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Gore Must Battle For Florida Votes
Published on Thursday, November 9, 2000 in the Madison Capital Times
Gore Must Battle For Florida Votes
by John Nichols
I so totally hope that Al Gore decides to fight like a junkyard dog for Florida's 25 electoral votes.

Forget the polite blathering about respecting the process. This is Florida, where they don't have sidewalks and where alligators crawl or slither or whatever they do out of swamps and eat small dogs.

Most of all, Florida is a state where you go in and point fingers and yell and scream and make a lot of noise to be heard.

If he does just that, Al Gore can, finally, become a hero.

Here's how:

In a straight-on, old-fashioned popular vote election, the vice president would already have won the presidency. That's a position no one thought he would be in at this point. The whole line of analysis went that Bush was the popular guy, while Gore was the boring technocrat who might piece it all together with electoral votes.

Turns out the analysis was wrong. Gore's the popular guy -- well, OK, not really popular, but more so than Bush.

The problem is that popular guy doesn't get to go to the White House without getting his ticket punched in Florida. So he needs to make his case.

Frankly, it's a good case.

Polls show that Gore won the popular vote because his candidacy was overwhelmingly favored by women, people of color, gays and lesbians, trade unionists and others who don't hold a lot of power in this country. The people who need a president most have placed their faith in Al Gore.

That fact leaves Gore without a choice.

The vice president needs to put aside his own fears, his own ego, his own sense of self-image. He needs to become the tribune of the people who rode the bus and walked in the rain and stood in those long lines to vote for him. He needs to say, ``Look, Florida has a long history of political shenanigans, vote fraud and disenfranchisement. But it stops here. It stops when Jeb Bush and his minions seek to deny the office of the presidency to the elected president of the United States.''

Gore should announce that he believes he has won the presidency -- a fair statement for a winner of the popular vote and the current leader in the electoral vote count. And he should say, bluntly, that he believes that his election is threatened by local officials who have too long a history of turning the wheels of government to aid their interests.

Gore should not back down until the last ballot is counted. He should not ease up until he is certain that every fundamental question about the process in Florida has been answered.

It's fine if Gore does this for himself.

But it is necessary that he fight for Florida as the voice of those who have no voice otherwise -- the millions of voters who chose to believe in the promise of a Gore presidency.

In some presidential terms, the chief executive proves himself in his final days. In others, he shows quiet strength throughout his tenure. In this one, if Al Gore is to be the president, he must make his stand at the start. He must fight for his presidency. And if he fails to do so, Gore must recognize that he is letting down not just himself but millions of Americans who dared to put their trust in a man who has done so little to earn that trust.

Copyright 2000 The Capital Times


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