What if we lost Florida? I mean physically lost the state? Let's say this Sunday, a freakish seismic shift rips Florida from its moorings, sending it (and the Bush-Gore legal teams), floating off into the Atlantic. Then what happens?
Okay, so the drifting off part is highly unlikely. But it's perfectly conceivable that we could face a politically analogous scenario if Florida's electors aren't selected by the middle of next month. On December 18, the nation's electors gather to cast their ostensibly preordained votes for president. And if Florida's electors remain captives of extended legal maneuverings or the 49th recount, the other 513 electors would probably just have to vote on their own. And although Al Gore currently leads in the electoral count, since only about half of those electors are legally required to vote the party line, a new vote could easily mean a victory for either candidate.
But that's unconstitutional! you cry. Not exactly. As the New York Times reported Friday, the Constitution demands only that one presidential candidate receive the "majority of the whole number of electors appointed." In fact, the founders weren't all that sympathetic to states whose electors couldn't get themselves to the meeting, which used to be held in March, a full four months after the election: If your carriage got stuck in a sinkhole or your local bridge went out, you just missed the vote.
So if no consensus is reached in Florida, and no electors are officially appointed, the entire Sunshine State could be flat out of luck and completely disenfranchised. And if you really think about the Florida conundrum, temporary excommunication might just be the best solution. Is it fair for an entire nation to be held captive by one state? What will we gain by sitting around waiting for Florida's state courts to determine our future? Let's just close our eyes, stick our fingers in our ears and pretend the whole state has just disappeared.
Oh, sure, we'd all be upset about it for a few weeks, and Florida's defiant orange juice embargo would result in a short-lived scurvy epidemic, but by 2004 we'd have pretty much forgotten about the whole thing. In politics, after all, four years is a lifetime.