Should the United States be sovereign or should it bow before the United Nations and other international institutions?
John Fonte of the Hudson Institute showed in an insightful 2002 article, "Liberal Democracy vs. Transnational Progressivism: The Future of the Ideological Civil War Within the West," that portions of the Left wish to do an end-run around American democracy by giving the unelected barons of international institutions an authority higher than that of the U.S. government. As I put it in my summary of his work, in "[Leftist] Globalthink's Perils,"
unable to achieve their goals through the ballot box, law professors, political activists, foundation officers, NGO bureaucrats, corporation executives, and practicing politicians now seek to achieve those goals by denigrating the two central pillars of modern liberal democracy, the individual citizen and the nation-state.
In my innocence, I imagined that having the Republicans in charge in Washington would spare Americans the ravages of this "bureaucratic leftism." And indeed, back in July 2004, when thirteen House Democrats sent a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan asking that the United Nations monitor the U.S. elections on November 2, 2004, they learned two points: U.N. guidelines require such a request come from the Bush administration but the administration would submit no such request. Nor would Congress go along with it; the Republican-controlled House passed an amendment prohibiting federal executive officials from asking the U.N. to have any authority in determining the outcome of the U.S. electoral process. Rep. Steve Buyer (Republican of Indiana), the sponsor of this ban, eloquently explained why:
For over two hundred years, this nation has conducted elections, fairly and impartially, ensuring that each person's vote will count. When problems have arisen, Congress and the States have addressed them. Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Just last Congress, we enacted the Help America Vote Act to strengthen the election process.
Imagine, going to your polling place on the morning of November 2 and seeing blue helmeted foreigners inside your local library, school or fire station. The United Nations has sent monitors to Haiti, Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique…and now the United States? The constitutional authority to ensure the integrity of U.S. elections rests with the States and the Congress.
Having failed with the United Nations, the thirteen House Democrats instead requested the State Department to arrange for other election monitors. And now comes the news, reported by Joseph Curl in the Washington Times, that Assistant Secretary of State Paul V. Kelly, wrote a letter to those thirteen, informing them that the Bush administration has agreed to permit observers in November from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Urdur Gunnarsdottir of the OSCE indicates that an observer team will arrive in September to make plans for monitoring the election, including how many observers to deploy and where to send them.
President Bush explained his logic in permitting this: "Look, I can understand why African-Americans, in particular, are worried about being able to vote, since the vote had been denied for so long in the South, in particular. I understand that. And this administration wants everybody to vote."
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats applauded the monitors. Rep. Barbara Lee (Democrat of California) called it "a step in the right direction toward ensuring that this year's elections are fair and transparent." But Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Democrat of Texas) touched on the larger implications. "The presence of monitors will assure Americans that America cares about their votes and it cares about its standing in the world."
Oh, and Curl let it drop that OSCE observers monitored the November 2002 elections, so the precedent already exists.
Comment: This is a significant step toward the erosion of American sovereignty, not so much operationally (what harm can some election monitors do?) but conceptually (placing the OSCE and perhaps later other institutions over domestic safeguards). That a Republican administration is acquiescing to such a step makes it doubly worrisome.