The Common Good
January-February 2001

Electoral Shock

by Ed Spivey Jr. | January-February 2001

At press time our nation hung in the balance.

At press time our nation hung in the balance. Evenly split between opposing sides, we waited to see what the outcome would be, and prayed that our divisiveness would somehow resolve into a clear choice between "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" or "Survivor II."

Coincidentally, the presidential election had similar problems, which by now have all been worked out, resulting in the Oval Office being occupied by one of the following:
• a tickled George W. Bush ("Say, is this Corinthian leather?" Staff: "Sir, pay attention, please!")
• a confident Al Gore ("My first priority is to kiss my wife." Staff: "Actually, that's no longer necessary, Mr. President.")
• or, and I speak with the hope of an entire nation, it could be...Alexander Haig ("I TOLD you I was in charge!")

As I write this, vote counters in Florida are still painstakingly tabulating—in many cases, by hand—the numerous flecks of vitriol spewing from the mouth of Republican spokesman James Baker. Additionally, officials in at least six Florida counties have been unable to account for the mysterious loss of several inches of height from Democratic spokesman Warren Christopher.

The fear, of course, is that no matter who wins the presidency, he will be ineffective in leading a bitterly partisan Congress unable to achieve anything of significance. No wait. That was last year.

This whole electoral mess was, in my opinion, caused by the state of Florida which, geographically speaking, has always been the one kid in class who'll do anything to get attention. While the other states nestle closely together in relative harmony, Florida sticks its neck out, looking like a complete doofus trying to touch the equator. ("I can almost reach it!") Let's face it, Florida is the unwanted uvula of the continental United States, the little hangy-down part of our electoral discontent.

And the people in Florida are no help, since most don't even know how they got there. Take my parents, for example. Just a few years ago they were happy in their nice little home in southern Indiana, mom in the kitchen baking treats, dad in the backyard innocently firing his air rifle at the neighbor's cat. And then one evening, large unmarked vans from the AARP pulled up, shoved them and their belongings inside, and forcibly relocated them to Florida (where the AARP has systematically placed every senior citizen in the country, mainly to reduce mailing costs).

Of course, not every senior in Florida is to blame for the mismarked ballots and other voting irregularities that turned this nation's presidential election into what the founders never envisioned: something really interesting.

Nope. It was my dad's fault.

He admitted as much during his weekly phone call reminding me how much money he spent to raise me. On election day he accidentally wandered into a polling place thinking it was the starter's hut at the golf course. After looking for a foursome, he picked up a ballot and, anticipating another good day on the links, scribbled down his score for the front nine and dropped it in the ballot box. This caused a chain reaction whereby many seniors assumed they needed to write their golf scores and their blood pressure levels in the little squares to the right of Al Gore's name. Unless they voted for Buchanan, in which case they just filled in the little devil face.

And the rest is history. (Or is it geography?)

In fairness, that kind of random, forgetful behavior is my father's only fault. At age 77, he is still taller, stronger, and decidedly better looking than me, and he takes great pleasure in shaking my hand so firmly that I'm forced, once again, to flee into the comforting arms of my mother, while he taunts me from the next room: "Well, there goes MOMMA'S BOY again! Hahahahaha!" Granted, this hasn't happened in more than a year, and I feel I've grown up a lot since then.

But back to this voting thing. The real problem is that the election was held without Super Soakers or badminton rackets, devices that I would have enjoyed seeing Al Gore and George W. Bush use against each other, or at least on James Carville. In fact, if politicians swatting each other were a varsity sport at the Electoral College, maybe more students would enroll there and it might get noticed more than just once every four years.

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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