John Leo
Jeff Greenfield, the CNN analyst, has been warning about the lack of "dispassion" in political commentary on the Florida presidential vote. He is putting it mildly. This delicate moment in our political history is an excellent time for restraint, but here is some of the rhetoric we have been getting:

Votes have been "unlawfully set aside" (Jack Quinn, Gore adviser); "Voters were taken advantage of" (First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams); voting incorrectly "was my mistake, however my vote was stolen" (Palm Beach voter Lora Ide); "This may be an injustice unparalleled in our history" (Gore campaign manager William Daley); "Somebody has been tampering with the process" (the Rev. Jesse Jackson); "We are talking about voter suppression" (Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Alas, most of this is the passive language of victimization that comes so easily to the tongue these days, particularly to tongues on the left. Even the clearest acknowledgment of a personal error in voting ("that was my mistake") is smoothly followed by conventional victim rhetoric ("however my vote was stolen").

Ms. Ide said: "I'm college-educated. I am not stupid. And I'm not elderly. I'm 52." She must know that the Palm Beach ballot was prepared by a Democratic Party official, approved by the state bureaucracy in Tallahassee, published in local newspapers, and mailed in advance to her and all registered voters. All voters were told they could ask for help if confused, and they could request a second ballot if they felt that had mismarked the first one.

Yes, in retrospect the ballot might have been better designed, but this was the one drawn up and agreed upon with no noticeable protest on any side. No ballot is perfectly clear, but the state seems to have followed the law and gone to a lot of trouble to explain things to Ms. Ide and to offer help. In what sense was her vote stolen?

Voters make mistakes. Older voters make more mistakes than younger ones, which may account for the fact that 10,000 Palm Beach presidential ballots were left totally blank. But only a highly developed grievance culture would convert balloting errors into a charge that voters were "taken advantage of" in "an injustice unparalleled in our history."

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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