Democracy grinds slowly on -- for which we should be grateful

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2000

Are you and your family talking, this Thanksgiving weekend, about the electoral imbroglio in Florida? Freed for a few days from the pressures and distractions of the work week, have you and your loved ones noticed that we still don't have a president-elect? Are you demanding a resolution? Is it civil war at the dinner table?

While democracy grinds slowly and imperfectly on, the punditocracy has set this holiday weekend as the deadline for public patience. And while I'm sure that the still-too-close-to-call presidential race was, is and will continue to be a topic of mealtime conversation, I don't buy into this general depiction of the American public as a drumstick and candied yam away from angry mob-dom.

Pundits make predictions like these because they like to be right and right in advance. If it turns out to be the case, they look smart; if it doesn't happen, who will remember? Intuitively, there's probably something to the theory that the great American colloquy on the subject will take place now that we're gathered together.

But so far, it's not rank-and-file citizens but the pundits and the most fevered partisans who are up in arms. And, it's worth noting, the arms are rhetorical. The pen and the talking point remain our weapons of choice.

The orderly and peaceful transfer of power has been and will remain one of our country's greatest strengths. The American record, over more than 200 years, is truly remarkable and stands up more than favorably against all those countries that, we are told, now judge us a laughingstock. If this is the case, let them have their laughs -- they have given us more than our share.

As for us, our system has come through for us time and again. In the past 50 years alone, it has guided us in the wake of assassination, given us a course to follow with a sitting president who was an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case, taken us through an impeachment ... and it will bring us through the current mess.

No mobs bent on mayhem, no tanks in the street -- no less true in days of confusion than in those of certainty ... and We the People understand that's our greatest blessing. Not Wall Street, though some will try to tell you that, nor our unrivaled military muscle.

Prayers of Thanksgiving will drown out the curses of impatience. We will reflect and consider ourselves fortunate to live in a country of laws, not of men and women (perhaps doubly so, given some of the actions and statements emanating from both sides in the Sunshine State). We will emerge into next week with our calm intact, regardless of the Florida Supreme Court's decision.

And, come Jan. 20, we will have a new president. He will be duly sworn in to our highest elected office and will become democratic heir to all the powers and problems that go with it. There will be no government in exile, nor will there be guerrilla forces loyal to the loser. All inflammatory rhetoric aside, there will be no coup d'etat -- neither in the days ahead nor in the future. All there will be is the opposition candidate and his party -- more agitated than usual, it seems safe to say, but poised only to wait another four years to have a go at the Oval Office.

We will return to the voting booth then, perhaps in greater numbers than in recent years. We might even study the ballots more carefully. For this, and for our constitutional republic -- based on principles of freedom and democracy -- we will remain thankful.

Dan Rather works for CBS News.

HEAD:Time not healing election wounds

HEAD:Act of kindness offers healing moments when needed most

Heroes come into our lives at times when we least expect them and with their actions significantly touch our lives.

The Nikiski High volleyball team found its hero in Mr. Onis King. During our recent tradegy, Mr. King took the team and coaching staff out for dinner to celebrate our state championship and presented each of us with a commemorative gold coin. This kind, gentle and generous man allowed us an opportunity to celebrate our achievement, provided some healing and closure in our time of deep sorrow.

It is rare that one would give of themselves so openly and expect nothing in return.

As the coach of this team, I will always be grateful to Mr.King and the kindness he showed us.

With gratitude,

Cherrie Hobart Verkuilen

Nikiski High School

Donation warms seniors' hearts

The Soldotna Seniors would like to thank the Ladies Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10046, for its very generous donation that helped cover the center's furnace repair costs. Your thoughfulness is truly appreciated.

Betty J. Whitcomb, president

Soldotna Area Senior Citizens

HEAD:To send a Letter to the Editor:

BYLINE1:By WALTER R. MEARS

BYLINE2:AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- The fierce divisions of a presidential election campaign are supposed to have calmed well before Thanksgiving -- but instead, they are escalating.

On the eve of the holiday, Republicans accused Democrats of trying to steal the White House from George W. Bush, and they turned to the U.S. Supreme Court and maybe even the Florida Legislature to stop what one GOP House leader called a burglary.

Normally restrained lawmakers couldn't take it anymore. ''This cannot stand!'' Senate GOP leader Trent Lott said.

Al Gore's campaign set about suing election canvassers in Miami, trying to undo their unanimous decision Wednesday to stop counting disallowed ballots in heavily Democratic territory the vice president had figured would boost his count.

The Supreme Court ruling led to a bitter Republican outcry. Michigan Gov. John Engler, conservative author Bill Bennett and Florida Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart said Gore was trying to steal the election.

Rep. Dick Armey of Texas, the House Republican leader, said it was a burglary attempt and the Florida legislature should step in to stop it and install Bush electors if the ''selective recounts by partisan boards'' flip the lead to Gore. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Bush's representative in the Florida situation, said he wouldn't be surprised to see the Republican legislature take action.

Failing that, he said, the House, narrowly Republican, might intercede itself when the Electoral College reports its vote to Congress on Jan. 6.

Bitter words and threats amid hair-trigger political emotion, all underlined when Republican demonstrators in Miami staged a sit-in and protest outside the election canvassing board room.

Those bursts of GOP temper eased when the Miami-Dade County canvassers voted to quit. Diaz-Balart then said the election board there had ''decided the rush to judgment simply couldn't go on.''

For the two weeks since the election, the angriest words have come from the side that seemed to be slipping and in danger of losing. The Gore camp and Bush himself have both said they would win a fair count.

The trouble, Bush said in Austin, Texas, is that ''if somebody doesn't like what's happening one day, they try to change the rules the next.'' He was talking about the Democrats, but the shoe fits both parties.

He was said to be planning an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the ruling of the Florida court and halt all the recounts; he said the voting machine returns had been counted at least twice already.

The Bush campaign also filed suit in Florida to force the inclusion of rejected votes from servicemen overseas, some blocked by Democratic objections for lack of postmarks. The Republicans figure most of those military ballots are for Bush.

Gore's campaign chairman, William Daley, said the Democrats want them counted -- ''if they're legally cast under the laws of Florida.'' That did not rule out the kind of protests Democrats have been lodging over technical flaws in those absentee ballots.

Daley stepped out of the vice president's mansion in Washington to announce that the Gore campaign was going to court to get the Miami recount started again: ''We will immediately be seeking an order directing the Dade County board of canvassers to resume the manual recount.''

While the hard lines earlier Wednesday were drawn in threatening Republican words, the Democrats had declared legal war first. The morning after the Nov. 7 election, Bush clung to a tiny edge, hours after Gore had conceded defeat in a telephone call to Bush and then rescinded the concession, telling the governor not to get snippy with him. Daley announced at that point that ''we are going to support legal actions'' to contest the count in court.

Rep. Armey managed one comment nobody could dispute.

''It's a mess,'' he said.

Walter R. Mears has reported on Washington and national politics for The Associated Press for more than 35 years.



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