Governor Bush lost the popular vote but hangs on tenaciously to his hoped-for victory in Florida.

There is no shame in winning the Presidency by winning the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. There would be shame in winning the Presidency by losing the popular vote and blocking a count that would later show Governor Bush to have lost Florida as well.

The Miami Herald reports on yesterday’s front page the results of an independent analysis it commissioned that showed Gore winning Florida by 23,000 votes if all the uncounted ballots were counted.

This does not include the ballots mistakenly cast for Buchanan, or the African-American voters turned away if they lacked three forms of photo ID, or the disputed 4,700 ballots in Seminole County, and so on.

So if I were the rowdy type, I would hop a plane to Austin and start chanting, ‘Count or concede!’

With the election essentially a tie, both nationwide and in Florida, either man could find grounds right now to graciously concede. (And, incidentally, spare himself what promises to be a tough four years.) What is ungracious is for Secretary Cheney to tell the Vice President and the American people that ‘it is time’ for the Vice President to concede.

 The Republican team has done a fantastic job of making it seem as if, once the TV networks, led by a close Bush family member at Fox, ‘called it’ for Bush, any further discussion was carping. Clearly, in hindsight, the networks should all have reported that this election was simply too close to call. Indeed, they should be calling that even to this moment.

Ballots are the currency of democracy. It is crucial to Governor Bush’s success that not all the Florida ballots be considered. The Bush team argues that ballots that cannot be read by a machine must be considered counterfeit. That, his team argues, is the test of valid currency. In effect, if your dollar bill is repeatedly rejected by a Coke machine, it is not a valid dollar bill and should be burned as counterfeit.

 Greg Dermond: ‘I don’t think the dollar bill in a Coke machine is a good analogy….if the dollar does not go through, WE have the common sense to put a different dollar in…..thus people have the responsibility also to READ instructions and to make sure their ballot was punched through correctly.’

Ah, but with a Coke machine, we know our dollar was rejected, both because it comes rolling back out and because we didn’t get our Coke. With a punch card ballot, it’s easy not to know for sure whether your ballot was cast properly.

 There is no great philosophical issue here. It is simply that machines are not yet as able to do some things as humans. One is speech recognition — you are better able than a computer to make out speech. Another is handwriting recognition. You are better able than a computer to decipher a note from your doctor. Would you throw out all prescriptions that cannot be accurately read by a machine? Or fill the prescription with arsenic instead of aspirin if that’s what the machine reads, even though a human might read it differently?

I am hopeful the courts will count the disputed ballots, in a manner they consider fair, so we can find out who won and move on, supporting whichever man becomes President.

Meanwhile, if Governor Bush wins, the Senate will be split 50 / 50. You may have seen Senator McConnell of Kentucky facing off with Senator Feinstein of California on TV yesterday morning. It is the contention of some that, with the Senate split 50 / 50, a bipartisan form of power-sharing should be adopted. Senator McConnell said no, the leadership of the Senate, and all the committee chairmanships, should rightly be Republican, because with a 50 / 50 split and a Republican Vice President to break ties (after the first two weeks, when Vice President Gore would still be the tie-breaker), control of the Senate would rightly reside with the Republicans. After all, he implied, it was the will of the people, nearly as many of whom voted Bush/Cheney as for Gore/Lieberman. The vote may have been 50 / 50, but 100% of the control should go to the Republicans.

The heartening thing about all this is that we will get through it all fine. And conceivably, we will be surprised on the upside, as the better angels of our respective natures rise to the challenge. That’s not a prediction, but I do believe it is a possibility.

For now, I’m going out to find some orange ribbon.

 

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