Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2000 / 24 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761
The Florida agony, although yet another novelty, illustrates a familiar asymmetry of American politics: Imagine the media meltdown of indignation if Republicans had circulated to their workers a memo on how to suppress, through challenges, voting in minority precincts, as the Democrats' memo did concerning how to suppress voting by the overseas military.
But the stunning asymmetry evident in Florida is the ferocity gap. Democrats fight for power with a frenzy born of . . . what? Partly of material greed.
The Democratic Party is, increasingly, government's incarnation as an interest group. Profound issues have convulsed American politics--slavery, secession, immigration, prohibition, desegregation. Today's relatively miniature arguments--for example, the modalities of providing a prescription drug entitlement--make the parties' conflicts seem trivial. But the differences are titanic to Democrats dependent on government.
Gore's vote this year reversed Clinton's broadening of the party's appeal. George W. Bush won a majority of white Catholics and white women, and made gains with Hispanics, young voters and moderate-income voters. Gore, more than Clinton in 1992 or 1996, depended on the party's base, particularly African Americans and unions. A higher proportion of African Americans than of other groups work for government; the growth of unions is primarily among public-sector employees (43 percent of all union membership, and increasing). Furthermore, floods of contributions come to Democrats from trial lawyers, who desperately need cooperative judges--and no tort reform.
But even more important than material interests in explaining the ferocity gap in Florida is Gore's justly famous remark last year to an aide: "I'm not like George Bush. If he wins or loses, life goes on. I'll do anything to win." Defeat for Bush would be a disappointment. Defeat for Gore would be annihilation--life would not go on. Hence his Florida frenzy, which has produced this surreal situation:
In a Democratic-dominated recounting process in Democratic strongholds, people squint at punch-card ballots, divining the intent of the unknown persons who mismanaged the ballots, because nothing must interfere with "every vote being counted." Meanwhile, bushels of signed absentee ballots, executed by people whose intentions could be ascertained by asking them, are tossed aside. Why? Because Gore benefits from this version of "don't ask, don't tell."
Nothing done by Gore's campaign to fiddle Florida's electorate surprises anyone who noticed the Justice Department's August report that pressure from Gore aides who "hoped for a political benefit" was "one stimulus" behind the hasty and slipshod program to naturalize more than 1 million new citizens in time for the 1996 election. And Democrats displayed their distinctive ferocity about securing power after Republicans gained 10 House seats in the 1992 congressional elections.
Democrats still had an 82-seat advantage. However, greed for power moved them to regain, in effect, five seats by giving to the five delegates from Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia--all these delegates Democrats, naturally--the right to vote on the floor when the House is functioning as a Committee of the Whole, in which mode most significant decisions are taken. This Democratic disregard of the Constitution--Article I, Section 2 uses the word "state" seven times in referring to the only entity from which members of the House may be chosen--was repealed when Republicans took control of the House in 1995.
Joe Lieberman, who, like Warren Christopher, understands how to use lugubriousness to mask partisanship, says, with solemn evenhandedness, that Republicans' "serious charges" about the recounting should be investigated by "local election officials." That is, by Democrats who control the Gore strongholds to which the recounting is confined.
Because early recounting suggested an insufficient harvest of new Gore votes, Gore asked Florida's Supreme Court to expand the universe of potential votes by ordering the re-counters to adopt more helpful (to Gore) criteria for what constitutes a vote properly cast in selected Gore strongholds. He also asked the court to forbid the state from certifying a winner, even though the loser would retain a de jure right to contest certification.
Gore knows that after certification, the country will not tolerate another peep from a lawyer. So this is a peculiar kind of capital case, because it will decide whether, for the plaintiff, life will go
11/17/00: Slow-motion larceny