the assumption of responsibility for the welfare of the world
HANG, IF YOU WOULD, THE JURY
It is no surprise that the electorate of this federation cannot discern its own interests well enough to make a wise decision. The pander that both Bush and Gore made on, among other things, tax cuts and execution is evidence of that. They were both speaking directly to the expressed wishes of voters, expressed in opinion polls but also in previous electoral polls. The large vote to Bush is indicative of the genuine support that his ideology and policies have within the electorate. It is perhaps curious that Republican primary voters couldn’t find a sharper candidate to represent that ideology and those policies. But humans are conservative in general, which is why genuinely progressive policies are slow to take hold, and progressive candidates are rarely elected. Even the only-mildly-liberal Gore was too liberal for many in the US.
But the spectacle of the person who may be the next president, George W. Bush, shrilly (this adverb is entirely too characteristic) demanding that his opponent stand down and accept the will of the voters when he, Bush, did not even win a plurality, is a memory we will be forced to live with for four years if Bush does win the Florida vote. Republicans mocked Clinton for never winning a majority, and claimed this represented a lack of mandate, which was true. But Clinton did at least finish first, besting Bush senior and Dole by significant margins. Bush junior clearly lost the popular vote, and will have done no better than win a microscopic plurality in Florida.
The idea that the Democrats are trying to steal the election after Bush’s loss of the popular vote is absurd to begin with. But the Republicans’ assertions regarding the Florida vote are nearly as absurd. They must attempt, for instance, to convince voters nationwide that the ultraconservative Pat Buchanan truly had more support in Palm Beach County, where he did not even campaign, than in all of Florida’s other counties combined. An objective observer would reject their claims, and look skeptically on the final vote tally, regardless of who is ultimately declared the winner. Only a conservative in the broader sense, one lacking imagination, will continue to support the electoral-college system in an era where the principles of democracy are spreading, in the historical context, with astounding speed.
It is not so much that democracy is a good thing. Justice is a good thing, and democracy only good when it leads to justice, or invests citizens in the active pursuit of justice. But the world is at that stage in its political evolution where democracy is equated with liberalism; and if we are to trust in the will of the populace, we will certainly have to learn how to gauge it. A decade ago the US and its conservative and unimaginative citizens attempted to impose their form of democracy on the many new democracies emerging from Stalinist or militarist rule around the world, and whether this more represented arrogant eagerness or defensive anxiousness I am not completely certain. This has left many of the new democracies crippled with governments that are divided not once or even twice but three or four times. Our own system gives us school boards, city councils, county commissions, local and city and county magistrates (including mayors and sheriffs and judges), two provincial chambers, several provincial magistrates (including governors and judges), the federal house, the federal senate, and the great tribune of the people, all independently elected and vying for power. At the federal level, we have a house elected geographically and thus denying a large fraction, up to half, of the district electorates representation at even the lowest level; a senate whose members are given equal voice regardless of the size of their constituencies; a supreme court appointed for life; and an executive branch headed by a president chosen not by direct popular vote, but by a byzantine formula which, we are forced to acknowledge now, is a deliberate thwart to the will of the electorate.
And if we amend the constitution any time soon, it will be to prohibit burning cloth of a particular design. Aren’t we marvelous.
© O.T. FORD
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