Where Do We Go?

by Jon Schroeder | 11/17/00 6:00am

The press continues to pester me. Well, not really me, but two issues keep coming up in the media that pester me. So clearly you can see how the press actually means to bother me, because I am easily bothered.

The first issue is interesting: the frequent comparisons between this election and the election of 1960. The comparison, stated bluntly, is that in that election, Nixon, the loser, did not choose to contest the election on the grounds that people (who were no longer alive) voted for Kennedy in Chicago. However, the similarity between that election and this one end there. For one, even had Nixon contested the Illinois vote and won the 27 electoral votes, he still would have lost the election, 276-246. Also, there was just as much reason to suspect wrongdoing on the part of the Republicans as the Democrats in Cook County. When Nixon asked his friend William Rogers what his chances of winning were, he was told that he had no chance. This point is where the media seriously distort reality. They persistently cite Nixon's memoirs where he stated that he didn't want to hurt the democratic process and stymie critical foreign policy matters.

This play on our morals rings true, because the cultural memory of Nixon consists, for the most part, of three things: the '68 election, the opening of China and Watergate. However, the idea of portraying a politician's memoirs as truth is simply ridiculous. Here I borrow a page out of Professor Renza's American Prose course when I say that someone writing a memoir is inherently biased. Of course a man writing about himself will put himself in a different light -- if not simply a good light, then at least in such a way as to distort reality. There exists a difference between the self that is writing and the self that is printed on the page. Clearly Nixon would not write about the more Machiavellian methods of his political career. So if you hear another comparison of this election to 1960, I advise you to set fire to your paper or throw your TV out the window. Ok, don't do that actually, in case you are dumb. TV is far too precious a thing, and I have spent many the hour in front of its warming glow.

In this election, Al Gore has every incentive to try to steal the election from out of Bush's hands. He does have a legitimate shot at winning, though you may question his ethics.

What is the main problem for me is this issue of ethics: in this case, the ends do not justify the means. In the political spectrum of things, we seem to make an assumption that there exists a certain immorality that is not present in the public sphere. Political ethics, in other words, is a retarded stage of development. The logical conclusion is that politics will become more moral. However, this conclusion is only arrived at when an ethical judgment is exercised so that harmony is possible.

In the case of Al Gore, the ends do not justify the means. If he challenges Bush successfully and wins, his party following may be slightly happier, but the democratic process will be upset and the presidency will be more suspect. Gore's motivation is not to create political harmony, but to further his self-interest. If Gore challenges Bush and is unsuccessful, then Gore's political career is ruined and Bush's power remains in question. I hope that Gore calls off his challenge. Or maybe we could have a joust to decide the next president. People would really like a fight to the death I think. It would increase turnout, and, in the end, isn't that what we really want?