||The Tainted Election of 2000
by Jim Smith
L.A. Labor News
One hundred million Americans took the Coke-Pepsi taste test and, as a whole, couldn't tell the difference, in spite of a $300 million advertising budget. The two parties knew it was coming to that, so they did what almost any American might have done in such a high-stakes game - they cheated.
In Palm Beach County, Florida, the ballots was constructed in such a way that the hole to punch to vote for Pat Buchanan overlapped Al Gore's line. As a result, Buchanan got a surprising 3,407 votes. In the nearby, and larger, counties of Boward and Dade, Buchanan received 1,212 and 561 votes, respectively. According to Prof. Greg Adams of Carnegie Mellon University, this ballot trick cost Gore 2,200 votes. His regression analysis graph shows an unbelievable result <http://madison.hss.cmu.edu/>.
The election was severely flawed from the git-go (as they say in Texas). The events of Nov. 7 merely compounded the problem. The two corporate candidates and political aristocrats - one the son of a president and the grandson of a Connecticut senator, the other the son of a Tennessee senator and the great-grandson of an Oklahoma senator, tried and failed to convince us they were "just folks." One candidate was repudiated by the voters of his home state, the other came in second in the popular vote but, likely, first in the electoral college.
How can 21st century voters legitimize a candidate placed in office only by the Electoral College, an undemocratic institution designed by the "founding fathers" to ensure that large property owners (including slave owners) controlled the presidency.
On Nov. 7, a year's worth of expensive propaganda went down the drain for both candidates. Their parties now have to scramble for real or imagined Florida ballots. Can Chicago's Mayor Daley's son, William Daley, who is Gore's campaign manager help the Democrats out? Can the anti-democratic Cubans in Miami help the Republicans out? According to one Democratic Party spokesperson, there have been "thousands of elections violations in Florida." These include reports that police harassed African-Americans trying to vote in Northern Florida (Surely this couldn't happen in Jeb and George Bush's South?). On Nov. 8, a "misplaced" ballot box in Miami was found. They say this one didn't contain ballots but can others be far behind?
As in any other country, when votes take hours or days to be counted, a suspicion of ballot fraud grows. Why isn't Madeleine Albright screaming for a new election under NATO or UN supervision? Will Bush take office even if he comes in second in the popular vote? Perhaps he should do the honorable thing, like Slobodan Milosevic, and step aside. Talking about Milosevic, Bush said on Oct. 5: "The people have spoken. It is time for Mr. Milosevic to go." In fairness to Bush, Milosevic didn't step down until after protesters had burned the parliament building.
If Bush doesn't practice what he preaches, then how's this for a new "Watergate" scenario? Bush takes office but evidence mounts that Republicans had engaged in illegal activities to steal the election in Florida. What did George know and when did he know it? Will a special prosecutor be appointed before or after inauguration day?
Who are the winners and losers in this election? Certainly whoever is certified as the new president is a loser from day one because of his lack of electoral credibility. All 100 million voters will be losers, as will our fragile democracy, if the guy who came in second is named the winner. Al Gore will be a big loser if the dumb guy from Texas beats him.
And how about Pat Buchanans credibility? How was the man who stood shoulder to shoulder with labor leaders James Hoffa and John Sweeney, last April, able to take $13 million in federal funding and do a political disappearing act? Is he really that inept (except for his stellar performance in Palm Beach County) or was he persuaded to take a dive?
Even Bill Clinton had a rough election day as he endured probably the toughest interview of his presidency at the hands of Amy Goodman <http://www.democracynow.org>.
A big winner has to be Ralph Nader who refused to be bowed by the unceasing attacks on his candidacy by the Democrats. Nader gave as good as he got and, for many, achieved heroic stature in this election. Had there been a level playing field - equal funding, real debates, media coverage - Nader would have won, going away.
Ralph didnt win the presidency but he did build a movement and carve out a new, if informal, office for himself - tribune of the people. The ancient Roman office by that name held veto power over any laws enacted by the patrician Senate. With Naders help, we can build a movement that can do the same to the now virtually deadlocked Congress and mandate-less president. We - the Naderites, labor, students, environmentalists, communities of color, street protesters and people of good conscience - can even move beyond opposition to actually setting the agenda on health care, campaign reform (including abolishing the Electoral College), fair trade, ending the drug war and the mass incarceration of people of color as well as the barbaric and racist death penalty.
Because of Nader, because of the Electoral College, because of the obscene amounts of money thrown at the campaigns by the big corporations this undemocratic electoral system is on shaky ground. The next few years will be enjoyable ones for those who like to shout "the emperor has no clothes!"