mfinley.com: "Pass the Test"
Has anyone out there wondered why this election went the way it did?
I donít mean the final result. I mean, why was it so strange from the moment it began?
Everywhere you look, our country seems ripped down the middle:
Popular vote -- 48.9 percent to 48.9 percent -- split by three tenths of a percent (with the loser winning).
Electoral vote -- 267 to 271 votes.
The two Supreme Courts in the news rules with split verdicts, 5-4 (United States) and 4-3 (Florida).
The Senate -- divided into two perfect halves. 50-50 (with one half somehow holding a majority).
In Congress, a mere 5-vote difference out of 435.
In state legislatures, power is split more closely than it has been in 50 years. Republicans control both chambers in 17 states, Democrats in 16; in the others, control is 50-50.
Have you wondered why this is?
The only opinion I have heard is that the two parties are so similar that voters split between them. Excuse me, but that doesnít make even a little bit of sense. They could be identical and votes could still be lopsided. And I don't think they are identical, by a long shot.
Is it a freak accident, a flipped coin landing on its edge? "It had to happen sometime in a million years, and it happened in 2000 AD."
Here's a thought. Maybe the election is a test. Maybe some higher power -- call it "God" -- wants to see what this weird, wonderful, ungrateful country is of in the year 2000.
I think Israel faced a test this past summer -- whether the religious leaders of the Palestinians and Jews could relax their guard and live together in faith, or whether they would enlist their faith in bloody war. They failed the test.
Our test was to fashion an election so difficult that it would strain everyone to the breaking point, until the victor will envy the vanquished, and the vanquished will envy the dead.
Drive partisans to such extremes that they lose all ability to empathize with the points the other side is making. I canít hear you, I canít hear you.
Whittle the branch of citizenship and sacrifice for the group down to the bare stick of bitterness and self-pity.
Having been given a bushel of lemons, will we hurl sour citrus at one another, or find a way to sweeten it and make lemonade?
Because I find this statistical tie-that-isnít-a-tie spooky as hell. It feels like a set-up. Is that a camera hidden in that bush? Our every reaction is being fitted to a laugh-track.
Here we are, the richest people ever, with resources and traditions and insanely good luck that any other country would kill for, voting for candidates neither side cared much for 36 days ago -- yet in the past month both sides felt they were in danger of losing something as precious as a child.
What is this for?
I'll tell you my grievances. I think of George W. Bush proclaiming Jesus Christ to be his political mentor. But in Florida Jim Baker replaced Jesus Christ, and it was far from a turn-the-other-cheek, love-your-enemy display of values.
If anything, the figure led bloody-footed through the long night from the Sanhedrin to the Procurator and up the Via Dolorosa was Bush's opponent.
Maybe if we play a game of truth, we can find redemption. I offer these personal concessions up front:
I am glad, as a Democrat, that the incorrectly corrected absentee votes in those two counties were allowed.
I don't think the GOP protesters in Miami, though organized, "shut down" the recount. The enormity of the task was the reason canvassers threw in the towel.
I agree, "dimpled chads" are a rotten standard to judge ballots by.
I have no idea who would have won a completely counted Florida vote total.
What I would like to hear from the other side is whether there is any regret anywhere that the Palm Springs ballot design invalidated 19,000 votes in a heavily Democratic area, and what that implies for their victory.
I would like to hear that it is unfortunate for the country, not lucky for the GOP, that the Governor of Florida is his George Bush's brother.
That the Secretary of State who certified his slate of electors was his statewide campaign manager.
That the five-judge Supreme Court majority which stopped the recount waited until 90 minutes before the Dec. 12 deadline to regret the lack of time left, thus handing the presidency to the son of the man who named them to the bench -- and to the man who would likely name their successors.
I was resigned a week or so ago to Gore's defeat. (Voting for Gore means dying many deaths.)
But I held out hope, almost like a kid, that the Supreme Court would pull a It's a Wonderful Life ending out of its constitutional hat, a solution that may have been light on law, but spoke powerful to the dark unease that exists among us all about power and democracy in America.
know life seldom ends in a laundry basket full of offerings, that we seldom leave the larger theater wiping a tear away. Frank Capra is dead, and Clarence the Angel was just a story device
But maybe someone is watching anyway, looking down on our cold, cold winter.
Are we going to pull it together, or let it drift apart? Are we going to ever look at this mess, and look at one another, and say, "We made this. Now we have to make it right."
Pray we pass this difficult test.
