November 9, 2000: Flash! We Have a Bulletin! Democracy is Alive and Well

I have never been more proud to be an American citizen than I am today.  We proved the pundits – including yours truly – wrong.  We are not apathetic.  We do care.  All over the country, we went out in record numbers to vote for those we want to lead us into the new millennium.  I didn’t see a tank, a gun-toting soldier or mobs with sticks and stones impeding anyone’s right to vote.

What I did see were long lines of people standing in the rain for hours to cast their vote.  One of the things I can’t reconcile about voting is how the most technological country on earth puts voters through the silliness we must endure to cast our ballot.  There seems to be an effort in Georgia to get us to come to the smallest places with the least parking and then go through an unnecessary low tech exercise of checking boxes, lining out names and writing in verifications.  I was heartened by a report out of Rancho Mirage, California, where voters put a card in a computer-like device, tap the screen and vote for the candidates of their choice.  The whole thing takes about a minute.  Unfortunately, I think my wife will adopt that kind of voting with the same enthusiasm she has shown for the Internet, meaning democracy might have one less voter.

This comes under the heading of “icing on the cake” but we made the TV boys and girls look like boobs.  Take an extra bow.  I’m sort of new at this business but I think one reason that television networks cover elections is to beat the competition in predicting winners.  That way the advertising department can go to the sponsors and sell six jillion more commercials to irritate the hell out of us because “our network was first to correctly predict the outcome of the election.”   They do this with exit polls.  As people leave the polling places, somebody rushes up and asks them all kind of questions to determine how they voted.  Big mistake. Somebody fibbed.

I watched CNN, NBC and all the others solemnly intone that Florida had gone to Vice President Gore about an hour after the polls closed and then the political analysts went to work letting us plebeians know what this all meant.  I should have kept count of how many times every network analyst said that Governor Bush now had to “run the table,” whatever the hell that means.  One even used a board like basketball coaches employ to tell the team how to run a backdoor trap and his board looked about as complicated as that.  And then, “Oops!”  Florida may not have gone to Gore.  It may have gone to Bush.  It may have been that those darned ol’ voters didn’t bear their souls to the network crowd after all.  Now we’ve got a bunch of network salesman sitting there with all those commercials to sell.  Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.  God knows we need more television commercials.

Sadly, I heard a number of people complain about how the Democrats were marshalling the unions and the blacks to get out the vote and how the Christian Coalition was doing the same thing with conservative voters. I can’t figure out what is wrong with that.  That is how it is supposed to work.  Where does it say in the Constitution that certain people can vote and certain ones cannot?  Democracy isn’t supposed to be pretty.

One last word on the media experts as they wipe the egg off their face.  The closeness of the presidential vote and the narrow margins in the Congress are seen by some as a negative.  “No mandate,” one declared.  Let me give him a clue.  All political decisions – all – come as a result of pressure.  Politicians make decisions based on the application of pressure or the absence thereof.  If we the people want something bad enough, we will let our leaders know.  If we don’t want it, we will let them know that, too.  When we are apathetic, that is taken rightfully as a sign that the people don’t care.  That is when bad political decisions are made.

This election has shown politicians from the local county commission to the President of the United States that the government still belongs to us.  We only entrust them with it until the next election.

Give yourself a pat on the back.  You’ve earned it and I am proud of you.