Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Supreme Court Decides Bush v Gore (a tribute)

It did not escape my attention that today is the seventh anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision to end Florida's state-wide ballot recount, which allowed George W. Bush to be certified as the winner of the 2000 election. Much has already been said about this historical event--the fact that Al Gore lost even though he won the popular vote, and the inability of Floridians to properly punch their voting cards leading to a confusing re-count. In my humble opinion all of this speaks to the fact that the Founding Fathers weren't that smart, and neither are we.

I've never been much of a conspiracy theorist. My belief that large entities are behind all of our current woes went the same way as my theism. (It turns out they had a lot in common.) I don't really believe that the Supreme Court "stole" the election for Bush. I don't really think there was a massive cover-up going on. I do think, however, that the electoral college is an antiquated idea whose time has come.

The electoral college was a necessity 200 years ago when people rode their horses to delegate meetings and cast their votes in secret rooms, signaling the victor with a plume of smoke from the chimney behind locked doors. Oh it was a high time at those gatherings, let me tell you, with all those delegates dressed up in colorful robes, burning incense and offering prayers to Artemis for light and wisdom. But those days went out with the Eisenhower administration.

First of all, direct election would give everyone's vote the same weight. What's the point of even voting Republican in a state like New York or California other than to exercise your right in a hallow gesture? Since most states operate on a winner-take-all system there's no reason to even pander to Texas or Georgia. It's a foregone conclusion those states will vote Republican anyway. Candidates know this and so they simply focus on a handful of swing states. If you're lucky enough to live in one of those states your vote counts a great deal. If not, get bent.

Secondly, it has now happened four times that the winner of the popular vote did not receive election. You would be inclined to believe that once the electoral college's efficiency trumps the will of the people its value should be questioned. But still we cling to it like an old blanket. Arguments for the continuation of the electoral college usually focus around crusty ideals like the "continuation of the federal character of the nation" or "national stability through a two party system." Yawn. I don't know about you, but I don't find these to be particularly compelling.

Maybe the saddest thing about the 2000 recount is that so many people couldn't figure out how to punch their ballot cards, and the term "hanging chad" was introduced into the lexicon. Maybe this is a microcosm of our problems? Listen, people, punching a hole in your card isn't that hard, is it? And if it is, shouldn't your vote then be negated? Seriously. We're electing the leader of the executive branch, exercising the ancient human right of freedom and representation, in the most powerful country in the world. Your collective wisdom decides the fate of so many innocent people around the world. And all the gods ask is that you follow simple voting instructions.

This is why I think issues like stem cell research and gay marriage should be left off the ballot. Haven't we proven unequivocally that we have no idea what we're doing? Not only did someone like George W. Bush slip through the cracks to take the helm of our great nation, but the man was re-elected after beaching it on a sandbar. The same group of people who opted for that guy should also weigh in on when life begins, and whom can legally marry whom? That sounds like trouble. Maybe we should have less responsibility and not more. Then, if we thought less about what was going on in other people's bedrooms, we'd have more energy to devote to punching that voting card properly. Just a thought.

But I'm not unsympathetic. I can see how all of this gets confusing. The average person has a ton of stuff to think about. I mean mundane stuff like is Bobby catching a cold? And don't forget to pick up the milk after work. That, plus the piles of responsibility we each have at work trying to stay one step ahead of unemployment or outsourcing while engaging in continuing education and re-branding. It's exhausting isn't it? How am I supposed to know about stem cells? How am I supposed to know how to vote? Can't we just leave it all up to those high-powered, super-intellectual commissions that form every time our elected leaders are found in dereliction of duty? Back when delegates road horses to super-secret meetings to elect the President such governmental oversights weren't even a wild dream. That shows how far we've come in seven years. Yes, it does.

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