Cliffhanger Vote Yields Split Decision
In a moderately heavy turnout, just over 100 million American voters gave the nod to Vice-President Al Gore as the 43rd President of the United States.
With 99% of the districts reporting, Gore had 48,505,653 to Governor George W. Bushes 48,257,761, a margin of just under 250,000 votes, only slightly bigger than John F. Kennedy's wafer thin victory in 1960. Nader, Buchanan, Phillips, Browne and the other candidates received 3,695,690 votes.
With the House and Senate staying narrowly Republican to a slightly smaller extent, and myriad local races reflecting the same narrow margin as the presidential race, voters were clearly opting to stay the course with a divided government.
The Electoral College Refuses to Cooperate
Unfortunately, the 2000 presidential election seems set to join that small group of 4 previous election where the candidate who received fewer popular votes is set to win the election through the operation of the electoral college.
Governor George W. Bush is leading in the state of Florida by less than 2,000 votes out of over 6 million cast. The winner of the race in Florida wins its 25 electoral votes and the White House.
If this happens, the 2000 election will be a combination of two of the previous elections where the loser won the race: 1824 and 1888. The 1824 election was the last election where the son of a president was elected to the White House. In a four way race, John Quincy Adams became president even though Andrew Jackson received over 41% of the vote to Adams' 30%. Adams made a deal with Henry Clay and William Crawford for their support in the House when no majority could be achieved in the electoral college.
Adams' administration never emerged from under the cloud which the deal with Clay cast over his administration. Four years later, Jackson returned to win the White House by a margin which remained the biggest for 76 years.
In 1888, President Grover Cleveland lost his home state of New York by less than 15,000 votes even though he beat his opponent, Benjamin Harrison, by 90,000 in over 11 million cast. Here again, Cleveland came back to win four years later.
The close race between Bush and Gore is a sign of voter dissatisfaction with the choice. The split decision between the popular and electoral vote is a way of voters refusing to choose between two such equally unqualified and unethical candidates. The voters are saying no, we won't decide, you decide.
Either way, whether it is Gore or Bush, neither will be able to move without reaching out beyond their party lines to the bulk of the members of congress. The election result is a clear mandate to end partisanship, for the two parties to work together in a national unity government for the good of the American people.
If Bush becomes president with a minority of the popular vote he will preside over a weak and ineffective administration. Instead of restoring integrity to the Oval Office, he will bring comedy and ridicule to the White House. In four years, Al Gore will return to clean his clock. If Gore wins, he will have only a slightly less difficult time governing. Before the election, when Bush was asked about the prospect of winning the popular vote but losing the electoral vote, there was discussion about continuing the campaign and trying to get electors to vote for the candidate with the most popular votes. There is no legal prohibition against electors voting for the candidate who wins the popular vote.
Now that Joe Lieberman has been re-elected to the Senate, he ought to return there and Gore ought to offer Bush the Vice-Presidency thereby creating a national unity government. A president who lost the popular vote, especially one who is the son of a former President, will be a laughing stock as the so-called leader of the democratic free world.
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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf