November 10, 2000


The subject of today's column was supposed to have been the current crisis that has us all mesmerized – the inability of the American political system to generate a clear winner in the presidential election. But I find myself unable to write about it, for two reasons.

First of all, events have yet to play themselves out to the point where rational commentary is possible. Much depends on the result of the Florida re-count – and the reaction of the losers. Secondly, there is something so profoundly disturbing about this turn of events – not the closeness of the election, but the response to it by both parties and the media – that I find myself paralyzed by disgust.

The spectacle of the scramble for power, and the gleeful coverage by the American media, has a circus-like quality about it: I cannot help but think that this is what it must have been like in the last days of the old Roman republic, just before the rise of the Caesars.

There is a nightmarish atmosphere about these events. It seems as if the entire facade of our republican institutions has been ripped away, to reveal the naked power relationships: the power of the media, the power of money, the power of the two parties. All this power seems to be overwhelming the rule of law, or even any pretense of it: all that matters is who can scream the loudest, and who has the most expensive lawyers. How the Founders must be turning over in their graves.

My sense of revulsion at all this should have percolated into a white-hot anger by Sunday evening, but for now I can only sit back, and watch, in horrified fascination as the American republic unravels. Tune in Monday: Hopefully I will have gathered my thoughts, and found my voice, by then.

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