Monday, November 13, 2000

Week of 11/13/2000

Getting the Government You Deserve in 2000
- by David Matthews 2

Boy, oh boy, what a way to wrap up the election season, huh?

Here we are, about one week removed from all of the garbage that we have to put up with every two to four years, and we STILL don’t know who’s going to replace King Bill the First come January!

Al Gore claims to have won the election. George W. Bush claims to have won the election. Gore claims that Bush stole the electoral college. Bush claims that Gore is a sore loser. We have people throwing screaming fits in front of cameras about recounts and re-votes and mythical third-party spoilers.

It’s insane. It’s really insane.

But perhaps it’s to be expected. After all, we’re talking about two spoiled, pampered, career politicians who have gotten where they were through the success of their respective fathers. Politicians who firmly believed that government can solve all problems, and constantly talk about their respective pet pork programs as the solutions to all of society’s ills. They act like a bunch of children promising cake and candy to the neighborhood kids. Why should it be any different when the vote isn’t decisively their way?

So for those international watchers out there.. or those Americans who are wondering just where the STOP button is on this crazy ride, let’s get a few things squared away.

First of all, despite the fact that voter attendance was high in many areas across America, only 60% of registered voters actually got off their duffs and made it to the voting booths. That’s far better than the 49% who voted in 1996, but still pretty pathetic. As this commentator predicted, the non-vote STILL was a factor in this election.

Second, despite all of the talk about Ralph Nader, Pat Buchanan, Harry Browne, and other third-party candidates as spoilers, they did NOT serve as such. The most any of those three garnered was three percent of the popular vote. They served as true votes of conscience, true votes of protest, true votes of principle, but they did NOT serve as the spoiler vote.

If Gore and Bush supporters were really and truly serious about getting the vote out, they shouldn’t be mad at the five percent of people who voted their conscience and their principles. They should be mad at the forty percent of registered voters who stayed at home and didn’t exercise their constitutional duty.

As such, the forty percent who didn’t vote have no basis to complain. Period. They can complain all they like, and the Constitution guarantees them that right, but unless they can say "I Voted", they’re no better than the mealy-mouthed double-speaking politicians we all despise.

And indeed, that forty percent could have changed the face of politics. This presidential election was so close in many states that even a handful of those non-voters could have tipped the scales one way or the other.

That brings us to the close election.

Right now, all eyes are on Florida. Florida has 25 electoral votes, and whomever gets those 25 wins the election. The difference between the two was close.. really close. The media thought it first went to Gore, then it went to Bush, then it was too close to call. So by state law, a recount was required. And when that was done, the difference was even closer, but Bush still had edged out over Gore.

But Gore didn’t like that. So now some counties are recounting votes yet again.. by hand!

But still that’s not good enough for the Gore supporters. They’re claiming voter fraud in Florida. 19,000 ballots had to be thrown out because voters double-punched their ballots. Excuse me, folks, but what was it about the instructions did you NOT understand? Did you or did you NOT read the part about if you make a mistake you can request another ballot? It doesn’t take an act of Congress. I saw someone get a new ballot right in front of me because he did his wrong. It happens.

So 19,000 ballots were tossed out. Too bad. 36,000 ballots were tossed out in 1996 and nobody complained. Hundreds of voters in Georgia wanted to vote this year but couldn’t because the State Secretary disqualified their registration forms with very little media attention and absolutely no notice to the individuals who thought they were registered to vote. Do you hear any calls for Congressional action here? No.

Meanwhile, you have spoiled Democrats crying foul all over the state of Florida. They claim that the butterfly-style ballots were too "confusing." That ballot layout was approved of by both the Democrats and the Republicans. They were printed in newspapers all over the county so people wouldn’t be surprised by the layout when they get to the polls. Hey, if schoolchildren in the area could understand the ballots, why couldn’t adults?

And how about all of those whining, moaning, crying protesters demanding a "re-vote"? Please! Cry me a freakin’ river! These people are the epitome of the word PATHETIC!

You want a re-vote? How about all of the other counties and states that came close. You think they should have a re-vote too? After all, they may have picked the wrong candidate as well. Let’s give them a chance to re-vote. Gotta be fair, right? And while we’re at it, I’m sure that there were some other folks who were a bit confused by their ballots as well. How about giving them a chance to re-vote?

Tell you what.. while we’re at it, why not just invalidate the WHOLE election and have everyone vote again? How about that? Will that make you happy? Or will you only be happy if Al Gore wins?

You know, come to think of it.. I’m not too sure that I crossed off the right numbers in last night’s bingo game. All of those numbers so tightly together.. it was very confusing for me. I think I should have a replay! After all, we gotta be fair, right?

Come on people! Voting is not like playing "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" There is no Regis Philben asking you if that was your final answer. This is a one-shot deal here. Bring your reading glasses. Read the instructions. Re-read them if you still don’t get it. If you’re not sure about your selection, don’t pull that final lever, don’t "X" that check mark, and for God’s sake, don’t push in that stupid slot twice!

