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Jewish World Review Oct. 31, 2000 / 2 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Chris Matthews

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Consumer Reports

The big lie: Every vote counts -- THE BIG LIE of the 2000 fight for the presidency is that "every vote counts."

Mine hasn't counted in years. If every voter in my giant suburban county wrote in the name of Hannibal Lecter, or even less likely, voted for George W. Bush, Maryland would still go for Al Gore. Let's face it, the state went Democrat even when its governor — you remember Spiro Agnew — was on the Republican ticket.

All those years I lived in Washington D.C., my vote mattered for even less. Put the name of Marion "Mayor for Life" Barry on the ballot, and I'd still not bet on the GOP in this wall-to-wall Democratic capital.

This sense of electoral worthlessness in presidential elections is now a national reality.

"My vote doesn't count," you hear people say from Brooklyn to the San Francisco Bay, "I live in ..."

New York? Gov. George Pataki was in Scranton, Pa., last week drumming up votes for Bush. Why should he stay at home? With a 5-to-3 registration edge in New York state, the Democrats have it locked.

California? With a 7-point lead in the L.A. Times poll, the Gore team has refused to waste TV ad money in a political market it believes is secure.

Texas? George W. Bush owns it.

Three-fourths of the states are in the same category: judged "safe" by one party, hopeless by the other. Heard of any downtown rallies in Boston lately? In Salt Lake City? Waiting for those newspaper pictures of Bush or Gore barnstorming through New Haven or Cheyenne? Forget about it.

No. This election is limited to the "battleground states." If you live in Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas, West Virginia or Florida, this campaign's for you.

But if you live in the other three-fourths of the states, don't count on a lot of excitement this last week before election. Bush and Gore are focusing all their travel time and TV ads on the swing voters in the swing states.

People ask why so many Americans are so unexcited about this presidential election. This is why. Nobody is asking them to get excited.

If you're a liberal, pro-choice Democrat from Santa Monica, Gore has already got you tagged and bagged. If you're a southern conservative from Jackson, Miss., don't wait on the porch for George W. to come passing by.

No. Al and W. are taking the same shuttle these days, up and down the Florida-to-Flint corridor, asking the same fickle voters to finally hear the wedding bells.

Meanwhile, the great mass of us just wait around for the phone to ring with plenty of time to read those editorials blasting us for being so indifferent and apathetic.

So here's what I think: People say that the electoral college threatens to kill our democracy this November by giving us a president who places second in the popular vote.

I say the death knell has already begun. "My vote doesn't count," we sing, "I live in ..."

As long as we choose our president by this system of winner-take-all in each state, expect this anthem to rise. The more balkanized the country gets, the closer the two major parties grow in strength, the more worthless our individual votes will become.

This accounts for the safe, centrist, predictable, pandering voice of this entire campaign.

With three-fourths of the electorate being taken for granted by one party, given up for granted by the other, every sound you hear between now and Nov. 7 will be aimed at the retirees of Florida or the auto workers of Michigan.

Not very invigorating, is it?

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


10/17/00: Play White House admissions officer
10/11/00: Scandalous lack of awe for the office
10/03/00: Bush-Gore and the ghosts of Kennedy-Nixon
09/26/00: Candidates' night and day sides
09/19/00: Hillary goes legit
09/12/00: AlGore's silent partner
08/23/00: Truth and beauty in Bubba's farewell
08/16/00: The nation's prom king
08/07/00: The good soldier
08/02/00: Welcome to Philadelphia --- we had the first...
07/31/00: Bush-Cheney ticket: A constitutional problem
07/26/00: If Bush is an IPO, Gore is a store
07/24/00: Will being 'better' sink Hillary?
07/19/00: Pre-convention calm?
07/17/00: AlGore is executing a double dose of imitation 07/10/00: Mexicans elect a Bush Republican
07/10/00:Another kind of McCarthyism
07/06/00: How Bubba's teapots clang
07/03/00: AlGore's latest hazard
06/29/00: No echoes in this presidential choice
06/26/00: Death joins the debate
06/21/00: Jerry Brown tells AlGore how to 'wage' campaign
06/19/00: Squishy logic for soft money
06/15/00: Citizen Kane, 113 years later
06/12/00: Kennedy-Nixon redux?
06/07/00: Bush says 'I do' to reality
06/05/00: Clinton's odd silence on his achievements
06/02/00: Pelosi, a voice for human rights
05/30/00: Bubba's escape hatches
05/23/00: Who typifies leadership?
05/19/00: Bubba's legacy involves AIDS
05/16/00: Dubyah's outlook for 'playoffs' remains perilous
05/11/00: Giuliani's travels
05/09/00: A Yale degree, a Bob Jones education
05/03/00: Show of force!
05/01/00: Abortion polls don't reflect reality
04/28/00: Bill Russell and American racism
04/24/00: Vietnam 25 -- The good, bad and ugly
04/19/00: Nader's threat to Gore in California
04/17/00: Berkeley politician visits with Elian's father
04/14/00: Clinton and the Castro curse
04/11/00: Men who saved Elián from the sea
04/06/00: Caine should coach politicians
04/03/00: No. 2 spots: Woman-to-woman?
03/29/00: Gray for veep and Gore might coast to victory
03/27/00: The secret life of a CIA wife
03/22/00: 'We're suckers for underdogs'
03/20/00: Bush's California dream vs. reality
03/06/00: Scary Gore vs. hopeful Bush
03/06/00: McCain's appeal to 'Reagan Democrats'
03/01/00: John McCain fits a hero's profile
02/28/00: Grading the American presidents
02/25/00: Clinton remains No. 1 issue
02/23/00: Will Ross Perot aid POW McCain?
02/18/00: McCain faces fury of GOP establishment
02/17/00: Citizen Springer
02/14/00: McCainia and the frisky independents
02/07/00: A prime-time primary for California
02/02/00: Clinton's final campaign: Take the blame
01/31/00: Which GOPer is willing to pay for his positions?
01/27/00: John McCain's gay radar
01/25/00: This time, candidates get 'authenticity' check
01/18/00: AIDS dooms 1 in 4 in tiny Swaziland
01/13/00: Complacency might be the campaign key
01/10/00: A choice, not an echo
01/06/00: The role of a lifetime
01/03/00: Dangers in Gore's dirty war
12/30/99: Churchill's fighting words saved the century
12/28/99: Candidate Gore's separation anxiety
12/17/99: Catch 22: Leading candidates don't lead
12/17/99: New Democratic leader on the horizon
12/15/99: Is Hillary clueless?
12/08/99: Taking Buchananism to the streets
12/03/99: Why are we so obsessed with 'spin'?
12/01/99: Donald Trump, 'Sinatra of Steel'
11/29/99: Why AlGore will be our next president
11/23/99: After the fall
11/17/99: Our conveniently forgetful president
11/15/99: Next president: Male, WASP, self-selected
11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State — Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
The FALN: Hillary's Willie Horton
08/26/99: Bill's guilt fuels Hill's race
08/25/99: The seemingly inexhaustible strength of America's free enterprise
08/23/99: GOP candidates are weak also-rans
08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

© 2000, NEA