Skip to comments.An Open Letter to Bob Brinker
Posted on 02/27/2004 12:49:08 PM PST by Alberta's Child
Author's Note: Bob Brinker is the host of the weekend financial talk program "MoneyTalk," which is broadcast live on Saturdays and Sundays from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM Eastern Time. This letter is being posted as a public response to a major topic on his shows during the weekend of February 21-22.
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I am writing to express my disappointment at one of the topics of discussion on your weekly "Moneytalk" radio show last weekend - namely, the events surrounding the results of the 2000 Presidential election. While that election has been (and will continue to be) the subject of endless discussion, there were a number of inaccurate comments on your show (by yourself as well as some of your callers) that need to be clarified. In particular, your statement that "the votes were not properly counted in Florida" was a gross misrepresentation of what actually transpired.
While it is true that there were a substantial number of ballots that were not tabulated for any candidate, a more accurate statement would have been that "many votes were not properly cast in Florida." Large numbers of ballots are discarded in any election - and for any number of reasons. What made this such an issue in Florida is that the number of discarded ballots greatly exceeded the margin of victory of the winning candidate. In your haste to blame improper vote tabulations, confusing ballots, and Ralph Nader for the demise of Al Gore in 2000, you have overlooked a number of important events from the weeks following the 2000 election. They are as follows:
1. If you are searching for one prime culprit in Gores unsuccessful legal challenges in Florida in November and December of 2000, look no further than his own lawyer, David Boies. Boies only sought hand recounts in 4 of Floridas 67 counties - all of them heavily Democratic counties with election boards controlled by the Democratic Party. In doing so, he virtually guaranteed that the results would be challenged in Federal courts on the grounds that subjecting ballots to different levels of scrutiny was a violation of Federal election law. Not only did each of these counties use their own standards for their hand counts, but in some cases the standards for tabulating the ballots changed even in the midst of the recount process. When it became clear that Florida election officials were attempting to "determine the intention of the voter" for each ballot, the tabulation process officially became a farce. At this point, there was nothing to prevent election officials from making a determination that a ballot with a "hanging" chad for Pat Buchanan and a "dimpled" chad for Al Gore was actually a clear indication of a vote for Al Gore - without any rationale other than the partisan leaning of the election official.
2. While the media focus in 2000 revolved around the hand recounts of "overvote" ballots with more than one vote cast for president, the issue of potential miscounts of "undervote" ballots was overlooked. Under some of the counting standards used in Florida in 2000, there was a strong possibility that many voters who had every intention of submitting ballots with no presidential candidate selected actually had their votes case for one of the major candidates. Counting this time of vote erroneously is no less egregious a violation of a voter's civil rights than failing to count a legitimate vote for one of the candidates.
3. The questions surrounding the "butterfly ballot" in Palm Beach County are particularly interesting, and the complaints about "voter confusion" would have been dismissed by any objective person once it was determined that: 1) county election officials reviewed the ballot before it was used on Election Day in 2000; and 2) the person who was ultimately responsible for preparing the ballot -- a Ms. Theresa LePore -- was a Democrat. While there is no question that something unusual had happened in Palm Beach County (Pat Buchanans 3,000+ votes were clearly an anomaly of some sort), there is a limit to how far an election board can go after votes have already been cast. The fact that many people decided after Election Day that they may have "voted for the wrong candidate" is not a sufficient reason to throw out the results of an election.
4. There was some talk even among callers on your show about the "early call of Florida" by the media - before the polls had closed in the Florida Panhandle counties (which are in the Central Time Zone). Even if we assume that this was an honest mistake on the part of the U.S. media, there are two irrefutable facts here that have gotten surprisingly little attention: 1) Not only did the media project a winner in Florida before the polls closed in that state, the original projection was incorrect; and 2) The media predicted a winner in Florida - where the margin of victory was razor-thin no matter how it turned out - before a winner had been projected in several other states in the Eastern Time Zone where the margin of victory was substantial. (For what its worth, I have no patience for people who claim that the "early call" may have cost George W. Bush several thousand votes in the Florida Panhandle. Anyone in the Panhandle who stayed home on Election Day - and neglected to vote in any other state, county, or local elections in the process - does not deserve any consideration for how they "would have voted" if only they had been sufficiently motivated to make their way to their local polling place.
5. Despite the incessant complaints that "Bush was appointed by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision," the reality is that there were actually two Supreme Court decisions related to this case. By a 7-2 margin, the court ruled that the hand recount (with all the varying standards mentioned above) was, in fact, a blatant violation of Federal election law. The 5-4 decision involved the question of whether Florida should certify the results in time for the December 18th Electoral Collage vote or extend the deadline in order to allow for a state-wide recount under a uniform standard (which, ironically, is something that the Gore campaign had never asked for - but in retrospect may have been their best chance at securing enough votes to win the state).
The complaints about the 5-4 decision on the second issue are misguided. In fact, what very few people seem to have recognized is that the U.S. Supreme Court really had no business getting involved in this case in the first place. For that matter, the Florida State Supreme Court had no business interjecting itself in the process, either. All legal cases brought by both sides should have been thrown out of court without so much as a preliminary hearing.
