November 13, 2000
The ruling party attempts to hold on to power by overturning an election result through the courts. The opposition claim that serious irregularities were occurring in a number of other parts of the country. Opposition voters have been refused ballots. Ballot boxes in pro-government areas mysteriously "appear" during the count. Homeless people are bribed to vote for the governing party. Pro government immigrants are put on the voter's roll. This is not Serbia, but the world's richest democracy.
Of course, what I wrote above was a cliché, but it has become a cliché precisely because of the element of truth. Other clichés have included Zimbabwe and Russia offering to send observers to American elections. To an extent, this is ridiculous. The elections in Zimbabwe may not have been entirely rigged but there was a large amount of background violence. This is just the grinding of an unbelievably close election over a large nation. Moreover, for a constitutional crisis that threatens the whole of the executive branch of government it is being carried out in a far more civilised manner than would happen in say, Russia.
Of course, this is the worst possible result for the war party. Gore's hunger for intervention or Bush's reliance on advisers were the only real issues before the vote. Now everything has changed. Whoever wins (and I still think that Gore will come through more of that later) will be an unpopular President vulnerable to the charge that he has overturned the will of the people. This will not go down well. Gore criticises Serbian elections, and Serbs laugh. Gore expresses concern at reports of voter intimidation in Zimbabwe, and gets the reply "you should know." The moral case for enforcing the spread of democracy is not dead, but it has a very large image problem. Similarly, no mandate can be inferred from the American people for sending troops who knows where. Bill Daley and the assorted band of crooks around Al Gore now have done more good than they can know by fatally weakening the patriotic credentials of their candidate.
Confusion and the appearance of corruption are making the American election a laughing stock around the world. It is simply not true that the American process is massively corrupt but when going through to the last few hundred votes, large print ballots can suddenly take on a massive importance. The sheer size of America means that there are going to be rotten boroughs somewhere Philadelphia to take a completely random example. Only the closeness of this election has shown this up. It must also be said that Al Gore is deeply corrupt by American standards although he would appear honest in most new democracies. Nevertheless, to say "oh well this is the way things are done" here may be accurate but it is not enough. If you excuse imperfection in yourself and not in others then you are being a hypocrite. America no longer can claim to be the yardstick for how a democracy should work.
Now I wanted Bush before, but this election is so tainted and poisoned that a Gore presidency does not seem so bad. Think about it, with the opposition party controlling congress, and believing (justifiably) cheated, paralysis will not come close to describing his situation. I also want Gore to win in a certain way. I want him to win either through the courts or through a contested recount, and at the same time I want Bush ahead in the popular vote through the (suspiciously uncounted) absentee ballots. Gore will be a lame duck President from the inauguration. Oh, and did I mention the coming recession? Gore's going to be barbecued.
America herself will still be strong, Microsoft will still produce fabulous and affordable software, Hollywood will still produce mindless but entertaining muck and the Internet will carry on. This, though, is not the side of America that has so shaken the world in the last ten years. The American government that has done that and a dose of paralysis will at least take out that most destabilising element. A weaker American government means a safer planet.
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