Madison County Opinion...

 November 29, 2000


Column
By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
November 29, 2000

Frankly Speaking

'A frightful despotism'
Readers, be warned that my analysis of the 2000 election fiasco will take several columns.
Where shall I begin? A quote from our first president, George Washington, is in order. In his farewell address, Washington warned against the formation of political parties:
"The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism."
His warning has certainly been proven correct in this election. Tune in to any of the popular radio or TV talk shows and listen for a while. You will hear caller after caller making the most outrageous, unproven accusations against one side or the other. The anger and hatred that fills the airways will make any reasonable person sick at his stomach.
The candidates do not help. They or their campaigns promote these attacks by scurrilous telephone calls, misinformation, distortion of records and outright lies. They target voters who were victims of an educational system that failed to teach students to think for themselves. One side of the current election accused the other of "saying anything to get elected." That statement applies equally to both.
How can we change this outrageous political behavior? We have to break the grip that political partisanship has on our public life. Two steps would go a long way toward that goal. First, break up the concentration of power in Washington by returning governing authority to the states where it belongs. Second, we must reform ballot access rules that make it difficult for independent and alternative party candidates to run effective campaigns.
Our founding fathers designed this nation as a union of sovereign states. State and local governments had the responsibility to provide public services to the citizens. Each state was free to establish rules of government that matched the will of its citizens. The federal government was given very limited responsibilities that included common defense, common currency, foreign relations and a judiciary to solve disputes between states. A return to this system would create 50 centers of power, not the single massive concentration of power that is Washington D.C.
By distributing power, we are immune to the super ego of the people who lead the major parties. Concentrations of power will always attract people who are greedy for power. If power is dispersed, it is more difficult for megalomaniacs to satisfy their political greed.
If we open the ballot to independent and minor party candidates, we give the people a greater opportunity to make their ideas known. With independent and minor party representation in government, the major parties will be forced to cooperate with them, and each other, in order to form an effective government.
I can see no end to the bitter partisan fighting between the major parties until both are reduced in size and power. George Washington was right. The major political parties are the source of most of the problems in America today.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at www.mcga.net. His email address is frankg@mcga.net.



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Column
By Margie Richards
The Madison County Journal
November 29, 2000

A Moment With Margie

Let's move on
It's time once again to put up the Christmas decorations, get the holiday shopping and cooking done, and get ready to face another year.
And what a year it's shaping up to be.
With the presidential election results still up in the air (as of this writing anyway), it makes us all feel a bit unsettled, no matter who we voted for.
I find myself more concerned not so much with who will be our next president, but how all this could affect us as a nation long term.
These are unsettling times.
But alas, life is a learning process and let's hope we can all learn something from this mess.
For one thing, I think we should all appreciate the fact that we sat up and took notice of the election process and learned that our votes are important. And how many of us spent Thanksgiving discussing our political process instead of television shows or ball games?
In addition, how many of our children have spent time discussing government issues instead of rock groups and sports events?
But as the most powerful nation in the world, it is important that we do not appear weak, or to stumble. The fiasco of the past three weeks has made us the butt of jokes around the world and it is important for us to present a united front as soon as possible.
Yes, it is democracy at work in theory, but in reality it appears to be a tangled mish mash of attacks and counterattacks by both political parties.
Throw a bunch of attorneys into the fray, along with the national media, and we've got enough separate agendas going on to paralyze the whole process.
First of all, the national network media must take responsibility for some of this situation. In their rush to project state winners on election nights they inadvertently affected the outcome of this and other presidential elections as well.
They are shirking their responsibility to the people when they announce and "guess" about results in a particular state or the nation before they know for sure, sometimes even before polls close.
And more thought should be given on how those announcements and projections affect voters on the west coast.
Secondly, as a country, we have been caught with our collective pants down. Long ago our government officials should have taken steps to modernize and expedite our voting system. There should now be a call for a uniform voting system nationwide that eliminates guess-work when it comes to counting ballots.
Absentee ballots in all states should be required to be in by election day, if not before - not days after.
Firm rules should be set up to deal with contested results that leave no room for misinterpretation.
It's no time to start figuring things out when everyone is in the midst of a stressful situation, but rather when cooler heads prevail.
As I have felt from the beginning, the longer this situation goes on, the more damage it does to our country and to the ability of the next president, whoever he turns out to be, to lead the nation.
Heightened political infighting and mistrust, coupled with signs of a slowing economy, will make the job of the next president, whether Bush or Gore, even more difficult.
Everything is so fever-pitched that it sometimes seems everyone most connected with the candidates has completely lost sight of the "bigger picture" and is overwhelmed by the idea of their candidate being the loser by such a minuscule amount of votes.
Quote of the week: a local paper quoted newly elected U.S. Senator Zell Miller last week as saying "no pregnant chad should be aborted."
Now I'm hoping Miller made that statement tongue in cheek. I would hate to think he was being serious and did not realize what he was saying.
And who had ever even heard of a "chad"? How many of us could have imagined that the election would come down to those little tabs Florida voters were supposed to punch out when they voted.
I cringe every time I see a tape of poll workers holding those cards to the light to determine "voter intent." Excuse me, but if it's not immediately obvious what was intended, that vote should be discarded.
And those voters threatening to sue should be ashamed.
Thousands of people here in Georgia were denied the right to vote when they showed up at the polls and found they were not on voter lists after they had registered as a "motor voter."
True, the argument can be made that they should have called when they didn't receive confirmation of their registration in the mail. But by the same token, those voters who were confused at the polls should have taken the initiative to understand the ballot before they arrived at the polling place - after all, copies of it were approved by both Democrats and Republicans, ran in local papers and even mailed out to registered voters.
The right to vote, like everything else, carries with it some responsibilities.
I wonder how many of Georgia's votes were thrown out due to either problems with ballots, machines, or human error. Surely Florida was not the only state that experienced difficulties that day - it's just the one caught in the spotlight.
Yes, it is important to get an "accurate count" or as accurate a count as we can get - but it's just as important that we move past this point in our history, unite under our new leader, and move on.
Enough already.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison County Journal.


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