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Jewish World Review Nov. 17, 2000 / 19 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

James Lileks

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Consumer Reports

Chad's the word -- Clever commentators have noted the 50-50 vote split twixt Gore and Bush, and come to a rather novel discovery: we're a divided nation. In a sense, that's true:. We're divided between liberal and conservative, urban and rural, paper and plastic, Coke and Pepsi, Betty vs. Veronica, etc. You say Tomahto, I say Tomato --- but the French say "Pomme de la Terre," and so we put our divisions behind us to jeer the French. We unite, in other words, in time of crisis. But no one's noted the most interesting distinction of them all: We're divided between those who've seen Charlie's Angels, and those who have not.

This is not as ridiculous a point as it seems. The movie is a noisy, enjoyable piece of effervescent drivel that's the perfect antidote for the miserable business of the last week. But it also features a small role by comedian Tom Green, whose character's name has particular resonance:

The Chad.

Really. Green -- who's less amusing than usual in the film, if such a thing is possible -- plays a dim dork who refers to himself in the third person. "Was it The Chad?" he asks when one of the Angels rejects him.

"It might have been the Chad," she replies.

This ought to be the catchphrase of the day, given the prominence The Chad suddenly played in our nation's history. The course of the nation hinged on a tiny piece of paper named after a fish. Armies of highly trained Chad Adjudicators held ballots to the light, making Karnak-like expressions as they discerned the voter's intention from a tiny indentation. Was there a vestigial Chad in the Democrat position? Score one for Gore. Was the ballot perforated a dozen times to create a pattern in the shape of the Big Dipper? Well, Dipper rhymes with Tipper. Score one for Gore. A Chad in the Buchanan spot? Well, as we all know, anyone who voted for Pitchfork Pat obviously meant to vote for Gore. Even if they scrawled DEATH TO THE NEW WORLD ORDER on the ballot.

A Chad in the Nader location? Well, the sorry morons would they'd vote for Gore now, since they've seen what their apostasy has wrought, so let's just save them the trouble.

A hole punched for Bush, clean, right where it should be, with no Chad whatsoever - Look! Over there! It's Elvis! Naked! On a Unicorn! Spitting silver dollars! Oh - guess not. A trick of the light. my, look at this, I spilled black ink all over this stack of ballots. Well, they was for Gore. Trust me.

This is just how we want our elections decided: not by laws, but by Chad Dowsers.

Even when the votes are totaled correctly and the winner is installed in the Oval Office, the nation will still be split. That's hardly news. Half the country was probably disapproving of George Washington, Jefferson and the rest of those crazed right-wing black-carriage types. The nation had a minor disagreement of opinion over whether human beings could be considered property. There was also a bit of a split over the legality of a humble mug of beer. Today, the older half wants the younger half to pick up the cost of their drugs, retirement costs, Winnebago oil changes, etc. If you look closely at the nation, why, we're at each other's throats on a hundred issues.

Good. That's what we want. Lockstep unanimity often leads to late-night rallies with torches and uniforms. But we have to agree on some basic principles, and one of them is the rule of law. Or, to be more specific: whether the law represents an imperfect reflection of a perfect truth - or whether it's just a billyclub to use on your enemies.

The average Democrat believes in the law. They want the law to live up to its own premises of fairness and equality. More and more, however, Dems are led by activists who regard the law as an anachronistic obstruction, a socially constructed concept that merely reflects the needs of the pale-male elite. It has no more inherent legitimacy or moral imperative than a TV schedule. The rules don't matter. What counts is winning the game.

Warren Christopher and other old-school pols believe in winning - but they don't seem to realize, or care, that they're doing spadework for nihilists. There's a wing of the Democrat party that wants everyone arranged by group identity, with all groups orbiting one another in mandatory harmony, feeding off the corpse of whatever economy is left. You can't get there if Bush loosens the leash. You can't get there unless statists keep power by whatever means they can.

When we look back some day, and wonder exactly why the rule of law seems to have been replaced by whims and arbitrary diktats, we can ask: Was it the Chad? It was. Tom Green, Al Gore: our new founders.

JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2000, James Lileks