I plan on being gracious in victory. Now all I need is a clear victory. You've read it here first: If George W. Bush wins the race, I won't gloat.
I won't gloat because even though I believe that Bush is the better man, I am horrified at his dangerous desire to walk over the finish line in a relaxed saunter. It almost, or maybe did, cost him the big prize. More important, this country needs a president who goes the extra mile and doesn't worry about breaking a sweat. Bush should borrow a page from the Gore Playbook, the page about never taking victory -- or defeat -- for granted.
Hand this to Al Gore. Every time wags counted Gore out of the race, he came back roaring. He gave this campaign his everything. He went without sleep, without rest, without a voice at times. He marshaled troops who came close to pulling off an electoral miracle. Hats off to an amazingly well-run campaign, and to citizen/activists who, enveloped in a shroud of impending defeat, nonetheless rallied their fellow citizens to the polls. On Tuesday, they were titans.
When campaigns lose by small margins, finger-pointing and blame are sure to follow. Democratic operatives who are preparing to heap blame on Team Gore should give those folks a break. They made far more good decisions than bad.
I won't gloat because this is no decisive win. Bush could win the popular vote -- still a possibility, as many absentee ballots have yet to be counted -- but if he does, it won't be by much. And if he doesn't, victory will be less sweet.
Gore boosters might add that Gore could have won were it not for Ralph Nader siphoning Gore votes. Sorry, but candidates don't own votes they haven't won. If Gore couldn't woo those votes for himself, they were never his. That was true in 1992, when President Bush lost to Bill Clinton 37 percent to 43 percent as Ross Perot sucked in 19 percent of the vote. And it's true today.
I won't gloat because whoever is elected is likely to be a one-termer. The economy could falter, an overseas conflict could result in troubled U.S. involvement, the public could find itself in a mood for more change. A president who didn't win a majority of the vote will be that much more vulnerable. Oddly, this vulnerability might make Bush a more popular president. He'll have to govern from the middle.
But the main reason I won't gloat is that this election is too much like 1992. Then, Bill Clinton won the White House, not because of his ideas, not because of his issues, but because of his personality. Ditto Dubya. (One difference: Dems thought that superior personality was a function of ideology. So now when they moan about how the elections should be about issues, not personality -- what can I say? I feel their pain.)
Bush's ideas are not nearly as unpopular as some pundits would have you think. Bush won support from pinched taxpayers and citizens who fear the kind of gargantuan government Gore promised. That said, in the end, if Bush wins it will be because he wasn't Clinton or Gore.
There's something unseemly about some voters' thirst, not for a government that cleaves to certain values, but for a fresh face. I'll take a partisan Democrat any day over the swing voter who told MSNBC that she went to the polls thinking of closing her eyes and voting blindly until she felt an inspiration to vote for Gore.
Most voters vote by party and ideas, but there are simply too many stupid swing voters out there -- and they're the people who choose the president.
Then there's the inconsistency. It doesn't make sense for voters to have supported Clinton and his agenda so wildly, then hop into Bush's lap. Call this The Short Attention Span Nation.
I won't gloat. I will thank the stars.