Jewish World Review August 24, 2000 / 23 Menachem-Av, 5760
Four men running -- Why
do we have to throw
DURING MOST presidential election years I wait until
late in the campaign to make this suggestion, but
now seems like an appropriate time to bring it up.
From this week until November, Al Gore and
Joseph Lieberman on one side, and George W.
Bush and Dick Cheney on the other, will be doing
everything they can to persuade Americans that
they are the best choice to lead the country for the
next four years. And both tickets, in terms of
impressive numbers, will succeed.
That is because, on Election Day, tens of millions of
people are almost certain to vote for Bush-Cheney,
and tens of millions are almost certain to vote for
Gore-Lieberman. That many Americans -- on each
side -- will put their hopes and beliefs in each
ticket. The people who vote for Gore-Lieberman,
and the people who vote for Bush-Cheney, will
have bought into what the candidates have told
them --will have become convinced that the men on
the ticket they choose have the ideas, the vision, the
patriotism, the seriousness of purpose, to help our
country continue in an exemplary way on its course
And what will happen?
Come the morning after Election Day, two of those
men will be tossed out like yesterday's garbage.
If Bush and Cheney win, Al Gore will have no
future in public life. He will be looked upon as a
relic of the Clinton years who couldn't pull his own
weight with the voters; he will become less than a
footnote to history. Joe Lieberman? An oddity, if
he loses; Geraldine Ferraro 2000. He won't again
be heard of on the national political scene -- these
next few months will be it.
If the Gore-Lieberman ticket wins, though, Gore
will be seen as a brilliant, vibrant member of a
Democratic dynasty, and Lieberman will be seen as
truly historic -- one of the great and inspiring
political stories of all time. While Bush and Cheney
will become, in public-service terms, dust --swept
into a pan, discarded, suddenly not even a tiny part
of the nation's life.
Why? That's the way things work -- the winners in
a presidential race win everything, triumph
completely. The losers walk away with nothing but
Which is where my proposal comes in.
We, as a nation, are being incredibly wasteful when
we take candidates who have stirred the hopes of
tens of millions, and find no way for those
candidates to serve. Yes, Republicans are
Republicans and Democrats are Democrats, and
there are time-honored differences in the parties.
But when a candidate wins a presidential election,
he pledges to -- and is expected to --become the
president of all the people.
Why not extend that spirit to the losers?
It's not as if the United States has far too many
bright, serious people with the skill, love of country,
plans to make that country better, with personal
magnetism that draws in millions of enthusiastic
followers...it's not that, in an increasingly sloppy,
let-someone-else-do-it era, we have leaders to
It is a precious thing when tens of millions of
Americans put their trust in a candidate. We ought
to be able to figure out some way to use the talents
of the candidates even when they come up a few
million votes short. It shouldn't be all or nothing --
we should have enough generosity of spirit at the
highest levels of government, enough creativity, to
avail ourselves of the abilities not only of the
winners, but also of the losers.
Is Bob Dole a worthless man? Few would argue
that he is -- and to President Clinton's credit, he
has asked Dole to do more for America than most
victorious presidential candidates request of their
defeated opponents. Mostly, though, Dole in the
four years since his loss to Clinton has been seen as
an advertising pitchman, a spokesman for an
impotency drug, and a performer on a cable
comedy channel. There's something stupid about
that -- on our part. There's something wasteful.
Four years from now, you would hate to see the
talents of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman -- or of
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney -- wasted like
that. But that is what is likely to happen -- of four
men who want to make America better, two will
get to try, and two will be pushed aside.
You'd think we would be smarter than that. Politics
notwithstanding, you'd think we could figure out a
way to let all of them go to work for all of us.
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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