Regardless of who wins the Florida vote joust, it will be a
while before this campaign blurs out of memory. Democrats, or at least the
never-say-die variety, will carry a view of the election depicted in this
document that floated over the Internet to my computer. It purports to come
from a Zimbabwean politician, but methinks the source may be closer at hand:
“1. Imagine that we read of an election occurring anywhere
in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former
prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of
that nation’s secret police (CIA).
“2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular
vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (electoral college) from the
nation’s pre-democracy past.
“3. Imagine that the self-declared winner’s ‘victory’ turned
on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!
“4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district,
a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner’s opponent, led thousands
of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.
“5. Imagine that members of that nation’s most despised
caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to
vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner’s candidacy.
“6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised
caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating
under the authority of the self-declared winner’s brother.
“7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed
province and that the self-declared winner’s ‘lead’ was only 327 votes. Fewer,
certainly, than the vote counting machines’ margin of error.
“8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political
party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots
in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.
“9. Imagine that the
self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst
human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation
“10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the
self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to
lifetime positions on the high court of that nation. None of us would deem such
an election to be representative of anything other than the self-declared
winner’s will-to-power. All of us, I imagine, would wearily turn the page
thinking that it was another sad tale of pitiful pre- or anti-democracy peoples
in some strange elsewhere.”
Republican bitter-enders will carry the conviction to their
graves that the Democrats used the election to pull down the Corinthian columns
of the temple of the Republic. For them, the Gore post-electoral gasping grasp
for the Presidency is the destructive work of a man who will have the office per fas et nefas , by fair means or foul.
Gone is history, gone is tradition and broken are the sacred images of the
country, the reverence for which made one out of many.
The social resentments stirred by the Democrats’ conduct
have again poisoned many a Republican heart. The R’s know the millionaire
liberals who own the Democratic Party think the R’s are trailer trash. Trailer
trash or no, the R’s get it when the D’s call their candidates dumb, something
the party of issue began doing 50 years ago against Dwight Eisenhower and kept
up through the Ford, Reagan, Dole and baby Bush candidacies. They were too
scared of Nixon to call him dumb. Instead, they laughed at his wingtips, his
awkwardness and his cloddish ways when compared to the glamoroso John Kennedy.
Liberal snobbism does not go unnoticed. Democrats make
remarks about how their opponents dress. Style seems to mean so much to the
leaders of the party of the people. And what of the party of feminism, with its
snide wisecracks about how Katherine Harris, the Florida Secretary of State,
applies her mascara? The haughty goings-on at the 92nd Street Y are observed.
The newspaper ad published a couple of weeks ago by the Emergency Committee of
Concerned Citizens 2000 and signed by the 92nd Street high and mighty
hoity-toities was taken as the presumptuous assertion of personal and class
superiority that it was. All that high-flown yuckity-yuck about the
“Constitutional crisis.” So typically 92nd Street.
Most people, unmoved but bewildered, entertained but
bothered by the post-election Presidential contest, may give a certain credence
to both parties’ views of each other, but the majority of us seem to have been
most taken aback by the lawyers. The lawyers, smelling of tooth decay and heart
rot, came flying into Florida like famished spirits let out of a cave. Verbose
devils, creating confusion and causing chaos in front of whatever courthouse
and TV camera they landed. Human megaphones broadcasting their big talk about
“the” people, their fundamental rights and their fundamental wrongs, about the
enfranchised and the disenfranchised and-most important-how lawyers uphold our
liberty, protect our freedom and defend our Constitution. They came like a
plague of earwigs, ticks, silverfish and flying ants. They buzzed, they hummed,
they chirped, they sang their insect tune and came in swarms until arthropods
covered every government edifice in Florida.
In a few short days, they had fixed things so that nobody
can ever know which candidate carried the state, and after a few more days,
nobody cared. The Republicans and the Democrats were left accusing each other
of having been the first to bring the lawyers in. The commentators told us that
we are a litigious society and that’s why the lawyers had made off with our
Well, maybe so, but what
was obvious was that we have suffered yet another lawyer disaster, another
exhibition of this uselessly cumbersome legal system strangling us and itself
in its prolix complexities. The lawyers and the politicians-ever so quick to
slip us that old saw about a government of laws, not men-might pause before
trotting out that chestnut again. In the last couple of years, the rule of law
has brought us the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the Bill Clinton impeachment
follies and now this. The rule of law has brought us a string of horrifying
revelations about condemned men on death row being found innocent of their
Every crossroad in American life has a lawyer stationed
there, levying a toll before you are permitted to go on your way. The election
has brought home to us again how much we are in thrall to the members of this
guild of men and women who take so much from the society and give so little in
What we can’t know is whether or not the violent intrusion
of the lawyers opens the door for more of the same in coming elections. The
lawyers have learned from Florida that they can delay and sabotage even a
Presidential election. The possibilities of doing the same to countless House
and Senate seats now present themselves. Lawyers school themselves in the art
of procrastination, since they know that cunctation (a lawyer word if there
ever was one) is the best way to cause the most damage to their opponents.
Justice delayed is justice …. We all know how that bromide ends, the lawyers
most of all. If they now succeed in bringing these tactics into the political
process, there will be hell to pay.
History tells us that the most difficult moment for nations
and large organizations is the moment of transfer of power. The Roman Republic
came apart after it had lost the ability to transfer power in an orderly and
lawful way; the Roman Empire that followed it suffered from its inability to
achieve an orderly succession. The worst moments in the history of the Roman
Catholic Church, the British monarchy and countless failed republics came when
the succession to power was decided by intrigue, conspiracy and, ultimately, by
The intrusion of the lawyers into our Presidential election
may be a one-time thing occasioned by the freakishly close contest. We don’t
know. We don’t know if the lawyers will come back again. If they do, we can’t
stop them short of violence. They control everything, and will until and unless
an enraged public defangs them. In the meantime, hold your breath.