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Jewish World Review Nov. 16, 2000/ 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


In the end, the winner
may be loser

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
ON THE BRIGHT SIDE of this electoral lunacy, Americans are engaged as they haven't been since O.J.'s trial. We may have a culturally split country, but in our neighborhoods, we have community.

And civics! From the pedicure chair to the grocery store line, everybody is talking about politics. Suddenly the meter reader is a scholar on the electoral college and the postman has an opinion on recounts and injunctions. It's all cheerily reminiscent of 1999 when we all learned the word "niggardly."

Remember poor whatshisname of the District of Columbia, who described his new budget as "niggardly" then resigned in the heated aftermath because somebody hadn't done their vocabulary homework. Never mind that the word means stingy, which everyone now knows. It just sounded so bad. (His name, for you trivia hounds, was David Howard and he was head of D.C.'s Office of Public Advocate.)

Likewise, this election seems bad, but maybe it's good after all. Suddenly, the electoral process has been made real and interesting. We now know that our votes do count, right down to the last pinpoint of light shining through the last tiny hole Palm Beach County voters meant to punch. If a week ago we were characterized by indecision, today we're the kid waving his hand with the answer.

Not that all commentary has been brilliant. My favorite overheard remark: "Since nobody won the election, who's in charge?" So we still have a little homework to do.

Meanwhile, despite the Third World feel to the election at times, a crisis this is not. Yes, we're politically polarized, but we've had worse crises. Assassinations come to mind. As do questions of executive privilege during the Nixon era. How about sex scandals in the Clinton White House? By comparison, this is a national holiday, as well as affirming evidence that our government process, though imperfect, works and sustains the grandest human experiment in modern history.

As for our critics abroad, who cares? The United States, for all its flaws and idiosyncrasies, is hard at work doing the nearly impossible, keeping the melting pot at a manageable simmer while the rest of the world chuckles smugly at our inadequacies. In the scheme of things, this is a slip on the banana peel. Let them laugh while the big dog eats.

Right now, we have a rare opportunity to rally as the nation we wish to be, to remember who we are and, possibly, to aspire to greatness. But we need a statesman to guide us through this last leg, which means someone really does have to go home.

Ironically, the winner this time may be the real loser. Whoever "wins" this final tally faces an unpleasant tenure, unrelenting public scrutiny and resentment from the losing side, as well as a predictably grid-locked Congress. Barring a war or drastic economic shake-up that he miraculously manages, whoever wins this time is unlikely to see a second term.

The man who leaves town, on the other hand, exits with a blinding halo, a great and generous man. The leader we suddenly wish we had? While his former foe spends the next four years running in mud, the "loser" assumes Ronald Reagan's old role and sagely seduces a nation from the sidelines.

Come 2004, the lucky loser re-emerges fresh and rested to save us from the mess we got ourselves in. The statesman, whoever he may be, might rather lose this one and return as the muse to this newly educated and ballot-savvy electorate.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

Up

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