What makes people think Bush has won? by Robert Kuttner
Source Dave Anderson
Date 00/11/27/16:53

ONE OF THE MANY oddities of this cliffhanger election is what might be called
the entitlement gap. Right from election night, the Republicans have
behaved as if
the election was theirs, while Vice President Gore has temporized. This
sense of
Republican entitlement in turn translates into a partisan rage that if Gore
should win,
the election will have been stolen.

But consider: It's pretty clear that more Florida voters intended to vote
for Gore.
At least 19,000 votes in Palm Beach County were voided because they were
punched twice, reflecting voter confusion over which hole meant Gore and
one meant Buchanan. These were nearly all Gore votes. Another 3,000 or so
Palm Beach voters who voted for Buchanan meant to vote for Gore.

There is also the plain illegality that some 15,000 absentee ballot
applications in
Seminole County that should have been disqualified as incomplete were
cleaned up
by Republican election officials.

So Gore should really be up in Florida by 20,000 to 40,000 votes. And, of
Gore is now leading in the national popular vote by more than 300,000.
So if anyone should feel cheated, it's Gore.

Why, then, the entitlement gap?

The first reason is the multiple missteps of the media.
Once the networks mistakenly called the election for Bush (with Bush cousin
John Ellis's
thumb on the Fox Networks election scale, it turns out), the idea just
stuck that Bush had
won and that Gore was the pretender.

Many media commentators compounded the damage in the first days after Nov.
7 by
painting Gore as a sore loser. And these were not just TV talking airheads.
A political
writer as normally astute as The New Yorker's Joe Klein wrote, right after
the election,
that Gore ran a more divisive campaign and then reinforced his partisan
reputation by
challenging the results in Florida; if he does win the election, his
ability to govern will
have been severely compromised.

Really? The evidence strongly suggests that a plurality of Florida voters
actually intended
to vote for Gore. Why in the world shouldn't Gore have challenged the
initial count?
Can you imagine the Republicans just sitting back and caving in if 23,000
intended Bush
votes had either been voided or mistakenly slotted to Ralph Nader?

The second reason for the entitlement gap is that Bush, having been handed
so very much
as he fell his way up the ladder, seems just to feel more entitled. Isn't
the presidency his to inherit?

Third, the Republican Party is angrier, having failed to get Bill Clinton's
scalp, and more
unified than the Democrats. Right from Nov. 8, some Democrats were already
calling on
Gore to step down for the good of the country.

But why?
The man won the national popular vote, and a fair recount could well give
him Florida and the election.

Yet the Republicans keep playing hardball while too many Democrats play

One happy exception is Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, Democrat of
South Dakota.
Daschle has made it clear that if the Senate divides 50-50, he will fight
for an equal share of
committee chairmanships. And news reports have him approaching liberal
Republican Senators
Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, and Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode
Island, to switch parties.

More power to Daschle. The pundits insist the public is just sick of all
the partisan squabbling,
but somehow fierce Republican partisanship seems to get a free pass. What
makes the public
even sicker, I suspect, is leadership that fails to lead and a government
that keeps ducking
national problems that cry out for remedy.

The entitlement gap, in turn, prefigures a governing gap. If Gore wins, the
Republicans will
oppose him tooth and claw. Gore's plight will be worsened because at least
40 New Democrats
in Congress tend to side with Republicans on such issues as vouchers and
Social Security privatization.
It's this bipartisan Trojan horse, and not partisanship, that would hobble

If Bush wins, by contrast, his own party will quickly rally behind him. All
he needs do is put a token
Democrat in his Cabinet, make gestures to the center, and the sense of
illegitimacy will fade.

To govern, a President Gore would need to remedy that, and fast.

(c) 2000 Boston Globe

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