Thank Odin the Nobels don’t have a butterfly ballot

As easy as it would be to make a bunch of parallels between tonight’s massive bed-crapping by the Sox bullpen and the performance of the Democratic majority in Congress since we voted them in, I think I’ll go a different route.

The media coverage of Al Gore’s Nobel win has been quite something to watch. For one thing, the American press seems blissfully unaware that Gore’s actually sharing the award with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Not surprising, really, since that would require them to know what said panel is, but it’d be nice if they could at least do the IPCC the courtesy of acknowledging their work. That’s not what’s been most fun, though. It’s been the focus on “does this mean Gore will take a shot at the Presidency again?” On the one hand, I’d love for him to try. He’s easily the most qualified person for the job; he’s got the long-term vision necessary to lead a superpower, and if nothing else, he clearly has a functioning brain.

But come back with me, dear readers, to November of 2000. You’re the sitting Vice President of the United States. Your administration, though plagued by a torch-wielding Congress, has presided over the greatest peacetime economic expansion ever. Your opponent is a callow, inexperienced legacy politician. Despite this, partly due to your own tentative campaigning style and largely due to a media more interested in which candidate would be a better pick to host your frat party, the polls have been close all year. Election Night rolls around, and at the end of the night, you’ve clearly won the popular vote, but Florida is so close that they’ll need to count again to figure out who won. It’s stressful, sure, but such is democracy. There’s a system in place to deal with this sort of thing, and you’ve been raised your entire life to trust that system.

That’s when it all goes to hell. The other guy’s operatives start gaming that system. They use every legal trick in the book to hold up the recount. They launch a press campaign to convince the media that the election’s over, and all the delay is due to sour grapes. When this looks like it might not work out, they send mobs into the streets to intimidate vote counters. (For a more complete account of the post-election battle, read Jeffrey Toobin’s Too Close to Call, which is required reading for anyone wanting to know how easily democracy can be thrown for a loop.) These banana republic-style tactics work, and faced with a mocking press, a hostile Supreme Court, and no support from your own political allies, you concede.

Losing an election, by all accounts, is a crushing blow to your ego. Having an election that you’ve clearly won stolen from you in broad daylight? I can’t even imagine. As much as I would love to see Al Gore taking that oath on January 20 (even if it would be 8 years late), I completely understand why he doesn’t want it anymore. He’s found his place, and more power to him.

Incidentally, for those hoping to avoid a replay of 2000 (and, depending on what you read about Ohio, 2004), a few things to keep an eye on:

-A ballot initiative in California being financed by several prominent GOPer’s which would apportion electoral votes by congressional district, a move which would effectively hand the GOP candidate 20+ votes. The campaign’s hit a few snags lately, but this sort of thing has a way of hanging around after you think it’s been dealt with.

-Whether the Senate plans to confirm Hans von Spakovsky to a permanent seat on the Federal Elections Commission. The Rules Committee passed his nomination on to the full Senate, but there’s as yet been no vote. Keeping in mind that the FEC determines the rules for elections, might be a good idea to check out his record, which doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies.

There’s a year until the election, all. Lots of wild tricks can be pulled if our eyes aren’t constantly on the ball.

One thought on “Thank Odin the Nobels don’t have a butterfly ballot”

  1. You are right when you say “this sort of thing has a way of hanging around after you think it’s been dealt with” concerning the California ballot proposal to apportion electoral votes by congressional district.

    As long as 70% of the people disapprove of the current system of electing the President, proposals to divide electoral votes (either by congressional district or proportionally) will continue to pop up in states selected for partisan reasons.

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal, and to guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill would not take effect piecemeal, but only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes — that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill is enacted in a group of states possessing 270 or more electoral votes, all of the electoral votes from those states would be awarded, as a bloc, to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC). The bill would thus guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill has 364 legislative sponsors in 47 states. It has been signed into law in Maryland. Since its introduction in February 2006, the bill has passed by 11 legislative houses (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, and California).

    See http://www.NationalPopularVote.com

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