass the Affordable Care Act during President Obama’s first term. The late David Koch was the national chairman of Americans for Prosperity while his Koch Industries sponsored Dick Armey’s Freedom Works, both of which organized their goons under the brand of the Tea (“Taxed Enough Already”) Party to disrupt Obamacare town halls.

The more the Republican Party sells itself like snake oil as the party of “law and order,” the deeper it goes down the well of mob rule. 2000 Bush campaign advisor Brad Blakeman led the effort to disrupt the Florida recount and lays claim to the name of his insurrection. “We all had Brooks Brothers blazers,” Blakeman told the Washington Post. “We could have popped out of the catalogue.” Roger Stone claimed to Jeffrey Toobin, writing for the New Yorker in 2008, that he was recruited for the recount disruption effort by James Baker III, the former secretary of state under the elder Bush then in charge of the Bush-Cheney recount team, and that he ran the Brooks Brothers riot from a Winnebago parked near the election office. But Blakeman disputes Stone, insisting that he was the one in the Winnebago and that he never even saw Stone. In any event, the 2000 Florida recount was perceived as something other than an open and fair process.

On December 23, President Trump pardoned Roger Stone for lying to Congress about what he and Trump knew about Russian efforts to discredit Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign, as well as witness tampering and obstruction around Stone’s efforts to act as an intermediary between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Back in July, Stone was to report to prison for a 40-month sentence that Trump commuted only days before.

We should have seen these ratfuckers coming. Twice! Since the Capitol putsch, as Republican majority state legislatures move to restrict voting rights, we have no excuses left for the erosion of American democracy if we let bygones be bygones again.

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