Thursday, April 29, 2004

The devaluing of elections

On one of the blogs I visit, we got into a massive discussion about the 2000 Election (aka The Vote that Wouldn't Die). This election is one of the reasons I despise Al Gore so much. And it's not even because of the vote itself, but of the result it had on the Amercian psyche in relation to elections.

As we all know, the original vote had Bush winning by a narrow margin, and Gore asked for a recount. Which he deserved under state law. The machine recount gave the election to Bush by little more than 600 votes. At this point, Al Gore could have accepted his loss like thousands of other candidates who lose close elections every year. Instead, he decided to litigate. He brought in lawyers, tried to pick and choose what ballots he wanted examined and HOW they should be examined. He went so far as to ask for a NEW presidental election in Palm Beach County. In the space of little more than a month and a half, he turned the election into a court case.

Why revisit this? Because this travesty, this mockery of the system led directly to an even larger disaster: The California Recall.

Gray Davis was a lousy governor. Bad management skills, couldn't turn the fiscal tide, pretty much a smaller Jimmy Carter. But he won an election. The people voted him in. So they just have to wait until the next election, right?

Wrong. Some dolt digs up an obscure recall mechanism that will actually allow the people to fire the governor. It's supposed to be used in cases of corruption and/or law-breaking by the governor. Here, it's being used because some people want a do-over. Just like Gore wanted a do-over in Florida. So the recall passes, and a circus ensues before the Terminator gets elected Governor. The only saving grace is that the Democrats didn't immediately start a recall movement of their own, as some had threatened to do.

So here are two elections where the election didn't matter. People took it upon themselves to subvert the popular will to engineer a result they wanted. Now precedent has been set. What if we have a too-close-to-call vote in Illinois this November? Or Maine? Or Florida again? Will the candidates accept the standard recount and gracefully conceed? Or will they break out the lawyers and litigate their way to the White House?

Thanks a lot, Al. You single-handedly trashed the finality of a popular election. Way to go.

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