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The Election Aftermath: Winner To Govern A Divided Country


November 10, 2000
Copyright © 2000 All Rights Reserved.

SAN FRANCISCO - Whether it is George W. Bush or Al Gore who ultimately wins the 2000 presidential race, there’s little doubt the next President will have to govern a bitterly divided country.

To realize just how split the electorate is, one need only to look at the razor-thin vote margins that favor Bush in Florida and Gore in New Mexico.

According to University of Texas at Austin journalism professor Mercedes De Uriarte, the time it has taken to determine a winner clearly exposed fissures in the electorate.

"This is the most dramatic presentation of the division in the popular vote we have seen in my lifetime," said De Uriarte, adding that not even in the close Nixon/Kennedy race did one get "the full drama of division that has emerged with this popular vote."

The question is how the closest election in decades -- decided by a few hundred votes in several states and mired by allegations of voting irregularities in Florida’s Palm Beach county –- will affect the winner's ability to govern the country. Many may doubt the legitimacy of whoever emerges victorious.

"It will be very difficult to claim a mandate," De Uriate argued. "Neither the House nor the Senate will have clear majorities. It will take some skill to be able to govern through that. It will be interesting."

Take for example, Bush’s tax-cut proposal or Gore’s prescription plan for seniors. Many analysts believe that neither candidate would have a good chance of getting such legislation through Congress intact.

De Uriarte isn’t alone in her sentiments.

"I feel sorry for whoever wins the presidency," said San Francisco voter John Lopez. "This country is so split. Whoever wins, it’s split right down the middle."

Texas voter Frank Gonzalez agrees, but he believes that once the election uncertainty is settled and a new President is sworn in, his administration will not be as fragile as some may think.

"Ultimately, I think whoever becomes President will have legitimacy because there is a process by which to resolve these election issues," said Gonzalez, referring to the controversy over a confusing ballot in Palm Beach County and other alleged voting irregularities.

Still, he said Bush jumped the gun in announcing plans for a cabinet before the official certification of the vote recount in Florida.

"I found it arrogant he’s already called himself the winner and talked about appointments to his cabinet," Gonzalez said. "I’d be offended if I were a Floridian. That wasn’t very presidential."

Gonzalez added he voted for Gore, but would feel comfortable with Bush as President as long as the process to determine what happened in Florida is allowed to run its course.

"What’s the hurry?" said Lopez. "The Electoral College doesn’t meet until December 18, and the actual certification of the Florida vote may not be completed until next week."

Neither Lopez nor Gonzalez is thrilled by the likely possibility that Gore may win the popular vote and lose the election to Bush in the Electoral College.

But if that were the outcome, both said Gore would obviously have to concede since that is the law of the land.

"The beauty of our country is that we’re a nation of laws and we have a living constitution," Gonzalez said, adding that whatever questions might arise about the pros and cons of having an Electoral College will have to wait until after the election.

Similarly, Lopez argued that far from weakening his faith in the democratic system, the issues raised by this election constitute "the wonderful things of living in a democracy."

That is, the country’s laws and "regulations will play out to ensure a fair resolution."

Like Lopez, many will no doubt remain fascinated by the most contested election in years and be "stuck to the TV" until the drama comes to a final conclusion.

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