Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recount, Florida 2000, and Florida 2008

Just saw a bit about the new movie, Recount, about the Florida recount debacle. If I had HBO, I'd certainly be watching it on Sunday.

However, I've noticed a certain theme in recent discussions that is an attempt to analogize the current problems with Florida (and Michigan) to the problems of 2000. Try as I might, I just can't see any important similarity.

The Democratic position was pretty much right in the recount debacle, and the Republican position was pretty much wrong. The Democrats' guiding idea went something like this: Count every vote. The Republicans' guiding idea went something like this: Give us the f*cking Presidency. Now. I frequently worry that historical accounts will be stripped of the all-important feel and tone of things at the time. The pervasive vibes coming from the Republican side were of insistence, stridency, dogmatism, dishonesty and attempted intimidation. The Dems didn't handle things perfectly, but in the main their actions were defensible, and sometimes even noble. Nothing like that can be said of the Republicans.

But back to the point at hand: there seems to be no resemblance to the Florida(/Michigan) question of today. Florida and Michigan Democrats broke the party rules (even if FL Dems took cover behind the GOP, and pretended they were innocent victims). The consequences were fair and known ahead of time. And everybody else pulled their names from the ballots and refrained from campaigning. Only Clinton cheated.

Some Hillaristas are now adopting the "count every vote" battle cry as their own, and analogizing their problems to those of Florida in 2000. But this is dishonest, and the analogy a bad one. In the debacle of 2000, there were real, legal votes that the Republicans tried to keep from being counted, in clear violation of Florida law, and of precedent associated with punch-card voting machines. Everyone closely associated with that method of voting knew that machine counts were approximations, and that hand counts were more accurate. Everyone, the GOP and Bushies included, had tacitly accepted the precedent of hand counts for close cases. But when the GOP saw that this was no longer in their interest, they launched a massive disinformation campaign to portray hand counts as inaccurate and (their word) "subjective." This was false--and known to be false--by everyone including the manufacturers of the machines in question.

In 2000, there were legal votes that were not counted. Today, the votes of voters in Florida and Michigan are more like illegal votes than they are like uncounted legal votes. All parties agreed from the beginning that votes cast under such conditions would not be counted. It's rather as if I'd set up an impromptu voting station in my barn and then demanded that the votes cast there be counted. The Clinton camp now wants to change the rules post facto. In this respect, they are more like the Republicans of 2000 than they are like the Democrats of 2000. "Count every vote" here seems to mean "count all the votes, legal and illegal," which is, needless to say, a very peculiar battle cry indeed.

Among the many reasons that this is angrifying is this one: it demeans the memory of the recount of 2000, during which real principles were at stake, and were trampled. In 2000, Republicans trampled on important American democratic principles; in 2008, the Clinton camp is twisting and devaluing the memory of that crime for political gain.

We should not have let the GOP get away with what they got away with in 2000. The least we can do is insist that Clinton not pull us all further into the muck by twisting the history of that crime for political gain.


Blogger Jim Bales said...


You post:
"Florida and Michigan Democrats broke the party rules (even if FL Dems took cover behind the GOP, and pretended they were innocent victims)"

I'm not certain what you mean with your parenthetical comment. It is my understanding that the Republican-dominated FL legislature set the primary date, and that the FL Democratic party had no say in the matter. What is your understanding?

10:50 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I thought we had established that the tape showed the FL Dem leader giving the GOP the old nudge-nudge-wink-wink?

10:36 AM  

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