Election chaos

Celebrities and pundits react to the presidential brawl over Florida.

By Salon contributors

Published November 9, 2000 9:26PM (EST)

Robert Reich, former labor secretary

The uncertainty clouding this election isn't healthy for the country. The longer it continues, the greater the likelihood of partisan bickering, public paranoia and political and economic instability. Both sides should comply with the results of the recount as soon as the recount is completed, and the loser immediately concede. We shouldn't wait for absentee ballots; that might take days. Nor, especially, should the losing side contest "irregularities." That would be a grave disservice to the nation.

Roger Ebert, film critic

Bush can't win.

If the flawed ballots are thrown out and the Democrats win their court challenges, Gore takes Florida and the election. If the Florida results are allowed to stand, Bush becomes a president who was beaten in the total popular vote but climbed into office on the backs of outraged citizens who feel their votes were stolen by a misleading ballot.

In that scenario, Bush loses by 200,000 in the popular vote, but is elected by a few hundred votes in a tainted election in the state where his brother is governor and 19,000 people are screaming they wuz robbed.

This situation would be a cancer on the presidency. Week after week, month after month, Bush's hold on the office would seem increasingly spurious. How could he exude confidence while standing on such swampy moral ground?

Americans have a sense of fair play. The TV news channels on Wednesday were filled with Palm Beach County voters who said they, personally, had been prevented by that bad ballot from voting for the candidate they wanted to vote for.

Americans understand that. They know those sweet little Jewish ladies in the old folks' home were horrified to learn they had voted for Buchanan. Buchanan, a straight shooter, agrees: "Those were not my votes."

The Republican response is legalistic: Those stupid voters made their mistake, and have to live with it. Legalism is not good enough in an election where your candidate has lost the popular vote. My guess is that George Bush will understand this. Faced with the prospect of taking office with a deeply compromised "victory," and knowing in his heart that the Buchanan votes were Gore votes that went astray, he will sooner or later concede Florida to Gore.

He will do this because he knows it reflects the actual will of the people, and because he has no appetite to serve as a usurper.

Rich Galen, Republican strategist and former communications director for Newt Gingrich

"We win, yay! We win, yay!" That's what I'd like to keep saying.

No, but clearly Bush is going to maintain a lead in Florida, that's No. 1. No. 2: The concept of perfection is a religious concept, not a political one. In any election things happen because human beings are running them, which is OK because they're electing human beings -- so it all seems to work out in the end.

Palm Beach County is not a county of poor working-class people and sharecroppers. It's a county made up largely of Northern, wealthy white people, many of whom were lawyers who wrote the very kind of rules and laws that they're complaining about today, and the rest of them were their architects and doctors before they all moved South. So it's a little hard to make the case that these were poor, underprivileged, uneducated people somehow fooled by a process that was too complex for them to deal with. At the end of the day, people are going to recognize that it's just too bad -- if you're going to vote, you've got to follow the rules and then understand what you're doing, and if you've made a mistake, yell for a new ballot.

What's happening is that the Democrats, who are clearly in the down position here, need to throw as much dust and smoke up in the air as possible. But I don't understand where they're going with this, because if they pursue this in Florida, then the Republicans -- and they've already started -- are going to go up to Wisconsin, and everyone's going to zoom in on every other close state, Washington, New Mexico and everyplace else. This thing would tie us all up.

Al Franken, comedian and author

I'm on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so I have talked to a lot of my neighbors whose parents are calling them [from Florida], hysterical, saying, "I think I might have voted for Hitler." And I told them I'm nervous. This is torture; it's all torture.

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2000 Elections