Some important lessons to be learned...
Comments Regarding the Election 2000 results (Nov 2000)
"The true conquests, those who no one will ever regret, are those which are wrested from ignorance."
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:
November 2000 has been quite a month. At this point, it looks like George W. Bush will be the next US President, due largely to the extraordinary number of self-inflicted blunders committed by the Gore Campaign. It now appears that Ralph Nader was right; most of those blunders were a result of strategic decisions made by Al Gore himself.
a. To begin with, Al Gore FORFEITED his image as a "team leader" when he told the press, "I'm going to win or lose this election on my own." He appeared to view this campaign as being simply being between himself and George W. Bush rather than between the Republican and Democratic Parties, an attitude that various news commentators noted after the debates.
b. Al Gore FOREFEITED President Clinton's extraordinarily effective campaigning abilities in all but a few states (at a time when Clinton had a 60% approval rating).
c. Al Gore FOREFEITED many traditionally Democratic stands on issues like "corporate welfare" to Ralph Nader. Rather than attacking Nader directly, he should have reclaimed as his own the traditional Democratic issues that Ralph Nader was using to attract votes away from him.
d. Al Gore FOREFEITED the "moral high ground" and any coherent "vision of the future" to George W. Bush by avoiding any mention of the United Nations in spite of the fact that around 70% of the American people support the United Nations, its goals, and its funding (which many Republicans do not).
e. Al Gore FOREFEITED the electoral votes of his own home state of Tennessee which he COULD have won easily and which would have made him "President elect" by now. This point may be viewed as "Monday morning quarterbacking", but it does illustrate a lack of political savvy regarding his allocation of campaign resources.
f. And, most important of all, due to his own lack of concern for credibility, Al Gore FOREFEITED the personal credibility issue to George W. Bush. If Al Gore had simply "stuck to the truth" during those debates, he would have done fine. But in the first debate he made a number of statements that were untrue, and (not surprisingly) the Republicans jumped at this opportunity that Gore had given them to turn such lapses of credibility into an effective campaign issue. This is not to say that Bush's credibility was any better than Gore's (it wasn't), but the Gore campaign allowed most of Bush's credibility lapses to "slide on by" unchallenged. Instead, the Gore Campaign focused on Bush's "lack of experience." Well, as the exit polls revealed in various parts of the country (including Florida), many of the people who were undecided up until a week or so before the election ended up deciding that credibility was a more important factor than experience in a President, so they voted for Bush. What good are promises from a person who appears to lack credibility?
THE RECOUNT ISSUE
As far as the Florida recounts are concerned,
a. Once it became obvious that Florida was in a stalemate, the Gore Campaign once again FOREFITED the "moral high ground" by not insisting immediately on a STATEWIDE recount (an oversight that once AGAIN reflected their lack of concern for credibility). This enabled the Bush campaign to raise a valid point regarding the fairness (or unfairness) of doing recounts only in a few heavily Democratic counties. If those antiquated polling machines undercounted more Gore votes than Bush votes in those heavily Democratic counties, it is quite reasonable to assume that those same types of machines may have undercounted more Bush votes than Gore votes in Florida's heavily Republican counties. Eventually, the Gore Campaign did get around to proposing a statewide recount, but by then it was too late.
b. On the other hand, it's important to note that the Bush campaign's claims that the manual recounts would be "less accurate" than Florida's electronic tallies in those counties were HIGHLY DISHONEST! As we have seen, the accuracy of Florida's obsolete electronic balloting technology leaves much to be desired, and a difference of a few hundred votes falls well within those machines' "margin or error." Like "sharks in a feeding frenzy", the Bush Campaign chose to cling to their slim (statically insignificant) lead by doing everything within their power to obstruct manual recounts in general.
c. For a while, it even appeared that the Gore Campaign was hoping that the manual recounts would uncover evidence of fraudulent tampering with the electronically compiled counts, and the Bush Campaign appeared to be terrified by the possibility that those manual recounts actually would reveal evidence of fraudulent tampering. As it turned out, no evidence of fraudulent tampering was revealed, at least by those manual recounts that were done. Nevertheless, if the Bush campaign succeeds in its present efforts to discredit manual recounts in general, the American people will lose the use of a valuable (and traditional) method for determining (among other things) whether or not fraudulent tempering with the electronic counting had occurred.
d. The Bush Campaign may indeed succeed in "winning" or "stealing" the presidential election by using such obstructionist tactics, but a victory like that will taint George W. Bush's Administration for years to come. Among other things, the Bush Campaign has already demonstrated a disturbing willingness to boldly use "big lie" propaganda tactics and to blatantly abuse governmental functions for partisan political gain. Furthermore, as a result of the Bush Campaign's tactics and the Gore Campaign's shortsightedness, the American people may never know for sure whom a majority of the voters in Florida actually voted for.
