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The Periodic Polemic

Polemic for 15 November 2000

Politics? In an Election? Noooo... Can't Be!

There's a scene in the movie "Casablanca" where the prefect of police shuts down Humphrey Bogart's place. Bogie asks why and the prefect replies, "I'm shocked! I'm shocked to discover gambling is going on here!" Right after that, a croupier hands the prefect his winnings from the roulette table, which he gladly pockets.

The people involved in the campaigns of both Bush and Gore remind me of that prefect of police. Here they are, in the middle of the tightest election since 1876, and they're acting like they are taking the high road, sheperding the USA into the best possible future. They behave as if they stand tall, far above the reeking herds of partisans on the other side of the aisle as they make decisions based, ostensibly, on pure law without the slightest color of political motivation.


These guys are soooo transparent, we could use them as windows. It's quite obvious Gore wants to keep counting ballots until the election goes his way and Bush wants everyone to stop counting now, so he will have a reduced chance of the vote tallies going the other way. The only reason the Gore folks are so concerned about a chunk of Floridian ballots that seems to be a normal amount of discarded ballots is that, as long as they're not counted, can all be Gore supporters. The Bush folks have to consider that they all can be Gore votes, so of course they don't want any more counted: they want to quit while they're winning.

It would be refreshing to see the candidates come right out and admit the real reason they've taken their stands on the election. They don't give a tinker's cuss for voting rights or proper ballot construction. Those are just cover stories for their political ambitions. They've hired lawyers to issue statments that lawyers shouldn't be involved. Heck, I'd bet the normal amount of ambulance-chasing in Florida has taken a slight downturn as members of the legal profession consider how a legal challenge to the election can line their pockets. How far away is that state from seeing lawyer ads on UHF stations in the middle of "Laverne and Shirley" reruns asking the listless viewers not if they've been injured in an accident or on the job, but if they voted and think they might have goofed up their ballot?

Well, at least they're not all holed up in back rooms, arguing over dual submissions of electoral results from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. That happened in 1876. The Republican-controlled state legislatures sent in one set of results that delivered those states to their man and the Democratic party machines submitted alternate counts that showed those states going their way. Not even a dozen years after the Civil War, there was threat of another break between the states. The electoral college didn't return a satisfactory result and Congress was consulted. The Senate was for Hayes, the Republican, and the House voted for Tilden, the Democrat. A committee was formed to investigate things... it split 8-7 in favor of Hayes time and again.

The deadlock was broken finally when the Southern Democrats cut a deal with the Republicans. They didn't really care too much for the Yankee Tilden. They wanted US troops out of their states and the military occupation of reconstruction to end. If Hayes would agree to pull out the soldiers, they'd put him in the Oval Office.

That was an offer the Republicans didn't refuse, and Hayes was seated as president after losing the popular vote and winning the electoral college by one vote. The strength of American democracy was preserved courtesy a smoke-filled room, but, hey, that's politics, right?

The back rooms are probably buzzing with activity around the clock right now, but I doubt we'll see such a dramatic sort of overturn as in 1876. The strength of American democracy will be preserved hopefully with a cessation of any new counts, and finalization of the current ones. Once the numbers are in, Gore and Bush will abide by them.

I hope.

Dean Webb

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