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Can anyone run an election?
I have just recovered from election burnout. It took me two years. The nightmarish fall of 2000 was enough of a downer to turn any squeaky idealist into a bitter cynic. After working for the Ralph Nader campaign and watching him sputter out to 3%, the end result was an America divided right down the middle between the two frontrunners. Then, the results came in, or rather didn’t. There was no president-elect. There was no acceptance speech. The heavyweights would fight their match in court, and make their case on live TV.
I was forced to learn of dimpled chads and Florida State election laws. I watched MSNBC with voyeuristic intensity, spending hour after hour learning of recounts and vote boxes, absentee ballots and lawsuits, while the supporters of George W Bush and Albert Gore fought it out in the streets like frenzied cocks, all the while waving their signs to the television cameras. Count Every Vote? You bet.
I couldn’t turn away from the election, even as it dragged on into December 2000. The kicker was that I found both Bush and Gore to be vacant and trite. I knew that one of the two men would win their idiotic contest, and that was the toughest pill of all.
Through all of this, I kept my eyes on the television and newspapers. Beyond the swamp of the “too close to call” race, I wanted to know how the ideal of the free election played out on the ground. Would an American Eagle sweep down and place an olive branch over the a winner? Would a candidate win or lose because someone in need of Viagra couldn’t get his poker all the way through his ballot?
Ultimately, I gave up on the 2000 race. It was eating my brain, bite by bite, and I felt that I had better things to do with my time than stew over a lost campaign, like drinking.
Then, two years later, I found myself at the University of Louisville amidst an SGA campaign so ugly that Richard Nixon would have cried foul. A candidate’s car was robbed of campaign material. Posters were destroyed. Leaflets were passed to students that made charges of everything short of membership in the Nazi Party.
The election of the 2002-2003 SGA, an organization that rarely done more than organize picnics, became the end all, be all confrontation against racism and the evils that go along with it.
Before I could vote, I signed my name into a register at the specified polling station. But, before I could draw open the blue curtain, I was blocked by a woman who asked to see my Cardinal Card, which I had avoided getting thus far. Apparently, my Driver’s License and the presence of my name in the Arts and Science list of students was not enough. I needed THE CARDINAL CARD: the only form of identification that is safe from forgery or misuse. I felt like I was trapped in the pages of a Christian novel about the End Times, where the Anti-Christ demands that everyone be implanted with an ID chip for tracking purpose.
I sold out, got my photo taken, and voted. And then, the results came in.
Ladies and gentlemen, the University of Louisville is no better than West Palm Beach, Florida. Again, the voting process was riddled with problems: voting stations closing early/late, lost ballots miraculously discovered, the wrong names of election winners announced to the press. Is the answer a re-vote? My God, I hope not, but this may indeed be the case.
Maybe this whole notion of democracy should close up shop. It may not be possible for a group of individuals to add up votes in an informed, civilized manner. Plato believed in philosopher-kings. Maybe it’s time for the emergence of the enlightened dictator, who will guide us through the hard times, without unneeded elections slowing him down.
I nominate Sir Paul McCartney.
Chaz Martin is a senior history major and opinion editor for
The Cardinal. firstname.lastname@example.org