To paraphrase the late President Reagan, "Here they go again." After four years, after throwing around more money than ever, after getting a huge voter turnout, we have another close election. Some people blame the Electoral College, since it's the only college in America that's stupider than any high school. Others blame the media, because, well they blame the media for everything. I blame the Republican and Democratic candidates for not winning more decisively. A landslide would have been nice, but even a good old overwhelming victory would have put an end to the drama. And both parties could have done it, but they blew it.
For the second election in a row, the Republicans practically handed the Democrats a straight flush. The incumbent got us into a war for reasons other than those that he told us before the war. He ran up a huge deficit. The war isn't going well. People are out of work. Humanitarian programs have been cut. Social Security is in jeopardy. Elderly people are standing on street corners with signs that read, "Will work for flu shots." And right before the election, the public learned that 380 tons of explosives disappeared on Mr. Bush's watch. Three hundred eighty tons is the equivalent of more than 60 elephants. I have the feeling that if the Zookeeper-in-Chief of the United States couldn't explain why he lost 60 elephants, he wouldn't be re-elected.
And yet, despite all this, the Democrats couldn't pull it off. If the Democrats ran unopposed, they'd find a way to lose.
George W. Bush also had the opportunity to win by a huge margin. Instead of admitting and acknowledging even one mistake over four years, he was "steadfast" in saying that everything was going well. Think about how your loved ones and associates would view you if you never apologized for anything and insisted that everything you did was right. If he had just said, "I made some mistakes, things aren't going exactly as I'd like, but I think I can turn things around, and I'd like you to give me that chance," he might have had the respect of many more people.
If he had dialed back his position that he rules by Divine Right a bit, he might not have scared off some voters. If he had let Colin Powell out of house arrest and let him speak, maybe he would have gotten more votes from the center. If he had asked Dick Cheney to just be a teeny bit less mean, maybe those people who winced when the mud was flung wouldn't have voted Democratic.
But, like Kerry, he did none of these things.
So, I don't think either side deserves big recounts, lawsuits, or putting us through the tension of a close election again. From now on, let them just toss a coin. The winner gets to be president, the loser gets to make zillions from writing a book.
Of course, if they tossed a coin, it would probably land on its edge. Or if it didn't, the instant it landed one way, the other candidate would childishly say, "Best two-out-of-three." His advisers would point out that if the coin toss had been done with a quarter instead of a nickel, his guy would have won. Conspiracy theorists would point out that an independent party did not provide the coin. All the coins in the nation would have to be tested for fairness. And ... yep, we'd all be saying, "Oh, no — not again."
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.