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Election Notes 2000

by Jon Lebkowsky

Just before the turn of the millennium we hold an election and all hell breaks loose. It was too friggin' close, and that's one of the mysteries that pundits are trying to fathom, that hair's breadth difference between the final tallies for the two major parties. As I write this, the Republicans are implying that Democrats are trying to steal the election and vice versa, and there's a bunch of folks who think Ralph Nader was the real thief, even though he lost the election, even failed to make his 5% target to legitimize the Greens as a third party. He did show sufficient power to block Gore's victory: "I'll show those goddam Democrats...."

Who knows why the election was close? It appears that voter turnout was up, and it just happened that the half or so of the electorate that chose to vote was split 50-50. The other half is mysterious as ever. Nonvoters are so assertively silent about their intentions. I can imagine how either candidate might be haunted by those numbers they might have produced had they pushed the right buttons, toured the right states, roused the right amount of ire or fired the right amount of inspiration to move those folks to the polls.

In fact neither candidate was particularly inspiring. They evidenced no particular charisma or compelling vision. They're a couple of political hacks, is all. Gore was clearly uncomfortable with himself, and Bush perhaps too comfortable with himself despite his evident lack of knowledge and experience and his inability to make peace with the English language.

I wasn't gonna vote, I thought. Or perhaps I would vote for Nader, though as the campaigns ran on I was increasingly unimpressed with his performance. In the end he seemed unwilling or unable to grasp the problem with his candidacy: in a remarkably close race, he was ready to ensure that the candidate who was both viable and sensitive to environmental issues, Gore, would lose. This seemed pretty weird, given the probability that a Bush victory would bring four years of executive hostility to the Greens' cause. Gore may be mediocre, but he represents a mediocrity that will not push for drilling rights in national parks.

In the end I voted for Gore, who seemed okay. Merely okay. But I didn't have the feeling that he would be indifferent to environmental issues, I knew that he was hip to global warming, more so than many legislators and completely unlike George W. Bush, who calls the concerns of scientists, environmentalists, and Viridians premature, even though a global coalition of scientists have just announced that we are probably too late to reverse the human contribution to the problem, even though the polar ice caps show signs of melting, even though we've experienced extremes of weather strangeness unlike any in recorded history.

As I write this, it's been a week since the election and I still don't know who's won. Like so many folks, I've been surfing the postelection drama, listening to CNN, dropping into chat rooms and online forums and watching the ascii flow... mostly vitriolic partisan comments from either side. The Republicans seem particularly vicious and misleading as they try to make real a victory that seems no way certain at this point. It occurs to me that Bush is insufficiently forward-looking to see the problem his staff and supporters are creating. He didn't win the popular vote and because the election's irregularities occurred in a state governed by his brother; those two facts alone would haunt his presidency, along with his arrogant attempts to assume a result before it is certain.

Gore and his people have realized after initial squawks that a quieter approach is better, and Gore's laid low except for one appearance November 13... he seemed a little weird, giggling nervously as he made his points. Okay, maybe it was more chortle than giggle, but whatever it was, it was weird. And at this point everybody was getting weird or worse. But predictable: I could say the word "election" and wait for the response... "They're trying to steal the election" was ambiguous, but "They'll keep counting until they get the result they want" was definitely a Republican sentiment, and "James Brady is one evil motherfucker" seemed to imply the speaker was a Democrat.

In the midst of all this, CNN revealed that George Bush wanted to stay home so bad that he was hauling his pillow with him as he hopped hither and yon along the campaign trail. Even weirder: George W. is Linus with a drawl, and I couldn't help feeling sorry for him, a West Texas kid just like me, caught up in the evil machinations of the political world.

When this is all over, I'm gonna buy a couple of night lights, one for me and one for Dubya.

b i o :
Jon Lebkowsky has been soaking in Internet culture and community for the last decade. He's served as community host/moderator for the WELL, Electric Minds, and HotWired. He has written technoculture articles and rants for Wired Magazine, Whole Earth Review, The Austin Chronicle, 21C, Factsheet Five, Mondo 2000, and other publications, and was the "consciousness" sub-domain editor of The Millennium Whole Earth Catalog. As co-founder and former CEO of FringeWare, Inc., he was a pioneer in electronic commerce and its relationship to online community. An Internet activist, he was actively involved in initiatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Global Internet Liberty Campaign. He recently served as Online Community Director for and Web Technology Director for


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