What's the Hurry? 

What's the Hurry?

As theater went, this past giddy post-election week in Florida has lacked very little. Sturm und drang, nail-biting suspense, courtroom dramatics, even the pathos of Holocaust survivors realizing the horror of their having voted inadvertently for Pat Buchanan, the only bona fide Hitler groupie among modern American politicians. Oh, and Jesse Jackson.

Only the leading players have been unsuitable-- Dubya with his gigantic bandaged boil (probably psychogenic) and Gore with that silly pasted-on smile at his Monday non-press-conference press conference. (Oh well, what do they say about growth in office?)

The press and the rest of the politicians have for the most part been superb-- something like a well-directed cast of extras in one of those vintage DeMille spectacles with a moral lesson at its core.

But lookit, villainy and disingenuousness are to be expected of the pols in such a drama. Of course, it's churlish for Bush and Karen Hughes and James Baker to strain so hard to prevent punchcard ballots being examined closely to determine if machines missed the attampted votes in them. People Before Machines is a mantra no would-be public servant should need to be coached in, even if you're desperate to protect your lead.

Nor do we doubt that, the tables being turned, the Democrats would be acting with the same measure of deviousness.

But, hark, what is this?: "Another week and no more. By next weekend, a group of scholars and senior politicians interviewed this weekend agreed, the presidential race of 2000 must be resolved, without recourse to the courts. With remarkable unanimity, they said that would be in the nation's best interests and, in the last analysis, those of the candidates, Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas. . . ."

This solemn pronouncement is the lead item in a longish Page One article in Monday's New York Times by the well-Established R.W. Apple, and it carries all the harrumph-harrumph no-brooking-dissent authority of journalism's Good Gray Lady. And, as the article develops, there is no letup in its dogmatic certainties.

Well, with all due respect to Mr. Apple and his no doubt estimable group of scholars and senior politicians, they can take their remarkable unanimity and put it where the moon don't shine.

As it happens, democracy in general and elections in particular are not about unanimity, remarkable or otherwise. They are exercises in decision-making via diversity, and it is for this reason that supporters of the Gore-Lieberman ticket would be well advised to put aside their understandable wrath concerning the possibly lethal raids of the extraneous Mr. Nader upon their voter base.

And what is this dubious insistence on "another week" and no more all about? As the Constitution is now writ, there is a break of between five and six weeks between a presidential election and the date when electors from the 50 states are expected to gather in Washington to express the will of their constituents. And after that date another five weeks passes before the newly elected president is actually sworn in.

Clearly, these elongated timetables came into being to serve an earlier age of poorer transportation and less rapid communication. In the age of jet-lag and universal television and the Internet it serves no great purpose to wait around so long, as if to let the rains die down for the labored passage of a stagecoach or a mailwagon.

The fact is, however, that, because of this residual archaism, we have all the time in the world and no reason whatsoever for hurrying to bring about a presidential transition. Mr. Bush has already made it obvious, through a couple of ill-staged photo ops, that he is so far down the line of creating his cabinet that it would take him maybe twenty minutes at tops to complete the job. And Mr. Gore needs only move his office down the hall, as it were.

Given the importance of the decision we are in the process of making-- and, for that matter, the pure consciousness-raising fun we're all having in this delicious unanticipated overtime (more than in the four previous quarters put together)-- how dare someone presume to tell us "another week and no more!"

The Republicans have so far disadvantaged themselves by missing deadlines that might have allowed them, too, to catch up with the Democrats in filing for recounts in Florida and elsewhere. It's all right with us if those deadlines are waived to give Republicans their own shot at accuracy in close states or in areas known to favor the GOP. This is not about one party's taking advantage of another, nor is it about the preferences of scholars or the convenience of politicians, senior or otherwise.

This is an affair of the people. It goes by the name of democracy, and we'll take our sweet time counting the votes, thank you, on the not-so-quaint premise that every vote cast in a free election needs to be counted, and counted correctly.

(You can write Jackson Baker at Baker@memphisflyer.com.)

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