12/06/2000

More on the election. This seems to be the topic that just won’t die. As Natalie Merchant would say, “Hey, give ’em what they want.” I’ll talk politics if people want me to talk politics. I’m just not used to people wanting a 25-year-old’s opinion on anything but computers and maybe music. Hopefully this sequel is better than most sequels coming out of Hollywood. I gave them a head start with a dumb title.

So, the dialogue with my British editor continues. Chris first:

I take your point on a lot of the things that are going unreported, and I realise that a lot of my problems and fears are ideological and nothing to do with democratic irregularities. We’ll have to agree to disgree. However, I find a couple of things hard to deal with.

DF: But I think my greatest lament is there was a time when the two major presidential candidates and parties trusted one another enough to politely step aside and transfer power. They did not truly believe that the other party, or at least one politician, could destroy the country in 2, 4, or 6 years (whatever their term might be).

Surely the whole point of politics is that you are supposed to think that your opponents are wrong and not just “trust” them and concede power to them at the earliest opportunity. Not only is morally dubious, it is arguably undemocratic – surely you are letting down the people who voted for you (especially if they are in the majority!). If you concede when you think you have won, you might as well not have run in the first place.

DF: History has proven that. We have plenty of infamous presidents who were caught breaking the law or doing (or trying to do) things of questionable legality under the Constitution: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton… None of them destroyed the country. Some of them changed it very dramatically. But Harding may have been the most corrupt of the bunch (at least his administration was), and no one’s ever heard of him today.

Lawbreaking is relative. Your greatest presidents, Lincoln and Roosevelt, bent the rules for the greater good, unlike the corrupt administration of Harding (an ineffectual, incompetent moron who should never have been President – sound familar?).
DF: Bush did win the larger number of states, and a much larger geographic area. Gore’s support is very much concentrated along each coast and mostly in metropolitan areas.

This is utterly irrelevant. Wow, Bush won the whole of the West from North Dakota to Arizona. Democracy is rule by the people, not by land mass.

DF: There’s enough question with the absentee ballots to make it really doubtful who truly won the popular vote.

But you have to accept the official figures surely. Although these gave Florida to Bush – hold on, I’m not undermining my own argument – surely the members of the electoral college ought to follow the democratic decision of the people and switch their votes, which I believe they have the right to do.

My main concern, though, is still the suitability of Bush, about whom I read ANOTHER damning article this weekend, which said that he was an utter failure in business (as well as a drunk) until 1994 – when he used tax money to make the Texas Rangers a success. (Admittedly I read the left-wing press, or what passes for it in Britain.) I understand people’s concerns about the ‘dynastic’ Gore in a sense, but it shouldn’t be an obstacle if you are competent and deserving. And Bush’s father had some success in politics too, I believe.

My interest might seem over-keen as I don’t even live in your country, but it’s undoubtedly a fascinating episode in US history, and in the end it will probably affect all of us. The election of Bush might actually mean we move closer to Europe, so something positive might come out of it…

Yes, the point of politics is to do what you believe is the right thing, and chances are your opponent’s opinion will differ. Gore conceding now is hardly “concession at the earliest possible moment.” It usually happens on election night.

I think where we differ is whether Gore has reason to believe he won. Bush won Florida. He won the recount. He won the hand recount. He’s winning the court cases. Gore speaks of “thousands of uncounted ballots,” but those thousands of ballots aren’t uncounted. They do not register a vote for president. I don’t know if Gore believes he won, or if he believes he can win on a technicality. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know the difference. What he is accomplishing is making the United States into more and more of a laughingstock, and in doing that, he’s not doing himself, his party, or his country any favors (favours).

The story nobody’s talking about with the popular vote is the absentee ballots in other states. Those results aren’t all certified. Nor have I seen a count yet with 100% of precincts reporting. If the popular vote mattered, Bush could do the same thing in other states that Gore has done in Florida. He has chosen not to do so. The figures now are not yet official, but I do concede that the official figures could look much like these do.

The electoral college can indeed change their votes if they want to. In 1988, one of Michael Dukakis’ electors voted for Lloyd Bentsen, his running mate. It’s not terribly uncommon for one of the Republican electors to vote for the Libertarian candidate. One year (I wish I could remember when it was), one of the Democratic electors cast his vote for Harry Truman. Truman was dead. The elector said, “Yeah, but even dead, Truman’s better than either of these clowns!” (Sounds like today.) But generally the closer the race, the less likely the electors are to vote differently.

This is rarely a problem. The electoral college was intended to give smaller states a little more power. The United States isn’t government by land mass, as you say, but it is government by a combination of population and land mass. There’ll be tremendous pressure for change. I’m torn on whether we should. I’m pretty sure that we won’t. The smaller states won’t want to give up the power, so there won’t be enough votes to ratify the necessary constitutional amendment.

As for comparisons to Harding, he sounds like two of the candidates we ran. And I’m not talking Nader and Buchanan. For all of Bush’s inadequacies, Gore fares no better. He may be worse. Gore couldn’t finish law school or divinity school (and the hard part of both of those is getting in in the first place–I know because I’ve looked into both myself).

I went out for a drink Monday night with a couple of Democrats, both very politically active. One has a brother who ran for a state office this year and aspires to run herself one day. The other worked on a couple of campaigns. Of course I asked what they thought of where the election stood. Both said that we’d be much better off if Gore conceded, and that we’d be better off with Bush as president-elect than with the current situation. When I see that Gore has lost the support of these two, I can’t help but conclude he’s doing the wrong thing.

I’ve updated my portal, and it seems to work consistently now. Sorry for the broken link. I put this up mostly for me, but you’re of course welcome to use it. You can get there by clicking Links over there on the left, if you’re interested in where and how I get information.

Communication. I see JHR doesn’t like Weblogs. I don’t like everything about them myself, but I moved here out of necessity. Keeping my site up the old way was just getting too difficult, and I was out of space. Here was a nice, elegant solution–someone offering me space and a no-strings-attached search engine, plus the ability to edit either HTML or WYSIWYG from a browser, no matter where I go. And offering ways to promote it, to boot. All without charging me a cent.

It was just too attractive. I don’t like that it requires login for discussion groups. Part of me doesn’t like the discussions taking place on their own pages. It makes it easier to avoid them if reader comments don’t interest you, but it makes it harder to read them–and chances are, if you’re reading, reader comments do interest you. I did notice that an active discussion is a great way to rack up page reads. But that may be a price too high to pay.

I could code a Daynoting/Weblogging solution myself, using PHP and MySQL on a Unixish box, that would do what I need, and only what I need. But there’s no way I could have done it in the time frame necessary. And I don’t know if my health would have held up. I prefer to spend my time and keystrokes doing content development, rather than software development, and Manila works pretty darn nicely.

I don’t mean to seem impersonal. The e-mail link is there, and I don’t mind if you use it. You don’t have to be logged in to read anything here, and you of course don’t have to be logged in to click the mail link. I don’t always respond as quickly as I would like, and it takes time for Di or me to post the mail–often longer than I would like. But this isn’t a commercial operation, so it doesn’t bother me so much. And questions regarding something I wrote that people paid money for–be it a book or a magazine article–generally do get answers within a day, even if they aren’t posted that day. I do try to maintain that level of service at least.

I’m sorry that I may have alienated one of my most loyal and longest-running readers. Seeing as the alternative was probably closing up shop and concentrating on just books and/or magazine articles (and sacrificing quality and promotion ability by becoming a hermit), I didn’t see that I had any choice. I was hoping that Dave-with-strings-attached would be better than no Dave at all. Judging from the increasing traffic, I may have been right.

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