Breaking up is harder than you think

Tim Paluch

Recently, David Broder of the Washington Post suggested the post-election crisis can be attributed to deep divisions in the country. Broder claimed “baby boomers” have polarized their political views, and that the country has rarely been more politically divided than it is right now.This, taken at face value, is seemingly the case. Watching the network news and listening to various political pundits, it would appear that this “crisis” is tearing the country apart, embarrassing us abroad, and sending the nation’s political future down an uncontrollable and irreversible path of destruction and bitter partisanship. It may be the case that the vote for the presidency, in addition to that of Congress, was remarkably close, so it would appear the country is literally divided in that sense. That being said, I would instead argue that this electoral split is not because of the vast divisions of a country enraged with either the Democrats or Republicans. The nearly even split of the votes is actually the result of an electorate without any political passion at all.The centrism of the major party candidates gave voters a “take your pick” decision on election day, and looking at returns, in which the election will be decided by less than 1000 votes in Florida, this theory appears to hold true. The United States, in a time of peace and seemingly amazing economic prosperity, was turned off by this election, with nearly 50 percent of the voting public failing to even cast a vote. The real battle and the real animosity is not amongst a disenfranchised and uninspired public, but between two centrist political parties exploiting a ratings-hungry news media with massive public relations efforts.These P.R. scams are a last ditch attempt by the parties to present themselves as the morally superior party, and to denounce the eventual loser as a tool of an evil party, all while trying to scrape together an undeserving mandate for the eventual winner.The problem is that the politicians aimed for the jugular of the American public, but for the most part consistently hit them in the big toe. America appears to be turned off by these mass efforts. In addition to the partisan finger-pointing, talking points and bitter arguments are causing ridiculously scripted dialogues the likes of a Jackie Chan movie. Bob Dole and other Republicans said they may boycott an Al Gore inauguration; Dubya press secretary Karen Hughes accused the Gore team of manipulating the intent of the voters for their own political gain; Gore supporters accused Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, an elected official practicing the discretion her job entails, of being a partisan crook. The reality is that this power struggle that is supposedly ripping America apart at the seams doesn’t seem to be seeping too far outside of Washington, with the possible exceptions of Austin and Tallahassee. The politically apathetic American public can’t seem to decide what it wants to happen, and it is evident that Washington spin-doctors are succeeding in confusing the country, but failing to inspire it.A recent Washington Post poll revealed that a majority of Americans wanted disputed votes in Florida manually recounted. A similar poll, though, also suggested that a majority also think Al Gore should concede, and should have done so earlier. Two seemingly contradictory opinions both constituted a majority with the public, a sign that the country is not politically split down the middle, just confused, irritated and increasingly impatient.Despite a handful of partisan networks’ attempts to canonize one of the parties, neither can rightfully claim an upper hand of civility. There are hypocrisies and inconsistencies in each camp. Al and the Democrats, along with Dubya and the Republicans, continue to show their true colors. Both parties have spouted off their mantras since election day, the Republicans with “rule of law, and trusting ordinary citizens over the federal government,” and Democrats with their “count every vote.” The problem is, both parties have abandoned these principles in the pursuit of winning, leaving every legal option open in the process.There is a kind of cruel irony in these two party’s principles, when you take a look at their recent actions. Dubya and the Republicans, spearheaded by former Secretary of State and a man less likable than Iago, abandoned their position as states’ rights champions, challenging a Florida Supreme Court decision, thus making a federal case out of a state issue. Also missing from the Republicans’ vocabulary as of late is “trusting the people.” Now, they trust the voting machines over the manual recounts, done of course, by humans. And Al and the Democrats haven’t exactly been much better in this struggle. Al and his cronies want every vote counted, as long as the votes were cast in three selective counties, which just happen to be Democratic strongholds. In addition to this, military ballots filled out correctly but lacking a postmark were thrown out. The Democrats did not jump in the corner of the heavily-Republican military to get their votes counted, instead going to court to get an additional 16,000 thrown out. Every move from both sides have been for the sole purpose of winning the presidency, and nothing else.The parties’ attempts to front-page the contest has failed. Years from now no one will remember the symbolic trip half a million votes made to Tallahassee in the back of a Ryder truck. While it may have been reminiscent of the sordid O.J. chase, it was far less interesting. As the court decisions continue to fall into Dubya’s corner, Al soon will be forced to concede. He will be under more pressure than Roseanne’s barstool if the judicial losses continue. If a constitutional crisis occurs at some point, with electors jumping ship to Al Gore, it will not be because of a public in distress over the political turmoil. It will instead be a result of two parties’ love for power and the will to do anything to control it, not the least further alienating the public. The national division Broder described couldn’t have been created by an uninterested public, blame Washington and it’s insiders, one of which is now Dubya.