Al Gore faced a true test of character on Election Night when the final vote tally in Florida showed him narrowly losing to George W. Bush. He could have issued a brief statement conceding the election, with the caveat that some overseas ballots remained to be counted and that state law mandated an automatic recount, which, though unlikely, might alter the outcome. Had he done so, he would have appeared gracious and statesmanly. And if he emerged the winner after all the ballots were counted and the recount was complete, he would have earned the trust of all Americans.
Nothing in this scenario would have stopped a recount from taking place to ensure the validity of the Nov. 7 count or prevented the absentee ballots from being counted. The ultimate outcome could have awaited the Nov. 17 deadline, which still looms. But, if Al Gore had done the sportsman-like thing, these procedural matters would have been conducted soberly and impartially, without the intense passion and partisanship that has marked the last few days.
Instead of choosing this course, however, Al Gore unleashed a bitter and dangerous campaign to win the presidency at all costs, even if it means undermining the very legitimacy of the electoral system itself. And in the process he has shown himself to be unfit for the high office he seeks. Not since Richard Nixon has anyone launched such an antinomian crusade against our Constitution.
Since the election, Al Gore's henchmen, most notably his campaign chairman, William Daley, have attacked the very Constitutional basis on which presidents are chosen. Their first line of assault was against the Electoral College, with Daley warning ominously of the necessity that "the people's choice becomes the president" -- this despite the Gore campaign's having run an election strategy based entirely on winning the Electoral vote. When that argument failed to carry the day, the Gore camp brought in the demagogues and took to the streets in noisy protests, with Jesse Jackson demanding a re-vote in Palm Beach on the dubious proposition that Gore's voters alone were too impatient or inept to properly cast their votes on the same ballot that some half million other voters in the county managed with no difficulty.
Having failed to erase George W. Bush's edge with the state-mandated machine recount, Democrats have tried to divine voters' intentions in heavily Democratic counties through a hand recount. The Democrats have held ballots up to the light to see whether a punch card has any dimples that might possibly indicate a voter's intent to vote for one or another candidate. They've attempted to discern what a given voter might have meant to do when he or she failed to mark a presidential choice at all but voted for other offices. And they've counted votes even when the ballot marks were improperly made. In many, if not most instances, those officials involved in the hand recount are partisan Democrats themselves, and there have been some reports that Republican observers have been denied access to the rooms where the recounts took place.
Elections are governed by rules. In every polling place, those rules are posted. The rules remind voters how many candidates they may vote for each office. They remind voters to mark their ballots clearly or ensure that holes are punched clean through. A voter who has inadvertently spoiled his ballot can ask for another. But failure to follow these rules invalidates the ballot, and properly so.
The Democrats, however, want to rewrite the rules. They want to gauge "the will of the people" but ignore the Constitution. They want to read the minds of voters who cast invalid ballots. Most of all, they want to keep counting votes until their candidate wins. And they will take to the airwaves and streets until they get their way.
No matter who the ultimate victor is, our Republic has suffered a serious blow. The losers inevitably will feel the election was stolen. Meanwhile Al Gore plays touch football and goes to the movies, gleefully watching an American election turned into pandemonium.