Vexing Questions for the Holidays

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The ideal (count every vote, impartially) had a head-on collision with the imperfect (the machines stink, the recount standards varied wildly, and there wasn't time anyway).

The apples of theoretical democratic perfection got locked in a struggle to the death with the oranges of constitutional process (the equal protection clause and Article II of the Constitution).

So it ends in moral, political and legal stalemate — resolved by a sliver in the U.S. Supreme Court. I could argue the Gore case with perfect coherence and logic; I could argue the Bush case with equal coherence and logic.

You can debate the election of 2000 either way. Recreational argument is aerobic, good for the heart and lungs. But I am going to try not to argue this election at all, at least for awhile.

For one thing, the country is as sick of the subject as a mother who has delivered after a fourteen-month pregnancy. For another, the argument always ruins the evening. This election has fermented into a sort of darkening inebriant that makes people ugly. I find myself going on a toxic tear and firing off lines of crackpot dudgeon — pure postelectoral rant.

Let us practice serenity. Let us study acceptance. Don't demonize, don't gloat. This abundant democracy tolerates all manner of idiocy and license; now isn't the time for those. God knows the next four years will witness an institutionalized vindictiveness sufficient to make the incumbent wish he were back in Austin.

I offer herewith a list of safe topics, any of which you may introduce at water cooler or dinner party whenever the conversation veers dangerously toward Bush, Gore, and dimples:

  • Say, what's up these days with Puffy and Jennifer?
  • The people at Philip Morris: Are they REALLY making a difference?
  • Does Elian belong with his father in Cuba or with the Miami relatives?
  • In retrospect, was Ginger Spice's behavior inevitable?
  • Do you think we ought to admit Red China to the United Nations?
  • Did Oswald act alone?
  • Why do you think Nixon didn't burn the tapes?
  • Was Ronald Reagan a moron or a visionary?
  • Do earth tones really signify the Alpha male? Why, exactly?
  • Did Roosevelt know in advance about Pearl Harbor?
  • You think those Sacco and Vanzetti guys got what they deserved?
  • Did John F. Kennedy in the White House take his orders directly from the Pope of Rome?
  • Would you say that Bill Clinton's roadless lands initiative unwisely ignores foresters' concerns about fuel load buildup and other issues of sound forest management?
  • With Billy Crystal out, should Whoopi Goldberg be given another shot at the Academy Awards if she promises not to do kakaweewee jokes?
  • Is it sexist for a man to open a car door for a woman?
  • Would it have been a good idea for America to use tactical nuclear weapons to rescue the French garrison at Dienbienphu?
  • What will Bill Clinton do after he leaves the White House? Is that marriage going to last, or will she divorce him as soon as she gets into the Senate?
  • My daughter has been dating a baseball player named John Rocker, and she says they're real serious. Is this a good idea?