OUR ELECTORAL COLLEGE SYSTEM (the other half of the story)
I sent the following email to www.cnn.com on 14 November 2000:
Your survey results which show a "majority" of American voters favoring replacement of our Electoral College System with a direct popular vote electoral system simply reflects the fact that for past thirty years, our nation's leading news agencies have been telling their audiences only HALF OF THE TRUTH about our Electoral College System and then advocating that it be replaced with a direct popular vote. I know this for a fact, because for the past thirty years I have been trying (for the most part unsuccessfully) to get those news agencies to tell the OTHER HALF OF THE STORY! That "other half of the story" is described in my article "The 'Golden Goose" of American Politics" on www.onesalt.com, and includes the following largely unreported FACTS:
1. Our Electoral College System shapes the very nature and tone of politics in the United States, because it not only favors a "two-party system", it forces the presidential candidates for those two parties (if they truly wish to get elected) to be moderate on most issues and to appeal to large numbers of voters in various different parts of our country.
2. The "winner-take-all" feature which most states have adopted tends to not only improve the political leverage of those states, it also improves the political leverage of the minority groups in those states, thereby protecting them from being ignored or persecuted by a "tyranny of the majority" (something which direct popular vote electoral systems clearly DON'T do).
3. Other countries that have tried using a direct popular vote electoral system have continually experienced diverse multi-party systems and often VERY DEADLY political turmoil (e.g. Colombia and the Yugoslav Federation). There are MANY historical examples that show that (given the wide diversity of American interests) the United States is likely to "fly apart at the seams" under a direct popular vote electoral system!
Now that it appears we may indeed get a President elected with a majority of the electoral votes although scoring less in the popular vote (which merely reflects a measure of popular opinion polled on one day), some portions of this OTHER side of the story are beginning to appear in various articles published by our national news media. It's important to note that, contrary to the predictions over the past month or so by our nations' leading news agencies (including CNN), your own opinion polls now show that a vast majority of American do NOT view this electoral-over-popular-vote outcome as being a "disaster." And yet our news agencies are STILL falling FAR short of giving the other side of the Electoral College System story a "fair and complete hearing."
Christopher C. Currie
In its "December 4, 2000" issue, in spite of the fact they had received copies of my "Golden Goose" article, the editors of The Nation chose instead to published articles criticizing our Electoral College System and the (unusually) stable two-party political system that it tends to create. Apparently, they believe a large multi-party political system in the United States would be more entertaining. Nevertheless, I'm still hoping that someday the editors of The Nation will tell their readers the WHOLE truth about the role our Electoral College System plays in shaping our form of democracy. Just think, with the nation-wide direct popular vote totals as close as they turned out to be this time, does anyone have any doubts that if we were using a direct popular vote electoral system, the Bush Campaign would have demanded a nation-wide manual recount? And given what we have seen happening in Florida, how long do you suppose THAT would take? Or Electoral College System deserves credit for saving us from that possible outcome as well. I was happy to see that some of our nation's news agencies actually did give our Electoral College System public credit for that particular benefit.
But the overall benefits of using an electoral system like our Electoral College System are still going unreported by our press, and in part because of this practice in the past, people in countries like Columbia, Haiti, and the Yugoslav Federation are still being killed quite regularly by the political turmoils that their direct popular vote electoral systems have created. This is why I quoted Napoleon Bonaparte above. Napoleon is not one of my "heroes", but he was quite right on this point. Everyone will eventually benefit once the role that our Electoral College System plays in shaping the nature of politics in our country is "wrested from ignorance."
WHOOPS! ANOTHER CENSORED TOPIC EXPOSED!
a. As you may recall, the various public opinion polls shown on CNN going into the elections all showed Bush leading Gore by 2 to 6 percentage points for the nation-wide popular vote. And yet by 8 November, Gore ended up leading Bush by nearly 1 percentage point in the nation-wide popular vote. Will those who have seen an explanation for this "unexpected upset" published or broadcast in any of your national news media please hold up your hand? Gee! Nobody seems to be raising his or her hand. The reason for this is that for many years now, our nation's news media have been underplaying (or even censoring) the political impact of our candidates' "grass roots organizations", apparently because they view such organizations as potential competitors for the candidates' campaign dollars.
