12: Electoral D-day
GYLLIAN CHRISTIANSEN, STAFF WRITER
What does the date December 12 mean to you? Some of
you might flip open your little black agenda books and find that it signifies
the last day in a row that is neatly framed with the pink highlighter
you decided to use to designate "Reading Week," which comes right before
the neat transition into the use of the green highlighter border that
signifies "exam period," which is followed by an explosion of metallic
silver-pen snowflakes surrounding a swirly-lettered "December Break, Hooray!"
For those of you whose little black agenda books have
become the thing in the bottom of your bag that questionable trash sticks
to, December 12 will likely involve sitting in a dimly lit desk in H&L,
stubbornly trying to decipher notes from early October through drool smears
and doodles of your professor as a giant Mr. Coffee Maker.
And if the words "little," "black," and "book" only
conjure up a brilliant Heidi Fleiss joke you heard once, well, you'll
likely be coming to the tail end of the gauntlet of partying destined
to turn "reading week" into "reading-seventeen-minutes-before-the-exam."
Whatever possibilities December 12 might hold for you,
there is one man in America for whom December 12 is very important. It
is on December 12 that the states must pick their electors, and it is
by this rapidly approaching deadline that Vice President Al Gore must
somehow theoretically both win a Florida Supreme Court appeal and count
a daunting number of ballots.
There doesn't seem to be any fear that the political
cliffhanger leading up to this date will severely distract from the pursuit
of Bowdoin students' various reading week activities. And it's not that
they are apathetic or don't care, or even that they are particularly bored
with the affair.
It's just that most students seemed to have accepted
that Bush is going to be the next president, relegating Gore's desperate
attempts to the realm of ignorable sideshow spectacle. For much of the
nation, the deciding moment came when the United States Supreme Court
ruled in favor of the Bush campaign on Monday.
Under one of the harshest public spotlights in recent
memory, the Court did everything right, with each aspect of the proceeding
providing a refreshing contrast to the antics which had characterized
the campaign and election so far. The Court released audiotapes, giving
the proceedings an open and inclusive feel, while simultaneously maintaining
the Court's mystique.
And as off-putting as solemnity of the judges' red
velvet curtains and oak-lined private chambers might be, they were a relief
after a campaign that gleefully exposed every gold star and pimple the
candidates had ever produced.
They ruled at near light-speed in "Supreme Court" time,
and no mention need really be made of how long this election has felt
in comparison. Most importantly, the Court avoided falling into one of
its typical 5-4 voting patterns, which would have only served to mirror
the narrow divisions and petty squabbling present in both the presidential
and congressional elections. Instead they issued an unsigned opinion as
a single, just, judicial organism, and even refused to interfere with
the autonomy of the state of Florida any more than they absolutely had
Everyone, from compassionate conservatives to flag-patterned,
bra-burning liberals, from the Rockefellers to the rock-bottomers, from
the soccer moms to the soccer balls, could take some comfort and invest
confidence in the Court's exquisite non-decision.
"But wait!" you might be thinking right now, "I thought
Gore's support was stronger than ever. Why, there has been new evidence
that Gore will eventually be able to claim a victory in Florida of tens
of thousands of votes." And, "Isn't this the first time throughout the
campaign when the Democrats have displayed such solidarity?"
Well the truth is that this display is mostly a strategy
based on the assumption that Bush will be elected the next president.
For several reasons, a Bush victory has come to be seen as fairly appealing
among many of even the most loyal Democrats.
First of all, it would obviously end this tiresome
game of tug-o-Florida. Second, the events of the last month have made
Bush's willingness to "reach across the aisles" and compromise with Democrats
an all the more essential component of legitimizing his own presidency.
Gore's tendency to want to have a hand in every aspect of his sprawling
job might have struck some as a more presidential response to governing
than Bush's plan to surrounding himself with brilliant people.
But coupled with the disgust at the extraordinary measures
already undertaken in pursuit of this presidency, this attitude would
likely bring his presidency to an almost complete standstill with the
Republican dominated congress.
The issue which inspired the most passion and fear
in Bowdoin students throughout the election was certainly that of the
US Supreme Court nominations, which seem to be in the hands of the next
It is likely that the compromising spirit inspired
by the electoral contest will spill over from other areas into this one
as well. Bush knows he cant afford to appear to be responsible for the
repeal of Roe v. Wade, at least not if he wants himself or his party to
have any hope of maintaining control after these four years.
Gore's people, however, are banking on the combination
of a looming recession and the martyr currency of Gore dramatically winning
Florida in post-electoral college recounts. For now, Gore is being pressured
to continue by the very unified Democratic supporters who ultimately know
and hope that Bush will win.
Kind of a hard place to be for a vice-president, even
if it is only for another four days. So wherever you are, whoever you
are, take a moment out on December 12 for Gore, and if you're really quiet,
you'll probably be able to hear his trademark sigh all the way here in
Brunswick. Only this time it will be in relief.