In 2000, there should have been only two possible scenarios regarding the state of Florida: it would either certify a candidate as the winner in time for the December 18th Electoral College vote, or it would not certify a winner at all. The silly notion of "extending the deadline to count all the votes" was not a possibility - especially under the direction of a state court in Florida or the U.S. Supreme Court. Under Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution ("Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress."), the authority for certifying the results in Florida rested with the Florida legislature, not the Florida Supreme Court and not the U.S. Supreme Court.
Further, Article II, Section I states that "Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States." If the situation in Florida were so chaotic that a clear winner could not have been certified, then the state would have no certified results, and would cast no votes for president in the Electoral College on December 18th. Al Gore would have been the "winner" of the electoral vote by a 267-246 margin, with Floridas 25 electoral votes cast for neither candidate.
But that would not have been sufficient for him to be elected President of the United States, as Article II requires the winning candidate to not only have more electoral votes than any other candidate, but a majority of the 538 electoral votes. With no candidate securing such a majority, the president would then be elected in the House of Representatives. A vote in the House along party lines would have resulted in the election of George W. Bush as President of the United States.
Perhaps the most telling pieces of evidence regarding the "real vote count" in Florida in 2000 were the results of the 2002 elections in that state. Jeb Bush became the first Republican governor to be re-elected to office in the history of Florida, winning a landslide victory over Bill McBride, the Democratic candidate selected by Terry McAuliffe specifically to topple Jeb Bush. Katherine Harris (the Republican villain in the 2000 Florida certification) was successful in her bid for a seat in Congress, while Bob Butterworth (Al Gores Florida campaign manager) was defeated in his re-election bid as Floridas attorney general.
The most inane comment from your radio show last Saturday was your statement that in future Presidential elections the Electoral College should be dispensed in favor of a nationwide popular vote - ostensibly because "people simply dont understand how the system works now." The ignorance of American voters about our system of electing government officials is a scathing indictment of our nations failure to educate its people about their responsibilities as citizens of this great country, but it is not a valid reason to change a process that has worked for more than 200 years. Anyone who does not understand how our system of government works ought to stay home on Election Day (along with all of those Palm Beach County voters who were incapable of using a ballot that even an average first grader could understand) and leave the governance of this country to those who do.
Along these lines, the greatest fallacy about the 2000 election was that "Al Gore would have won based on the popular vote." While it is true that Gore received about 550,000 more votes than George W. Bush, the notion that this would directly translate into a Gore victory is ludicrous. The fact that Gore "won" the popular vote in an election that was held according to a different set of rules is utterly irrelevant. This is comparable to an assumption that the Philadelphia Eagles would have beaten the Carolina Panthers in this years NFC championship game if field goals in pro football were worth fifteen points instead of only three. The fact that the Bush campaign would certainly have had a different strategy under a "popular vote" election than they had under the current system is apparently beyond the comprehension of many people in this country.
Ironically, the exact reverse of the scenario that unfolded in 2000 was a potential part of the Gore campaigns strategy, in which they sought to secure a razor-thin margin in the Electoral College even if it meant "losing" the popular vote. A number of polls in the last few weeks of the campaign seemed to indicate that this was certainly a plausible scenario, so much so that Al Gore himself was moved in the last days of the 2000 campaign to sanctimoniously proclaim that the constitutional process must be upheld. It is amazing how few people today even remember that pompous crap.
Your sarcastic comments about the subject aside, the reality is that the popular vote is irrelevant because the President of the United States is not selected by a nationwide vote - he is selected by the weighted results of 51 individual elections. People can certainly argue the merits of a presidential election by nationwide popular vote, but I am certain that your listeners and subscribers on the West Coast will question the wisdom of an election system in which enormous geographic regions in this country become largely irrelevant, and the entire election process revolves around that large portion of the American population that happens to live within 250 miles of Columbus, Ohio.
I happened to be living in Canada during the time the events surrounding the 2000 election unfolded. I was able to witness the whole charade from a distance, and I must admit that I was quite impressed (and bothered as hell) that all the Canadians I knew seemed to understand the U.S. electoral process better than many Americans did. The hockey fans among them compared it to a Stanley Cup championship series in which one team opens the series with a 5-0 victory but then loses four consecutive games by a 1-0 score. In this hypothetical scenario the team that scored the most goals goes home, while the team with fewer goals to its credit skates around with the Stanley Cup over their heads. And anyone who complains about the inherent unfairness of the process is rightly dismissed as a whining malcontent.
Stick to the financial stuff, Mr. Brinker. Nobody wants to hear a whining malcontent on the air.
P.S. If you truly believe that you "dont need" the tax cuts that youve received in the last couple of years, then set a good example for us all and just give the money back instead of complaining about it.
Oddly enough, Mr. Brinker's financial advice is almost always right on target!
Brinker correctly pointed out that Nader's entry into the race could help decide the race, and he used Nader's 2000 vote totals in a number of states to illustrate his point.
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