b. These grass roots organizations are comprised mostly of unpaid volunteers who wave signs for their candidate for weeks prior to the election, place leaflets on doorsteps throughout neighborhoods, and/or monitor who has voted before noon on election day so that those who haven't voted yet can be called and offered a ride to the polling place, etc. In order to attract an effective grass roots organization, a candidate must be personally inspiring or be identified as a candidate who has taken a stand on at least one inspiring issue that differs significantly from the stand taken by his opponent. Many candidates lack an effective grass roots organization either because they failed to recognize the need for such an organization or because they were unable to inspire enough people to donate the their time for such a cause. What our news media haven't been telling you is that when one candidate has a strong grass roots organization and the other doesn't, the candidate with a strong grass roots organization can often get elected even though his or her opponent spends considerably more on media ads.
c. Al Gore's "unexpected upset" reflects the fact that in general (and I admit to my surprise), the Democrats' grass roots organizations did a significantly better job than their Republican counterparts in "getting out the vote" on election day (enough to add 2 to 7 percent to Gore's total in the nation-wide popular vote--in spite of the aforementioned blunders by the Gore Campaign). Our nation's news media polls of "likely voters" may actually have "ruled out" many of those who ended up voting, because they weren't planning to vote until the grass roots organizations persuaded them to do so. So one must keep in mind that our media's opinion polls fail to take into account the relative effectiveness of the election day activities of grass roots organizations and are therefore not as reliably predictive as their published "statistical margin of error" may imply.
SOME "POLITICAL NOOSES" THAT GEORGE W. BUSH CAN'T AFFORD TO IGNORE
Regardless of the popular vote totals in Florida or nation-wide, if George W. Bush receives more than 270 Electoral College votes, he will in fact be legitimately elected to be our next President. Al Gore is to be commended for gracefully accepting that fact, which both candidates knew all along was one of the "rules of the game" that they were playing. Nevertheless, George W. Bush will begin his new administration with several "political nooses around his neck"-- any one of which could make him a one-term President like his father.
a. For the reasons described in my www.onesalt.com article "The 'Golden Goose' of American Politics", in order to win at least 270 electoral votes, Bush had to portray himself as being pretty much a "middle of the road moderate" on most of the issues that Americans are seriously concerned about. If once he becomes President he "shifts back to the right" and starts acting like Trent Lott or Jesse Helms, four years from now the Democrats will use their video tapes of those three debates and Bush's campaign pitches to "blow Bush's credibility out of the water." If Bush is smart, he will use this point when negotiating compromises with Trent and Jesse, because if Bush's credibility gets "blown out of the water" in 2004, many Republicans in both houses of Congress are likely to "go down with him." So in effect, the moderating restrictions which our Electoral College System imposes on presidential candidates who seriously hope to get elected will have a continuing effect over the next four years. This is a GOOD thing, because it means that Bush will in fact be representing the interests of up to 80 percent of the American people (including many who voted for Gore). Our Electoral College System deserves credit for this. But will our nation's news agencies actually GIVE our Electoral College System the credit it deserves for creating this continually moderating political effect? That remains to be seen.
b. In 1993, every Republican in both houses of Congress voted against President Clinton's budget package which raised taxes on our nation's wealthiest citizens, brought our nation out of a recession, created one of our nation's longest running economic booms (the "wealthy" have done just fine) and made it possible to begin reducing the enormous national debt that built up during the "Reagan /Bush" years. Now George W. Bush is proposing a tax cut (primarily for the wealthy) which may end up reversing all those economic gains and recreating the kind of economic situation we had during the late "Reagan/Bush" years. If THAT happens, George W. Bush will not only end up being a one-term President, the Republicans will lose so many seats in both Houses of Congress that it may take them decades to recover. The results of Election 2000 can hardly be considered a mandate for substantial tax cuts.
c. Likewise, the results of Election 2000 can hardly be considered a mandate for implementing use of the "tools of Cain" (jail sentences, etc.) as a means for discouraging women from having abortions. If George W. Bush attempts to "stack the Supreme Court" with justices who would favor such an approach, he will not only create enormous controversies that could seriously jeopardize the future political careers of quite a few Senators, more likely than not, he would also suffer the humiliation of repeatedly failing to secure Senate approval of his Supreme Court nominees. For the reasons I pointed out in earlier articles on this web site, it is the responsibility of our churches to persuade women not to have abortions; they shouldn't be trying to offload that responsibility onto the shoulders of our government.
d. So if George W. Bush really wants to get re-elected in 2004, his best bet is to stick to the "middle of the road moderate" kinds of positions that he had to assume in order to get elected in the first place. This is a GOOD thing, and our Electoral College System deserves credit for this. But will our nation's news agencies actually GIVE our Electoral College System the credit it deserves for creating this continually moderating political effect? That remains to be seen.
(one grain of salt)
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Last modified on Friday, May 03, 2002