Got a suggestion on how to start the healing? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll publish them at .
mfinley.comCOPYRIGHT (c) 2000
by MICHAEL FINLEY
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Comments on this column:
Yes, here's one suggestion: stop being so bitter! You make a few points; but you certainly don't come through as being very level headed when its comes to this issue. The vote was essentially a tie. Ask your self what would you have done to determine fairly and as accurately as possible the vote for each candidate. And then tell me why Gore and his "staff" pursued such a different path.
R.R.Perhaps what's first required in the "healing" process is for those who "hurt" (or puportedly speak for them) to determine exactly what or who is responsible for their ailment.
Jesse Jackson et al point out that voters in Florida were disenfranchised. To hear him tell it, it was those evil Republicans who were behind a "plot" of monumental proportions
I'd suggest that whoever lays blame find out, in their detective work, who exactly is responsible, in the predominantly black, Democratic precincts, for the outdated voting equipment, misconstrued balloting procedures, misguided comments to voters waiting in line, etc...
Don't be quick to blame "the other side" until you can---without prejudice---determine the source of your malaise.
And THEN, without prejudice, report your findings...and let the chips (chads?) fall where they may.
I have an idea about how to "start the healing": Get rid of the fanatical right-wing thugs who have gained control of the Republican Party and have been running Congress since 1994.
These people mouth pieties about "the rule of law" and "our sacred institutions," but they truly value nothing but power, and they will do anything -- bend or break the law, twist the Constitution, stack the judicial deck, spread lies and innuendo -- to get it and hold it.
The RepubliGoons, as I call them, have subjected this country to two political muggings in two years -- first the impeachment farce and now this electoral railroad job. I have no wish to reach any accommodation with these people. I have had more than enough of them. I am thoroughly sick of them. I want them to be gone. And I would bet that a substantial majority of Americans of all political persuasions -- Democrats, Republicans, Greens and independents -- feel as I do.
The right-wing extremists are a cancer on the body politic and it is pointless to talk about "healing" until that cancer has been excised. Fortunately, there is good reason to hope that will happen in the congressional elections of 2002.
Thank you for the chance to express my view.
H. B. M.
Let us resolve not to adopt DeLayism as the accepted mode of public discourse and lobby Congress vigorously for an abandonment of tactics that smack of a fraternity row rumble and adoption of statesmanship as the proper deportment of representatives elected to the supposedly most powerful governmental body in the world. The adolescent posturing that passes for political discourse among our Representatives and Senators is unseemly to the point of being obscene. There are few tunes played by Republicans that I can even begin to hum when it comes to military or tax matters, but surely there are some notes we Democrats can sound that can make a pleasing harmony if we set our minds to it. The Republicans have silenced far too many of their moderate voices over the years; please , don't let Democrats do likewise. I'm not advocating THE CENTER , whatever that is. I'm advocating civility; I'm eschewing both stridency and self-righteousness in an effort to bring our government into some kind of respectable and respectful harmony. I lost my candidate before I had a chance to see him even before the convention. I voted for Gore even though I've never "cottoned" to him. I look to him now to show a kind of leadership that will get us past both bitterness on the Democrat side and gloating on the Republican. Tall order.
Now that's the sort of political column (not really about politics, more about America, humanity, and purpose, I would say) that keeps me ready to interrupt my work and jump right on the latest MFinley offering. Thank you. This one's a definite "keeper".
A very different perspective, but a very interesting one, comes from a writer I've mentioned before, and his online daybook of sorts. I think he tends to address politics from the perspective of one who holds that really good institutions and processes, and good laws strictly administered, be emphasized over good people and causes and desirable outcomes now. That may make for bad, or at least not the best results in the short term, but tend much more to lead to good results in the long term, and with more far reaching benefits than the short term gains could ever claim. I certainly lean toward that way of thinking, and believe that bending the process or the law itself to achieve a felt good result now is but a guarantee that the process and law will be bent again and frequently to achieve much less desirable goals, and then for corrupt and ignoble purposes. (And that is why I think the most current Supreme Court ruling -- not the finding that lack of uniform standards of evaluation violates Due Process -- is very wrong.)
I always felt that, for instance, the abortion issue being settled by a Supreme Court decision, was a horrible usurpation of political power by a few old, well intentioned men who did so simply because they had grown tired of the inability of the political arms of government to achieve any sort of agreement or resolution. They acted as a super legislature which in fact did a fair job of creating the sort of compromise that most everyone could live with and a majority came quickly to support, but no matter the outcome it was not their job nor did they have legal authority to do so. Since, however, there is no court of appeals above them (save for amendment to the constitution -- and there was not only not outrage but a fair degree of support for the outcome so an amendment will likely never gather any sufficient support to be taken at all seriously) there was and is no way to censure or reverse them.
