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Early Winter in the Southlands
December 11, 2000


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I suppose the title of this entry could suggest many things. (I could as easily have called it "The Long December," but I did that one last year, stealing it from Kate.) I'm in a reflective mood, a week and a half after my last entry. It was a very busy week, and this week promises to be another, what with Christmas coming and all. I feel ill-prepared for Christmas. Not in terms of buying presents -- I'm cutting back on those this year, after overspending last year, possibly out of a feeling of mortality -- but in terms of holiday cheer.

It's not that I have no 'holiday spirit.' I think I do. I'm just not... ready for it. I could use another eight months, really.

Maybe it's the election. I haven't spoken much about the election, despite it being history in the making. I suppose I should have. I should be able to read back on this journal sometime in the nebulous future and say "oh yeah. We were disgusted as a culture." But it's such a painful subject it's hard to write about it without being tragically hip and sardonic and oh so witty, like the Romans commenting urbanely about the color clash of the Visigoths' uniforms while watching their daughters be carried off into slavery and their cities and fields being burnt to the ground.

But it's not a witty situation. It's tragic.

Here's the thing that no one seems willing to say out loud, so I will. I'll say it in plain language.

Al Gore was clearly supposed to win Florida.

Don't talk about chads or double-punches or absentee ballots or court challenges or all the rest. There's a reason every network called Florida clearly for Gore. He clearly got a majority of votes, in at least the intent of the voters. I don't think anyone's disputing that. Not even the Bush camp. Clearly, Palm Beach County -- with 19,000 thrown out votes and another 3,000 plus for Buchanan -- which even he admitted should have gone to Gore -- would have carried Gore for the state all by itself, and the questionable ballots elsewhere clearly are closing the gap for Gore too.

The only -- only -- statesmanlike thing to do would be for George Walker Bush to concede. To say "clearly, while we could quibble about vote counts and partisan politics and the letter of the law, the intent of the popular vote in Florida was for Al Gore to win and we in the Republican party should respect that."

That would be dignified. But there is no dignity in this contest.

Not that Gore himself has been dignified. The whole thing stinks, frankly.

As of today, it's in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court for the second time. If they uphold the Florida Supreme Court's ruling, Al Gore will most likely win Florida. If they don't, George Bush will. Nine men, a majority conservative, put up by Republican administrations, need to decide who our next President is going to be. And clearly, they're not ruling on the intent of the voters. They're ruling on an interpretation of a law which itself is not centered on the intent of voters but on the rules followed by canvassing boards.

Gore and Bush. With a divided Senate and a divided House, no matter what. The next four years are going to be miserable examples of sheer partisan politics, as the economic boom of the 90's gives way to the next recession and anger rises. Some party will win big in 2002, and probably also carry the White House in 2004, unless something radical happens.

You know who should be feeling pretty miserable right now, but probably feels downright smug? Ralph Nader.

That's right, Mister "There is no difference between the two" himself. Nader's campaign pulled more than enough votes to put this whole thing into doubt. I wonder if any but the most passionately devoted Greens in Florida today are glad they voted for Nader instead of one of the others. It seems unlikely in the extreme.

If George W. Bush is elected, he will likely be nominating several Supreme Court Justices in the coming years. Ralph Nader and the Green Party have to see that as a net defeat. The Supreme Court means more to Green politics than the President or the Congress, because ultimately laws can be challenged, and those challenges are ruled by the nine men and women in black. The likelihood of those nine voting for Nader's side is pretty slender. But Nader got to be on television a lot, and be smug a lot, and that's really all he cared about.

It seems amazing that over a month after the election, we don't know who's going to be President. It seems even more amazing that we have to choose between two bland, uninspiring men like George W. Bush and Al Gore. There's a Snicker's commercial that played just before the election, where a man is about to vote, only to have a donkey and elephant appear on his shoulder. The elephant talks about how he has the same name as his father, and can wear the same pants as his father. The donkey talks about inventing the internet, and inventing pants.

This is what we have come to.

Oh, to have had John McCain and Bill Bradley run. Passionate man with real issues and honest leadership. The debates would have been fantastic. The voters would have turned out. The vote may have been close again, but it would be because people cared this time, instead of out of apathy. Oh it would have been glorious -- no matter who won.

Now? No matter who wins in the Supreme Court today, and who ultimately wins in Florida, and who ultimately wins the Presidency... no one is going to feel good about our President. And that's very sad. Even if you dislike the President, you should feel that President legitimately holds his office. That's not going to happen, now. No matter what, no one will feel the President is legitimate.

Bush could have conceded, kept his dignity, and preserved the integrity of the office. He didn't.

Gore, even though clearly he was supposed to have won, by the will of the majority of the people in Flordia and Nationwide, could have conceded in the name of decorum. He didn't.

Neither can concede now. They've both invested far too much. Face demands the face-off, set for today at 11 a.m.

It makes Christmas harder, you know?

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