"The worst malaise that will begin to creep over the nation is the understanding that we may have "never" been part of an honest and fair elections from day one...."

american voters: the real chad
commentary by robert fineberg


Fifty to one hundred years from now civics classes will point out that the presidential election in the year 2000 was a watershed event for a weakened and probably changed perception of the executive branch of government, as well as the cherished belief that voting is as American as Firestone tires on Ford Explorers.

But, hell, let us not lament the change -- if, truly, any American can possibly be objective after this fiasco we must look closely from a nonpartisan view as to exactly what may have changed and why.

First off, Ralph Nader, the first gadfly of politics, said the two best things to come out of an election run by the professional spin doctors and the hyper aggressive press. Mr. Green Party said that Al Gore and George Bush were two corporations dressed in suits. The other terrific phrase is that what we now have are two parties that moved so close to the centrist position that we should re-name them the Republicrats and the Democans.

We voters were the spectators in this election, much like fans at a football game. We can't control the teams, the referees, the coaches, what plays are called, and how the game will turn out when the final gun goes off. Everything about the teams are controlled from inside the sport...and yet...like what we hear from the spin meisters, this is all being done for us...the fans...the American voter! The will of the American people somehow misfired on November 8. Our Super Bowl once very four years ended in a tie...with one team actually in the lead...but the game over...kind of over...maybe not. We have sudden death playoffs for games...but we have lawyers for elections.

If you can remove all of the rancor and partisanship from the heated debate over who won the legitimate right to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the next four years, what's left is some frightening residue...or at least it should be scary to the average citizen who no matter what happens in the future, will continue to pick up the bills for a federal government that's out of control, increasingly run by shadow cabinets that most of us have never seen or approved to have such power over health care, social security, abortion rights, etc.

[1] The presidency is now fatally flawed...probably more so than ever before in U.S. history. What little respect was left after Bill Clinton sullied the oval office with his sexual antics, followed by perjury, is now wiped away by what appears to be two candidates with legions of lawyers fighting to determine who's version of the election wins out. If either candidate believed they had a fighting chance to bring some dignity out of chaos, this election killed that when everyone decided they had a partisan version of the outcome.

2] Is there any doubt that the occupant of the White House is a one term president? He will undoubtedly be opposed at every turn by a seething congress filled with minority party members looking for any way possible to discredit the already besmirched administration. The first president of the 21st Century will be added to the names of others who wouldn't or couldn't get anything done. Welcome to the world of Polk, Fillmore and Pierce. Hello to those presidents who are always used as trick questions on quiz shows because contestants haven't a clue who they were or what they did [answer...nobody and nothing].

[3] If anyone thinks the media isn't a co-conspirator to what happens in national elections, think again. It's my bet that if something doesn't tame this voracious output of media bull...24/7/365...we'll have a fourth branch of government putting up their own candidate. I'm betting that Hollywood could create a perfect candidate stitched together from the fabric of polling trends and script writers, one that could capture our imaginations...and then sold to us day in and day out by the television networks. We've had congressmen Murphy [dancer] and Bono [singer], plus president Reagan [actor]...but the Hollywood creation would be so much better after the television networks got through peddling him or her bookended by ads for Viagra and Vagisill!

[4] The worst malaise that will begin to creep over the nation is the understanding that we may have "never" been part of an honest and fair elections from day one. It's true. All elections, everywhere..are subject to screw ups, misunderstandings, fraud, etc., and with that horrific thought in mind, we can all sit back and wonder how many of the 90 million votes cast in the 2000 election were correctly counted as each of us had cast them? Every close election, whether it was for a major office, a minor functionary, or some ballot measure that directly affected our pocketbooks, could have been inaccurate enough to influence the wrong outcome...which in this case...has nothing to do with the Democans or Republicrats...but the alleged will of the people. In short, start day dreaming about how much our vaunted democracy is possibly a sham. If we despised professional bureaucrats and lawyers before this eye-opening election, we'll learn to hate them with a passion when we realize that like the fans at a football game, the entire spectacle has everything to do with the owners, coaches and players..in short those who stand to gain financially from the outcome of the game..then the screaming, partisan fans. Welcome to the "Republic for which it stands"!

Finally, it was Soren Kierkegaard, the dark, brooding existentialist from Denmark who wrote: "Life is understood backward, but we have to live it forward." The Dane may have been contemplating politics when he wrote that line hundreds of years ago. Down the line historians will tell us what all this quibbling over votes ultimately meant; it's my guess it means quite a bit for where we go from here as a nation. It's said that the nation grew up as a whole when JFK was assassinated, his tragedy marking a time when we really knew how dark our future could become in just an instant. However, I plead that we had shock number two with this national election...coming to realize that we may be role-playing at democracy when we really have an oligarchy. This small band of white men [yes, it's not even an across the board bunch of bad guys represented by diversity], may have been betrayed by a quirk in the elections...one so close..so tight...that it allowed a microscope to be put over the process..and lo and behold...all the emperors have no clothes!

Sam Goldwyn said that a movie should "start with an earthquake and work its way up to a climax." The 2000 election started with a climax and is working its way up to an earthquake.

Jean-Luc Godard wrote about film-making: "I like a film to have a beginning, middle and an end...but not necessarily in that order". Godard would have loved "this" movie because we're in the middle of the end, that may just well be the beginning!

The civics class of the future will be arguing about social security; e.g., should the retirement age be raised to 102 from 100, health care ; e.g., should only the wealthy have access to growing their own body parts, and the Right-to-Life movement; e.g., trying to protect Sharper Image androids that some owners believe they have the right to pull the plug on when they tire of them. What they may also be discussing is how the chief executive has no efficacy in any critical debate..the office being so thoroughly emasculated in the early 21st Century, that the president is chiefly ceremonial and mostly good for the rubber chicken circuit.

Chad, as we all learned from this nightmare in Florida, is the tiny bits of card board left from punching a ballot. I lay claim to the fact that the symbolism of chad should be that we, the voters, are the real chad from this election leaving us all wondering what the real difference is between an election in this country, and one that is openly manipulated in a banana republic? Could it be the role of the military?

We'd best leave that delirium for another time.

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©2003 Robert Fineberg / Smokebox
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