Who shall guard the guardians, even of the Constitution?
So new law was written by the unelected group of wise old men we trust, or at least rely upon, to remove themselves from political issues and to fairly, as Pournelle says, reason their way to conclusions based upon law and precedent rather than find reasons for decisions or justifications for new law. Liberals in general have been much more willing to support "activist" judges and decisions, and to seek them out, to short circuit a long, or difficult, or even impossible political process -- in the name of the good outcome. Now a similar activism by judges previously thought to be conservative and "strict constructionists" comes forth, and perhaps as some liberals realize and decide that a more neutral, less politically active judiciary might be good, there is a whole new cadre of conservatives celebrating that "their" court stood up for "their" candidate and so maybe this judicial activism thing isn't so bad after all.
Perhaps your insights and questions and those Pournelle raises are but two aspects of an emerging thoughtful debate over the role of government generally, of institutions particularly, of the citizenry and its political expression. There may be a test at work, and a Tester.
Or perhaps a joke at work, and the Lord is indeed the Great Joker, wondering when we'll all look at this and realize that this election is a cause for laughter & recognition of our many foibles and inconsistencies and even, yes, the hypocrisies we all, yes all, can be found guilty of.
A wonderful holiday season to you and yours.
Really can't believe that anyone would find the arrogant, pedantic, sanctimonious, sniveling, poor-looser Al Gore appealing - not to say, by default, that W. is quick!
"yet in the past month both sides felt they were in danger of losing something as precious as a child."
Well, maybe Bush and Gore felt that way, but I don't know many real people who really did. The more trivial the stakes, the more passionately Americans like to argue. But you know I'm a cynic.
If my memory is correct, Bush the 1st appointed exactly two of the justices, one of whom (Souter) voted for the Gore position (on the 5-4, if not the 7-2 decision). Why blame the high court for waiting to the last minute? It was already past the last minute when this thing ended up in their lap--given the insanity (meaning the crazy-quilt hand recount) that was underway in Florida. Gore goofed from Day I (meaning Nov. 8). Instead of airlifting a small army of lawyers into Fl. to launch this or that search-and-find-votes mission, and instead of zeroing in on a few Gore-friendly counties, he should have asked for a statewide hand recount right from the get-go--and on the basis of actually punched out holes. Both of them played games, but Gore's early tactics clearly left himself much more wide-open to the "stealing an election" charge. (Notice how quickly they ushered Wm. Daley away from the cameras--even though he now seems to have been given a rebirth.) Bush didn't exactly claim the moral high ground, but the burden really was on Gore--esp. since there were no legit. charges of anything approaching voter fraud. Perhaps the fairest thing to do all the way around would have been to have counted the rejected votes in each of the states where those votes were greater than the margin of victory in that state. After all, Gore won Wi., Ia, Ore, and NM by very, very small margins. And would somebody please tell Jesse Jackson where to get off. To compare this decision to Dred Scott is worse than godawful. The Dems. were the race-baiters in this election, and they're staying "on message" even now. Willie Horton was terrible race-baiting in 1988, but if my memory is right it was none other than candidate Al Gore who initially raised that one in the primary season against the hapless Dukakis. Does the NAACP really think we're stuck in a time warp, that it's somehow still the 1950s? Gimme a break. I keep trying to feel sorry for Gore, but I'm sorry, I can't. Besides, I really think he would have been a terrible president. For one thing, he's too much like Herbert Hoover for my tastes. He's self-righteous, arrogant, rigid. What's worse, he doesn't really like the political game (probably because he thinks he's above it all). That's always been Clinton's saving grace. He is a real pol--and one who loves to play the game. Gore may be smart, but he strikes me as someone just smart enough to get us into real trouble--esp. when he tells us that his favorite pres. is that old world-saver Woodrow Wilson; whereas Dubya is probably a whole lot smarter than many of those who think he's dumb.
Time to get back to other things--or, as the Clintonistas liked to say after impeachment, it's time to move on.
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Winner, Financial Times/Booz Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award, Best Management Book - The Americas, 1995
Winner, Financial Times/Booz Allen & Hamilton Global Business Book Award, Best Management Book - The Americas, 1995
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