Editorial #8: White Knuckle, Edge of Your Seat Preservation of the Status Quo. This was the excitement I’d been waiting for. For the past year, the election has held only marginally exciting or interesting moments. The media had to content itself with talking about the comical misspeakings of Bush, alleging outrageous lies of Gore or completely ignoring the third party candidates (such as the actions of the Black Bloc or the theatrics of a protest group called “Billionaires for Bush (or Gore),” which paraded around in tuxedos with pet politicians on leashes and declared, “Inequality isn’t growing fast enough”).
We normally have none of the excitement of other countries, like Yugoslavia, where the incumbent posts armed soldiers at polling places, threatening and intimidating voters to prevent his opponent from winning, or the corrupt Russia, where the leader periodically purges his cabinet (either in a Stalinesque fashion or a Yeltsinesque fashion), or Cuba, where they avoid the perils of the two-party sytem by putting only Castro on the ballot. This lack of excitement is usually a good thing; it signals that the corruption going on is mostly the unobtrusive behind-the-scenes corruption that’s easier to ignore than armed soldiers intent on tipping an election.
But the level of excitement shot up on Tuesday afternoon, as a series of snafus was followed by a string of fubars, creating an election that, as I write this on Thursday evening, is separated by only 224 votes. Since about 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, the famous image of Truman holding up the “Dewey defeats Truman” newspaper has been playing through my mind. The news media proclaimed Gore was the winner in Florida first on the basis of only about 20% of counties having reported their election results. After rescinding those 25 Electoral College votes, and giving them to Bush, the media was again forced to retract that proclamation.
Gore made a private concession to Bush, which technically gave the election to Bush. Then more results came back in, forcing Gore to rescind his concession. The nation was on the edge of its collective seat, waiting to see the results of the election. Even though the results of that recount are now in, the election is still very much up in the air. Democrats are demanding another election in certain counties after allegations of fraud, confusing ballots, blacks being told there were no more ballots for them or that the polls were closed.
The Internet came to a standstill as people sat in their homes watching the constant coverage and updating their webpages every five minutes. Those waiting held their breath...and we are still waiting for a chance to exhale. It could be weeks before the election is finalized.
This election has been perfect entertainment for those looking for “schadenfreude” (a German phrase roughly translated as “joy in other people’s misery”). No matter what happens, people will be furious with the election. There’s no way anyone will be satisfied, no matter who wins. Democrats will be angry about votes being discounted, Republicans angry if there is a re-vote. If Gore loses, Democrats will blame Nader voters (rather than taking the blame for not being able to appeal to voters who wanted substance over empty platitudes). Nader voters are angry at progressives, for not getting the Green Party their 5 percent of the vote to get matching federal funding. If Bush loses, Republicans will blame the “liberal” media. Only someone who enjoys other people’s misery can enjoy the excitement surrounding the election. Luckily, I happen to be one of those people.
In another exciting development unconnected to the presidential election, the former governor of Missouri Mel Carnahan defeated his Republican opponent John Ashcroft for the Missouri Senate seat. Why is this so exciting? Because Carnahan died in a plane crash nearly a month ago. Carnahan’s Oct. 16 death was too late in the election to get his name legally removed from the ballot. The challenger, John Ashcroft, himself a former Missouri governor, was unable to campaign against the dead. This election marks the first time anyone has been posthumously elected to the Senate, although three dead candidates have been elected into the House in the past. Carnahan’s seat will be filled by his widow, Jean Carnahan, who has compared her deceased husband’s unfinished work to the legacies of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.
One of the main sources of the problems of this election was the media. In their insane drive to get the scoop on every possible story, the media made declarations with litle to support its statements. Journlistic integrity has been completely superceded by “me first!” journalism. Rather than sitting on a story until things become more clear, the media has been jumping to conclusions to garner ratings. As an aspiring journalist, I find these actions reprehensible, no matter how “entertaining” the sadist in me finds them. Despite my levity, the election is serious business, and I am occasionally disgusted by the events of the past week. My enjoyment comes from the excitement and complexity of the race, but I have to disengage the part of my brain that cares about society and the real world. And correct me if I’m wrong, but the elections aren’t supposed to have that effect.
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