Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2012/ 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5773
The morning after
By Paul Greenberg
It's over at last, Now we know. Or do we? The voting may have ended, but the counting continues. Here's hoping that by the time these lines appear in print we'll know who'll be the next president of
Elections are supposed to be provide finality in a democracy, and when they don't, when they just prolong the uncertainty, democracy has been deprived of decision. The country is denied clear leadership, the new president a clear mandate. Nobody wins if nobody wins.
Someone once said that final decisions of the
See the Bush-Gore match of 2000, which went on for 36 days after the polls closed, leaving a residue of distrust. The bitterness of that contest may have faded over the next four years, but it never completely evaporated, continuing to poison the political atmosphere.
As with other bitterly disputed presidential elections -- like those of 1876 and 1824 -- the result was continued division rather than the unity and consensus an election is supposed to give a republic. In 2000, the indecision went on for 36 days of legal wrangling and bad feelings.
Between election night and the
After every such hotly disputed election, there are calls to reform the electoral system. Its problems are evident, but the remedy for them remains unclear. The great challenge of all such discussions in not to point out the probems with the country's electoral system, but to propose a better one. And each alternative to it has its own problems.
With all its faults and eccentricities, a better electoral system than this one, which dates back to the 18th century and the founding fathers, has yet to be suggested, or at least win enough support to be adopted. So the country struggles on with its time-tested
Like democracy itself, the present electoral system may be the worst ever devised -- except for all the others. At least its dangers have been explored and debated time and again, complete with object lessons, while any theoretical substitute might work better only in theory.
And so Americans stick with the devil we know, rather than switch to an alternative untried by tested by history. Even at the risk of extending the tumult and uncertainty of a presidential campaign for another 36 days. Or longer.
People do get carried away. And the final days of the campaign do little to ease our spirits. On the contrary, emotions are roused to a feverish pitch as Americans are told the decision we reach at the polls will be the most important one of our times. Without a clear winner, the furor is just extended.
During the campaign, the election may be depicted by both sides as a final battle between good and evil. "We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future; unheeding of our individual fates; with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord." --
Having been enlisted in so noble a cause, how go back to politics as usual once the votes are in?
The remarkable thing about a hard-fought presidential campaign is not the depth of the passions aroused, but how readily they are soothed afterward. The best defense against allowing the emotions of a presidential campaign to extend beyond
When it comes to continuing the rancor of a presidential campaign the morning after by fighting over the election results, perhaps the fault lies not with our electoral system, but with ourselves -- and how readily we are ruled by our passions.
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