Let’s get brutally honest here… As the heir apparent to the Bill Clinton regime, this election has been Al Gore’s to lose. The political deck was already stacked in his favor. Thanks to the party bosses, the not-so-unbiased members of the media, and the two-party monopoly, people were led to believe that the only alternative to Gore was a bumbling Texas governor who looked like he was still trying to find his own dorm room. If Al Gore could not earn enough votes even to win his own state of Tennessee, then should he fail to win the election, he has nobody to blame but himself. Period. Case closed.

And how about the biggest whiner for the Gore camp, Bill Daley? Does the name Richard Daley of the Chicago political machine ring any bells? How about this quote: "Vote early, vote often"? If anyone should know about voter fraud, it would be the son of the man who reportedly once got the dead to vote for John Kennedy.

Media talking heads are marveling how the election results are generating more interest than the whole campaign itself. That is no surprise, really. For too many years, voters have felt that their votes really didn’t matter. They felt ignored. They felt disconnected from the system. They felt that special interests owned the election and dictated who won or who lost. Now they’re finding out that a handful of individual votes could spell the difference between who won and who lost. Of course they’re going to be interested! This would be the first time in years that they will actually feel that they were involved in the process!

People are complaining that it’s not fair that one person could win the popular vote, and another would be elected president. Well, sorry Charlie, but that’s how this system was set up. Our founding fathers did NOT create a democracy, they created a democracy in a REPUBLIC. Check with Benjamin Franklin when asked what the founding fathers had created. He said, quote, "A republic, if you can keep it."

Our founding fathers knew that the emotions of the people are fleeting and temporary, easily swayed by whatever huckster could peddle their wares. Government is neither fleeting nor temporary. That’s why special interest groups try to generate false hysteria to get laws passed. And that’s why there are provisions in the Constitution to curtail such laws from wrongfully infringing on the rights of the individual.

This government was set up with a system of checks and balances. A House of Representatives elected by the people. A Senate that was originally comprised of those appointed by the state governors. A Supreme Court filled by those picked by the President, but approved of by the Senate. And a President who was elected, not by the people, but by those elected representatives of the people.

Oh, you didn’t know you don’t directly elect the President? Well, you’re finding that out the hard way, aren’t you? Time to wake up and dust off those high school civics books, boys and girls.

The electoral college serves as yet another check-and-balance measure. Call it a waiting period for the highest office in the land. I’m sure all you anti-gun advocates and all you anti-abortion supporters can appreciate the notion of a waiting period, right? This is probably the only waiting period measure that I actually support.

People who fear the abolition of the electoral college say that it would open the door to third parties and coalition governments. Hey, go back to your history books and read up on how Abraham Lincoln got elected. You think that electoral college was a cakewalk back in 1860?

You want the system fixed? You think it should be more reflective of the popular vote? Okay, how about getting rid of the "winner-take-all" system of electoral delegates? Each state gets 10 delegates. If George Bush gets half the vote in that state, he gets half the delegates. If Al Gore gets 40% of the vote, he gets 4 delegates. If third parties get less than 10%, they don’t get a delegate. Simple, easy, and proportionate. Plus, there wouldn’t be any of this garbage of campaigning heavily in certain states and ignoring others.

While we’re at it, I should get a word in about how the media was playing this whole election night debacle. I have a real problem with how the media likes to predict winners based on projections and exit polling. They got caught with their pants down in Florida, not just once, but twice.. and this practice only served in building up people’s expectations and then letting them down. Heck, Al Gore was ready to concede the election simply because the media declared Bush the winner even before most of the votes were in.

Dan Rather of CBS was perhaps the biggest drama queen in this. When CBS had to pull Florida out of the Gore column, he kept on declaring it to be because of "faulty data", even going so far as to call it "suspect data." Yeah Dan, like Tom Cruise and his Mission Impossible team came in an sabotaged your computers. Rather had it right the first time when it was called "faulty data". The fault was on their over-reliance on exit polls and their so-called "need" to be the first to declare a winner from state to state.

Short of banning exit pollsters from hanging around election areas like they do for campaigning, the only real way for journalists to stop relying on this kind of reckless reporting of the news would be if everyone who participated in them lied to the pollsters. After all, lying to pollsters is not a crime.. at least not yet. Personally I think that would be hilarious! It would be so comical to see these air-fluffed personalities try to explain how their predictions would be so utterly wrong. Too bad it would only work once.

However, like it or not, we are getting exactly the kind of government we deserve. If you were one of the forty percent who stayed at home, then you’re going to have to deal with the fact that you blew your chance to shape the election. Next time be at the polls!

If you were one of those folks who felt that they had to compromise and surrender their vote on the misguided belief that either Bush or Gore were somehow "the lesser evil", you’re going to have to live with the fact that your principles don’t mean squat anymore, especially if you sacrificed them for a candidate who didn’t win. And maybe that explains why people are so touchy about this election.

But, if you’re like me, and you voted your conscience, and voted according to whomever you wanted to see in office, then you have nothing to be ashamed about. You did your job and anyone who has a problem with that really should seek therapy before they start showing up in bell towers with large caliber firearms. You can do what I am doing, which is sitting back, watching this two-ring political circus continue on with their respective clown acts, marvel at it all.. and laugh as the two sides continue to self-destruct.

No comments: