November 20, 2000
Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? (1)
The only thing certain right now is that things will probably change in the next few hours, and that by the time you read this, they may be quite different than they were before, or back then when these words were written. The justice and the thief will switch places a few more times, and then we'll have a president. One man will reluctantly concede, stating that justice was served (i.e., the delay was justified) by counting each and every vote (in some places, that is). Another man, in a confident and statesman-like manner, will claim victory as if it were always a given, and try to dismiss his repeated attempts to stop the counting prematurely. But while neither man moves forward as a real winner, one will grab the power he so desperately sought and, whether diminished or not, will hold on to the prize as long as he can.
Vote for the man who promises least; he'll be the least disappointing. (2)
In fact, with the election dragging on as it has, many of us have reached a point where we really don't care who wins -- just end the thing. We know it will be one or the other, and we've had some time to get over the fear of the one we didn't want to win actually winning. With no popular support and a divided Congress, nothing groundbreaking will be achieved and the new president won't be in the unfortunate position of having to break all those campaign promises. There will be plenty of others to blame for stagnation and stalemate. And everyone knows that the populace will not be disappointed as long as the economy stays afloat.
No question is ever settled Until it is settled right. (3)
Of course, that depends on what your definition of right is, whom you (or your dad) know and how good your attorneys are. Anyway, as long as it is settled by the deadline, that's all that matters. Or if not by the deadline, then at least the outcome will be right if the Supreme Court decides. If the Supreme Court refuses to decide and throws it back to the states, well, even then it will be settled, one way or another, eventually and decisively. (Wouldn't a nation-wide recount be an interesting civics and statistics lesson?)
And if his name be George, I'll call him Peter; For new-made honour doth forget men's names. (4)
Whether his name be George or his name be Al, in the end, neither stands to be associated with honour. Both names will carry the black stains of the legal maneuvering spent in the culmination the most expensive presidential campaign in history, money spent to win the throne with underwhelming popularity, and make a mark in history books as mere names, but not legends. Call him George W. or George Sr., Al Jr. or Al Sr., or just call them all Peter.
Laugh and the world laughs with you, Weep, and you weep alone... (5)
It's either laugh or cry; meanwhile, the world is laughing at us. The tales are flying about England declaring our independence null and void and returning us to the Queen's rule; Serbia sending peace-keeping troops to the United States to ensure a calm return to democracy; Jimmy Carter being asked to personally recount the votes; Bill Clinton declaring himself "President for Life". But soon this will all be settled and our nervous laughter will come to an end. We'll then have at best a two-year reprieve from a presidential election campaign, and four years to adopt new and uniform methods for voting and some semblance of rules for counting the votes. In the meantime, we'll debate ad nauseum about whether the electoral college has outlived its purpose, we'll pride ourselves with what a great civics lesson this has been for our ignorant constituency, and we'll declare to the world that Election 2000 demonstrated the fundamental strength of our democracy. And the world will still be laughing.
Democracy is hypocrisy without limitation. (6)
If campaign 2000 has been a true civics lesson, we students will give some serious thought to what kind of society we want to live in, and how we can make our voices count in order to get there. Our democracy is looking more and more like government for the people, but of and by the attorneys general, court justices, lawyers, and political elite. The phrase "every vote counts" has become loaded with a veil of hypocrisy that fittingly represents those nabbing nabobs who spend all the money it takes to get them. And it's really no laughing matter.
(1) William Shakespeare, King Lear
(2) Bernard Baruch
(3) Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Settle the Question Right
(4) William Shakespeare, King John
(5) Ella Wheeler Wilcox, The Way of the World
(6) Iskander Mirza
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