Election endangering our nation
So this is what it has come down to.
Both sides alleging voter fraud; protesters demanding new elections; a face-off between two equally questionable candidates, neither of whom wants the political black eye of being the bad guy, but wants less to lose. A hijacking of legal procedures by a partisan official whose position is being phased out anyway. An endless and random recount of ballots by officials who can't understand how it went wrong.
This sort of thing is supposed to happen in third world countries and democracies struggling to subsist in the face of vast social problems, not in the largest, most successful country in the world at the height of its largest economic boom in decades.
But, with all eyes on Florida and the law suits about vote counts, protests and partisan speeches coming from both sides, this election looks more like one that we would send President Jimmy Carter and Senator George Mitchell to oversee.
The Secretary of State of Florida, a close ally of the Bush campaign, has attempted, from the first minute that the results were in doubt, to railroad this election through before the vote could change to favor Gore.
The county election boards, mostly Democrats, have attempted, from the same minute, to recount as many times as necessary to find the result that they want.
I think that Florida should have allowed a hand count from the first doubt and set up standard procedures for such a count. That count could then become official and there could be no legal challenge to either side.
I voted for Vice President Al Gore, then again, so did 57 percent of Maryland. I did not vote for his domestic policies or against those of his opponent. I don't believe that either candidate would change much of the economic and social climate that has existed for the last eight years and I think that things are going pretty well on the economic front and at least progressing on the social front to the point that domestic issues are not a concern. After reading a number of learned opinions on the subject — one in this very newspaper — Supreme Court appointments were not an issue that moved my vote.
Governor Bush, with the very weak nature of the Texas gubernatorial office, is not up to the job of President of the United States. He can say that he has led one of the largest states in the union, but he does not do much more than preside over the legislature and they do not meet that often.
Additionally, with his apparent inability to grasp international situations as evidenced by some of his answers in the presidential debates, I have serious reservations about Bush's ability to handle foreign policy in a time when it is so very important. But Bush can surround himself with knowledgeable people. What worries me more is the tint of Republican discourse.
With the razor's edge of unprecedented violence that the Middle East is walking and the fledgling democratic spirit that has taken hold in Serbia, we cannot afford to adopt an isolationist attitude toward the world. I worry that the Republican agenda is just that.
That said, I will be happy if Bush wins and Gore graciously concedes. I will be just as happy if the reverse happens as well. This election needs to end, but more importantly, both sides need to meet and with a show of friendship tell the American people that they have decided to follow the results regardless of what those results might be.
Instead there is stony, adversarial feel to this election. It is feeling dangerously like a power struggle. Have we gotten so partisan and so completely unreasonably obstinate on issues that there is no room for debate? Is there no room for the type of compromise that brought this nation through its infancy in the late-eighteenth century and through its coming of age in the mid to late-nineteenth century?
This gesture would not just be for the American people. Every day that we look like we may have a Constitutional crisis or that the Republican and Democratic candidates hide out in their respective havens is another day that the stock markets around the world feel a slight panic. It is another day for a country like Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine or Israel to decide that the United States is in enough chaos for them to pull some destructive stunt.
It also worries our allies and all of the countries whose democracy is patterned after ours. How strong is a faint reproduction of American democracy if the original can break down so completely?
Of course, by the time that you read this column, the last of the absentee ballots have probably made their way to Florida and hand recounts have either been allowed or banished.
Regardless of the decisions on hand counts and pending law suits, the election should end now and our new President should take his place. And God help the man. for he has no mandate nor does he have the support of even 20 percent of the country (50 percent of the 100 million Americans who voted). Hopefully this will humble him enough that he will work with his fellow politicians on the other side of the aisle to actually fix some of the damage that this protracted process has done.
Matt Loughran is a '97 graduate of Notre Dame and his column appears every other Friday.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, November 17, 2000