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Imagine If This Happened In 1968?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 15, 2000.

George W. Bush, whose campaign theme was that he trusted people whereas Al Gore trusted government, has been revealed to trust machines more than people, at least when the vote count is close in his favor. As the controversy heats up, the Republicans are getting more and more defensive and disgusting. They claim that financial markets are going down the tubes because of the supposed uncertainty, although the NASDAQ and Dow Jones each went up over a hundred points that same day. It isn't long before they trot out the prospect of a Chinese invasion to scare out a resolution in their favor.

What is clear is that they fear a hand count in Florida because they know their man will lose. Their fear is palpable, and deserved. And the Democrats know it, and so push it ruthlessly. The Republicans have been reduced to relying on Federal legalisms, which they profess to abhor, in order to win.

Not that the Democrats are shining beacons of virtue. The preposterous claim about tough ballots in Palm Beach inches into view. Even if the ballots were stupid, difficult to understand, or written in Farsi, the fact remains that both local parties approved them and made them available for public scrutiny long before the election as the law requires. That a bunch of blue-haired cranks couldn't fathom the directions should come as no shock. It must be pretty common, considering how dangerous it is to drive down there with those wheezing old bats at the wheel of their Caddies. It's sad, it's annoying, but the operable word is "tough." Now isn't the time to complain.

So while the business about re-votes, absent any proof of actual intimidation or fraud at the precinct level, is bogus, the bit about recounting is not. One would think that in very close elections - like where only a few hundred votes separate the candidates out of seven million - both parties would go out of their way to make sure that the count is as accurate as can be. A mechanical recount and a hand count are hardly too much to ask. And they are not. It is legal and often required. Even, it turns out, in Texas.

Which brings us to the chads. When you punch a ballot, if you are old and weak and press down slowly, the punch hole may be ripped rather than cut. The card remnant, called a chad, hangs. The machine cannot count it, although it is obvious that is the choice of the voter. It is true that the voter could dedicate fifteen seconds to checking his ballot and make sure there are no chads, but that apparently is too much. In any case, a hand count would find it, a vote obviously cast but discounted by machine.

Not so with dimpled chads. These are the result of endless Monty Burnses leaning on the ballot punch but having neither weight nor strength to perforate the card. There is a bulge, or dimple, but nothing more. You are asked to check your ballot, and it is absurd to count such a candy-ass effort. If you cannot trouble yourself to puncture a ballot only 20% stronger than tissue, and take the full minute to feel for chads, it's an open question whether or not your vote is worth counting. Allegedly confusing ballots and dimpled chads are pathetic issues, and one only hopes the Democrats are using them for negotiating value and don't really believe their claims.

Dimpled chads might serve as a metaphor for the whole American lard butt voter ethic, which apparently is to mean well feebly. Every four years the average American, left and right, gets off the couch and looks around for the candidate in every race who exactly reflects the voter's views. They provide toilet paper for every taste, why not political candidates? Surprise! About half of us don't find our hero and refuse to vote, thus showing the rest of us how corrupt the system is. The other half probably don't find it either, and spend time trying to force candidates into their viewpoint. Actually, that is putting it kindly. Most of you are too damned lazy to pencil it in your heroic schedules of gab sessions, annual shadow meetings of your local militias, or Nader rallies. The nerve of the United States to ask that we spend time to vote. Such oppression! They don't provide candidates that reflect me exactly. Bastards. They expect us to focus every year, every month, on our government and continue to earn our voting privilege. A nation of dimpled cellulite not even haunted by images of Chinese students standing in front of T-55's, of dead Germans caught on the razor wire near Checkpoint Charlie, of gulags, of South American rivers burdened with the corpses of the Disappeared, of gutsy black women glaring up at Southern police in defiance. All those dead losers - look how they dress - wanted to do was vote in an approximately fair election at some point in their lives for the government that will disperse jobs and value. But because no candidate has a position paper on the fate of the endangered Rocky Mountain Oyster, screw 'em all.

If Bush becomes President, it will be because we deserve him, and we have no cause to complain. Nothing unforeseeable happened this year, nothing that could not have been prevented.