So, here's the thing...
meanderings on life and other semi-important stuff
How Chad Got Pregnant
This column was to have a very simple theme when I began it on election night; two themes, really.
First, that the American electorate had let itself down once again, leaving us with chumps instead of champs to choose from to "lead" our country for the next four years. It was to explain how the choice between Al Gore and George "XXL" Bush III Jr. was destined to produce, by default, the most boring presidential election since Rutherford B. Hayes beat Samuel J. Tilden in 1876.
Second, how the hell did Gore blow this thing? Has any candidate ever been given a stronger hand heading into an election? He had: as much experience, at all levels of government, as any potential first-time president has ever accumulated; EIGHT YEARS of the best economic times the country has ever seen behind him; a solid reputation as an environmentalist, a strong, moral character and a solid, big-picture guy; an incredibly unlikable dolt for an opponent, one whose main campaign theme was, in essence, "I'm an outsider who doesn't know a goddamn thing about Washington." Wow, what a resume. Bush is a spoiled, self-entitled buffoon who reminded us all how inadequate he is for the job virtually every time he opened his mouth during the past year, a man whose well-oiled (actually, well-greased with cash from big oil, drug and tobacco companies) political machine busted a gasket before the nation's first primary -- in conservative New Hampshire, no less -- was even in the books.
So here comes Gore, ignoring his own qualifications, ignoring Bush's inadequacies, and ignoring the strategy that's won pretty much every presidential election since Jimmy Carter won the "How far away from Tricky Dick can we go" sweepstakes in 1976 -- the economy. Instead, he starts "inventing" things -- the Internet, Love Canal, "Love Story," trips to Texas -- and in the process, invents a new image for himself: power-hungry liar.
But, that was the column that never happened, because on the first Tuesday in November, the two most mundane politicians in the country created the most exciting, historic election since, well, … did I mention Hayes and Tilden?
Good, because there's a correlation here. You non-historians may not recall, but the election of 1876 was a doozy, waged between two men destined to go down in history only because, like this year, partisan circumstances dwarfed the scope of the candidates' personalities and qualifications. Given a choice between mediocrity and ordinariness, voters simply couldn't decide, leading to post-election day antics not seen since.
In a nutshell, what happened in 1876 went something like this:
Two candidates, who had attended Harvard and Yale, a Republican governor named for his father and a Democrat seen as incredibly intelligent, but cold, cautious and stiff, virtually deadlocked in the nationwide popular vote. There was a difference of one electoral vote between them, and the ballots of three states -- Florida among them -- were challenged.
After it became apparent that any attempts by Congress to resolve the issue would be bogged down in partisan politics (of, course, this would never happen today), a special commission was chosen to select the winner of a tie-breaking elector. The commission of 15 was to consist of seven Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent. But when the independent backed out, Hayes secretly promised Southern Democrats he'd pull federal troops out of the South, ending the era of Reconstruction. So, an eighth Republican was named, and Hayes won a fully partisan 8-7 majority and the presidency, despite Tilden's slight edge in the popular vote.
As a footnote, Republican Hayes went on to keep that promise, thereby ending Reconstruction and returning white supremacy as the rule in the South for a good hundred years or so. So not much was riding on how that vote was handled, we can clearly see.
Reconstruction was the kind of issue that crossed party lines. It was, simply, more important to Southern Democrats to get federal troops off their backs than it was to get a Democrat in the White House
Fast forward 124 years and subtract 80 billion collective IQ points from the electorate (yes, even with the five-fold population increase).
There is no Reconstruction today. There's nothing even close to being important enough for Republicans or Democrats to push aside the question of which party rules. It's not that the country lacks for presumably bipartisan issues of importance -- dealing with Social Security, the lack of health care for almost a fifth of our population, the chance to reconfigure the U.S. Supreme Court, and getting Regis Philbin off the air.
The difference now is that NOTHING preempts party politics. It doesn't matter whether Dancin' Al or George W. is the nominee of either particular party. The key issue for each party is that they WIN.
There is no issue, no matter how important, regardless of its dangers or benefits, that can compete with the partisan battle of who runs the show. It's this way at every level of politics, in every state of the union (note to editor: check to make sure we are still a union.).
It's now evident that the partisanship of everybody involved in this mess, from the judges to the state officials to the local ballot-counters is at the heart of the issue. If they've ever voted for a Democrat or Republican, they're tainted.
If you're reading this in early December, you may not even know yet who won, unless you're a faithful Democrat or Republican, in which case you KNOW who won, and that lying, power-grabbing, self-aggrandizing bastard from the other side is TRYING TO STEAL THE ELECTION IN COURT!!
For you Gore fans, shut up. You think your man got screwed by losing thousands of ballots that were double-punched in Palm Beach County? Well, get used to election day in the USA. Last time out, 13,000 of them were tossed. Clearly, voters just aren't that bright down there, since they haven't been able to learn to use the machines or to elect county officials who'll do away with them. Maybe they tried to elect new officials, but screwed that ballot up too.
And Bush backers, stop whining about the "sanctity" of machine counts and listen to yourselves trying to make the case that the system of voting used for nearly 200 years, and which most of the rest of the country still uses, is suddenly unconstitutional. It's as funny as listening to your candidate trying to pronounce the three-syllable words his daddy's advisors are putting in his mouth.
And don't let the Harry Browns and Ralph Naders waste your time saying this is only because they weren't allowed to run. They're right, in a way, but if the Libertarian, Reform, Green or Purple party found itself on a par with either of the two main antagonists, we'd just have the same game with different players.
As DUCTS hits the Net, the Supreme Court (that's U.S. -- Florida's Democratically appointed high court already had its turn, though it could go back to them if the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature gets antsy that Gore may win and makes a power-play of its own to anoint Bush the winner) was hearing arguments over whether manual recounts would preserve, or thwart, the will of the voting electorate.
Don't count on a definitive ruling. The simple truth is, there is no will of the voting electorate -- that's how we got into this mess in the first place. The voting electorate has all the will power of the guy on stage at the amateur hypnotist's show, flapping his arms and squawking like a chicken. If the electorate had any will power, Gore and Bush wouldn't be the nominees, since the only thing that got them there is spending the most corporate money.
The two interesting candidates were McCain and Bradley, but they both wanted to impose restrictions on election-buying and we can't have that, can we? So the bright American electorate dumped them before the snow melted and brought upon itself this really, really difficult task of choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedle-I-invented-the-Internet.
Wow. Don't bet on us learning anything from this, either.
Before I go, I just have one thing more to say about the Florida mayhem.
Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads. Dimpled chads.
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