There was a letter to the editor in a recent issue of Newsweek from a gentleman in Africa who berated America for purporting to teach democracy to the world while not being able to get our own elections right. He went on at some length about the spectacle we were creating and what this did to our credibility.
With all due respect to this gentleman from that hotbed of democracy known as Africa, let me just say “poppycock!” Not only has America always been the best example this world could ever have about how a democracy should work, but this recent three-ring circus in Florida is an example of just how good and strong a real democracy can be.
For proof I point to the fact that our military is not in the street forcibly keeping the peace between the Gore and Bush camps. The only military on our streets were there as participants in Thanksgiving Day parades around the nation. Clinton has not declared martial law and appointed himself president for life or until he decides otherwise. Crowds of Americans are not milling in the streets ready to revolt if their candidate doesn’t ultimately get declared president. The only milling being done is by crowds waiting for the mall to open so they can finish their Christmas shopping. Instead of pulling money out of the banks and stuffing it under our mattresses in case anarchy results from the indecision, we are merely transferring out money from out bank account to the stores’ profit margins.
Most people I talk to are more interested in sharing tales of their wonderful Thanksgiving holiday than in trying to guess who will be our new president. If it is discussed, there is usually some rolling of the eyes at the number of lawyers who are now involved. But there is a basic trust in our electoral system, a basic belief that our judicial process is fair and that eventually we’ll be told who the winner is – though most people agree that the word winner is not quite the right word to use for whichever candidate prevails. The overwhelming sentiment, politics aside, seems to be that come January 20th, either Gore or Bush will be sworn in and we will continue to go about our daily business none the worse for the process that got us to that point.
So I’d like to suggest to this gentleman from Africa, and to anyone else in the world who thinks this process lessens America, that in fact it shows our greatest strength. Ultimately we believe in our government even if we don’t always agree with it. We expect that the losing candidate will respect the decision of the court and gracefully go into exile while awaiting his turn in four years.
Even if he didn’t, he’d be hard pressed to work up a rebellion to change the out come. Most of us figure that if we don’t like the final decision, we’ll just work harder to help our candidate win next time. And during those four years, the losing side will lay the blame for everything that goes wrong with our lives and America at the foot of the winning side while the winner’s supporters blame the opposition for never giving the president a chance. Because that’s the American way. Meanwhile there is Christmas shopping to be done. So call me when they finally declare a winner. I’ll be in the downy vest aisle at K-Mart.
If that isn’t what a true democracy is all about, I don’t know what is.