Democratic Underground

I'm Mad As Hell
November 16, 2001
by Lefty Dal Vero

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We've heard them drone on for over a year. The right wing know-nothings and talk radio knee-jerks. They've catcalled like drunken soccer hooligans, howling that those who question the results of the last election are whiners-sore losers who need to "get over it." Their moaning must have inured America to the whole affair, because yesterday the results came in, and no one seemed to give a rat's ass.

The once much anticipated news consortium study of all uncounted Florida ballots showed that out of nine different tallying scenarios, Gore would have won six. Significantly, Bush would have won Florida had the count proceeded the way Gore had requested. But more significantly, Gore would have won the statewide counts, both according to the individual county rules in effect at the time and according to the most restrictive tallying standard considered.

Monday's airline tragedy understandably pushed most stories off the front page. Nonetheless, the consortium results were in fact reported, and in these buried articles, almost all major media outlets chose to focus on only one scenario: the Bush win. It was as if reporting the results comprehensively would have been unpatriotic in this time of national tragedy.

You want to know what's unpatriotic? Not giving a rat's ass about last year's election results. It is, quite frankly, our patriotic duty to be mad as hell about what happened last year, because what happened last year made a mockery of democracy. It made a mockery of America. So getting mad about last year's farce is a hell of a lot more patriotic than wearing your American flag pin on the 10 o'clock news.

Let's remember what happened last year. Seven out of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices decided that the tallying standard Gore sought would deny Bush the equal protection of the law. That means the vote count scenario the papers are focusing on would never have been realized. Never. Rather, the Supreme Court's implication was that a statewide, uniform tallying procedure was constitutionally required. As shown by the consortium's study, if such a vote count had been implemented, Gore might have won.

Of course, that never happened. After ruling on the equal protection argument, five out of nine of the justices, in a scene straight out of Kafka, handed the matter over to the state of Florida to devise a recount standard in under an hour. It was democracy, Lens Crafters style.

Sadly, the farce didn't end there. It has continued to this day, as politicians, the media, and most of the public act as if they don't see the pink elephant of electoral absurdity in the corner of the living room. Those on the right keep sweeping it under the rug. Those on the left have been too weak-willed to pull it out by the tail and deal with it. And the rest of the public, too apathetic or too stupid to care about politics, are where they always are: feeding it peanuts.

But the beast is still around, and it's not just in Florida. Electoral absurdity is a national epidemic: nonsensical tallying standards that vary from county to county, outdated voting equipment that disproportionately discounts the ballots of the poor, and the absence of safeguard procedures should an election this close ever happen again.

At the time, the last election actually offered a moment for democracy to shine. The election was so close that the old "every vote counts" adage seemed to take on real meaning. But instead of figuring out an equitable, uniform, and constitutionally viable method to count those votes, they were laughed at.

And both sides laughed at them. In a selfish and ultimately misguided legal strategy, Gore sought a recount only in the counties that looked good to him. In a selfish and ultimately winning legal strategy, Bush sought no recount at all and had operatives yammer on about the ethical superiority of machines over humans.

The bottom line was that all the votes should have mattered. But the powers that be decided that they didn't. In a country where we already know that many of our elected officials are bought and paid for by big money, we learned that our votes don't really matter either.

We should have been angry about that then, and the consortium study should renew our anger now. What should anger us is not that a particular candidate "really" won Florida, because we will never know that. We will never know which of the various standards would have been used. What should anger us about the study is that there was a process by which all the ballots could have been effectively counted, and all the parties involved, from the Supreme Court on down, didn't give the process a chance. They let votes go uncounted and, in doing so, treated the democracy like a farce.

In the wake of a tragic Veteran's Day, we should realize that our veterans didn't fight so that votes would go discounted and uncounted, so that inequities and absurdities would plague our voting booths and tallying procedures. They fought for a democracy where "every vote counts." That is why it is our patriotic duty to be mad as hell about the last presidential election and stay mad as hell until something is done.

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