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2000-11-09 - 13:49:03

My moment of political ranting

How about an old-fashioned political corruption scandal?

It looks like we might have that on our hands here. I didn't want to go that way, I didn't want to let myself start to believe in it, but from watching the reports stream across CNN and MSNBC, it's hard not to think about it.

Let's see: First every single exit poll organization -- or at least those to which the networks subscribe to get their information on election night -- first calls Florida for Al Gore. Immediately it's a surprise, because with W.'s younger brother Jeb the governor there, it appears as a surprising win for the Vice President. Not long after that, George Bush is confidently saying, "Not so fast. We're not believing that yet." Lo and behold, the networks have to pull back on Florida. And that was just the prelude.

Now 19,000 ballots have been thrown out; Palm Beach County residents are complaining about a confusing ballot, which also came with confusing directions; Pat Buchanan received five times as many votes in Palm Beach County as he did in Broward County, which has twice the population; some ballots have gone missing; some absentee ballots have been tampered with; and there's even talk about obstacles in the way preventing people from getting to the polls, of blacks being told there were no more ballots or the polls were closed.

What's the over/under on how long it takes for this story to be made into a TV movie?

Dubya has already talked of assembling advisors and a transition team, appearing at press conferences with a confident arrogance, appearing to know that Florida is his. I wonder if Jeb will finish out his term as governor or flee to Washington, jumping at a position in the West Wing. Had this happened in any other state -- other than Texas, of course -- the commotion would not be as great. It would be significant, of course, but not as great. Florida is an extremely diverse state with a changing demographic, considering all the transplants from the northeast and midwest, not to mention the immigrants from the Caribbean. That these irregularities have arisen out of the Sunshine State, which also happens to be governed by a candidate's brother, is a bit alarming.

If Bush does prevail, it will be an interesting presidency. His mandate is slim, his party has a narrow majority in Congress -- perhaps none in the Senate. His election victory will be surrounded by questions for years. And in 2004, Gore will likely unseat him, if Bush chooses to run for re-election. Though nothing has gone according to history in this election, consider the past: In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular and electoral vote (but did not have an electoral majority) and lost the presidency in the House. But Jackson won in 1828. In 1888, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote, only to lose in the electoral college to Benjamin Harrison. In 1892, Cleveland became president. And with all the prosperity and good standing America finds itself in, Bush will be up against some lofty standards; he'll be graded against the success of the Clinton era, which, ironically, he ran against in his campaign: "They have not led, we will lead!" At this point, it's almost as if the 2004 race is Gore's to lose.

About Palm Beach. Certainly, the people should not rush through their ballots and be more cautious in punching the holes with which they select the president. But the numbers are alarming: 19,000 ballots thrown out because two holes were punched; Buchanan's sudden popularity in the county; and the directions that said to choose a candidate, select the hole to the right of the ticket's name. On that disputed Palm Beach ballot, there were holes to the left of some tickets. How can this happen, regardless of who is in charge? Jeb and the Republicans say there was ample time for citizens to voice their displeasure with the sample ballots when they were sent out. Nothing like passing the buck, huh? No other counties had the same confusing ballot. And when those sample ballots reached voters' homes, they listed candidates on both sides, with arrows pointing to the middle, but there were no holes, or pictures of holes, down the center indicating where to cast a vote for a particular ticket. The sample ballot, it turned out, was a partial sample, a semi-sample.

Of course, if Ralph Nader had just crawled under a green rock, he might have saved the country a little scandal.

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