Saturday, November 11, 2000

Remove Fork, Insert Foot in Mouth

In an earlier weblog entry, I predicted a Gore victory in this month's elections and refered to a William Saletan article in Slate. Well, he's written another article explaining his errors. I was still holding out hope that I could say "told you so" if Gore still pulls it out, but even then I'd have egg on my face.

OK, so why was I wrong? Well, you can look at Saletan's article for some of the explanation. As for my additional insight -- Bush's a jerk -- I neglected another factor. Gore's a jerk. But he's my kind of jerk.

When I was 14, I was on a TV quiz show called "It's Academic". One of my teammates buzzed in without knowing the answer. I glared at him to make sure everybody knew he was the bozo who had rung in. This is exactly the kind of pompous behavior the nation came to expect from Al Gore. (I, on the other hand, have matured since then.) I guess I had a blind spot because I thought Bush deserved to be shown up. I didn't realize that -- compared to frat boys -- American can't stand "smarty-pants".

So can Gore still win? My thought is that he has a decent chance in the hand recounts. He's only down by about 300 votes in Florida. Given how much that dropped from the initial count, and given how prone to error these ballots seem, I think it's very plausible he could pick those up if things were counted more carefully. Bush, on the other hand, wants to stop the hand recounts. I mean I guess I understand that -- it's like a football team running out the clock when they're ahead. But how is he going to sell this to the public? "I don't want a more accurate count 'cause it'll take longer." Maybe he'll wake up and realize he looks bad -- just like he stopped demanding Gore concede before the recount.

Speaking of looking bad, I'm afraid that Gore will have to drop the Palm Beach bad ballot challenge. Yes, it stinks. Yes, it probably cost Gore the election. But there's no realistic way to turn the clock back. And if they somehow manage to do that, it could open up all sorts of unpleasant challenges in other states. What's going on now is reasonable -- but I don't want to see this tied up in court for months. Hopefully this will at least throw the spotlight onto usability issues related to ballots. Yes, it's obvious to me how to fill out that ballot. No, it wasn't obvious to enough people. Let's make it more obvious.

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