The Madison County Journal
November 29, 2000
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Quote of the week: a local paper quoted newly elected U.S. Senator
Zell Miller last week as saying "no pregnant chad should
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
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
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.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for the Madison