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Published on Thursday, November 30, 2000 in the Madison Capital Times
Bush Camp is Wrong, And It Knows It
by John Nichols
 
It has been obvious since the early morning hours of Nov. 8 that top Republicans are convinced Vice President Al Gore won this year's contest for the presidency. Their unspoken recognition of the fact is hardly surprising: Gore won the popular vote nationwide and leads the electoral vote count. Even in the endlessly contested state of Florida, every reasonable calculation suggests that a plurality of voters cast their ballots Nov. 7 in favor of the Democrat.

A consciousness that they are on the wrong side of history and of the American electorate explains why the Bush campaign and its Republican overseers have used every available legal, political and propaganda tool to prevent an honest determination of which campaign won Florida's 25 electoral votes -- and, with them, the presidency. For all their effort, however, they have succeeded only in guaranteeing that no one can or should take seriously the declaration by Bush campaign co-chairwoman Katherine Harris that the Republican "won'' the Sunshine State.

Could there have been a more laughable image from the long, strange campaign of 2000 than George W. complaining that a meticulous recount of ballots, following standard electoral procedures and taking place under the supervision of legions of Democratic and Republican overseers, would "introduce human error''?

Whatever the beleaguered Bush believes, the people who pull the strings in his campaign know that only error, fraud and intimidation will put their man's hand on the Bible Jan. 20. That was obvious late last week when, after failing to legally block a recount of votes in Florida's populous Miami-Dade County, the Bush camp resorted to force.

With the clear goal of intimidating election officials, the Bushistas forced their way into local government offices and caused such obvious fear that officials decided to drop their plans to pursue an accurate count -- a move that has provoked a legitimate legal challenge by the Gore camp.

The Bush campaign's "demonstrations'' in Florida and elsewhere have been completely disingenuous. In Miami-Dade, where the overwhelming majority of voters are poor and working-class people of color, the Bush demonstrators were overwhelmingly white males outfitted by J. Crew. A pro-Bush demonstration Saturday in Washington, a city where African-Americans make up roughly three-quarters of the electorate, featured no black faces.

If this were a Third World country making tentative steps toward democracy, the staged demonstrations and thuggish tactics of the Bush campaign would be condemned by international election observers as assaults on the electoral process itself. In America, where our democracy is supposedly more mature, the Bush tactics have, so far, been viewed as extensions of the mischief that has tended to characterize a win-at-any-cost campaign.

That's appropriate, because the Bush camp's histrionics are doing more damage to Bush's presidential prospects than any plot hatched by the Gore campaign.

Had the Bush camp respected the process, reasonable Americans of all political stripes might have accepted a Republican secretary of state's declaration that the Republican won Florida. As it is, only Bush partisans are prepared to embrace that claim -- and, as their tactics so clearly illustrate, even they know it to be a lie.

Copyright 2000 The Capital Times

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