I've also taken note of the asymmetry of animus between the Republicans and the Democrats, noted by Robert Wright—and as a Democrat myself, it was also starting to tick me off. But reading "Mad as Hell" has actually made me wonder whether the asymmetry really exists. Are liberal Democrats truly the party of rationality and political "mental health"?
I would advise Wright and his sympathizers to take another listen to the campaign rhetoric of NOW and NARAL, for example—is their outrage any less hysterical than that of the Christian Coalition, or any other "far-right" group? You needn't even go that far: In every circle of liberal friends, there is bound to be an ardent abortion rights fundamentalist; tell her that you've decided that late term abortions ought to be banned after all, and take a good step back.
White Democrats may not use disruptive protests to get their causes heard, but as Wright's alma mater the New Republic continues to point out, the same cannot be said about the black leadership within the party. When the definitive history of the 2000 campaign is written, it will be clear that two of the ugliest moments came from the left: the NAACP ad essentially pinning the James Byrd murder on George W. Bush, and the Paul Begala MSNBC column damning the GOP-leaning, bloody "red states" as havens of bigotry.
Finally, contrary to Wright's claim, the Democrats also rely on "a sizeable bloc of voters whose defining characteristic is heated intolerance of people different than themselves," there is a hallowed tradition within the Democratic Party of despising the rich, simply because they are rich. One of the most dismaying aspects of Al Gore's campaign was his attempt to reinvigorate this faction of the party, after eight years of relative quiescence.
Subject: The Most Accurate Vote Count—Random Sampling
Re: " Hey, Wait a Minute: The Real Flaw in Hand Counts"
Date: Tue Nov 21 12:14 p.m. PT
The national vote count would be more accurate if we sampled the ballots, rather than counted them, in the first place. And any person who suggests that hand counting (i.e., a 100 percent inspection) is more accurate than sampling must live on a different planet than I do. With a good sampling plan you could probably get to the 2 percent error rate the author envisions, but if you go to a 100 percent inspection the error rate will be more like 15 percent. And that's only for a clearly objective inspection. If there's a subjective element to it—dimpled chad, etc.,—then the accuracy is much worse than that.
The truth in Florida is that the truth will never be known. The means of data collection (punched cards, whatever) has associated with it an error many times the actual difference between the two vote totals, no matter what analytical method is used. You can do as many recounts as you want, by whatever method you like, and you'll get a different answer every time, none of which is any better than any other one.
Statistics has no resolution to the Florida problem, neither at this point does politics. It's now in the courts, and that's as good a place to resolve it as any.
[To read an unedited version of this post, or to reply, click here.]
Subject: How To End GatorWait—Call Colin Powell
Re: " Chatterbox: Faithless Elector Watch—The Dimple Dilemma"
From: James J. Pottmyer
Date: Sat Nov 25 9:58 a.m. PT
The prospect of a couple of Republican electors defecting to vote for Gore is indeed remote, given the way that parties nominate electors. A more likely scenario is that a couple of Republican electors defect to vote for some other Republican, say Colin Powell.
The reasons for throwing the election to the House could be:1) to provide a decisive result rather than an indecisive one, 2) to highlight the antiquated electoral process that gives undue influence to small states, or 3) hoping that the third party (e.g., Powell) might actually be elected.
If nobody has a majority of the electoral votes cast, the House must choose among the top three electoral vote getters. Knowing that Gore could not possibly win in the House, most Democrats would rather trust Powell than Bush to govern and to make upcoming Supreme Court appointments. In such a scenario, it would take only a few Republican representatives in small or closely divided states to prefer Powell over Bush in order to elect Powell president (who would probably begin an administration with much more good will than either Bush or Gore could command at this point).
Subject: The Long and Dimpled Road
Re: " Chatterbox: Faithless Elector Watch—The Dimple Dilemma"
From: Paul Decker
Date: Fri Nov 24 10:21 p.m. PT
Texas is not the only state that counts dimpled chad. In an infamous House primary in Massachusetts in 1996, the losing Democrat (who was the party's choice) went to court to challenge the 175-vote post-recount victory of an insurgent Democrat. A Massachusetts Superior Court judge took it upon herself to examine all 956 uncounted ballots. She then decided that there were sufficient indentations on all but 37 to award them as votes, with the former loser getting over 600 of them and becoming the winner.
The case then went to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which not only unanimously upheld that minimal indentations were votes but counted the votes itself, too. It decided that 23 of the 37 votes had enough marking (scratching) on them to be counted as votes. In a development that should have warned the court of the slippery slope it had started down, it also disagreed with the judge on five of the votes she awarded. But the net result was that the former loser became the winner, and that man, William Delahunt, was just re-elected to his third term in the House this month. Massachusetts, meanwhile, was troubled enough by the judicial intervention into the voting process that punch-card ballots were banned from the state in 1998. (The case is Delahunt v. Johnston, and the SJC ruling can be found at either 423 Mass. 731 or at 671 N.E.2d 1241 .)
And guess what? Gore's lead lawyer in Palm Beach County is Dennis Newman from Massachusetts, who lost that case (yes, he argued that dimples shouldn't count). Another Gore lawyer there is Haskell Kassler from Massachusetts, who won the case. Tim Noah, can you come up with another explanation for those people being there (and having been there since the day after the vote) other than the Gore expectation that their specialized knowledge of court actions on dimpled chad, which you correctly point out that few places count, would be critical?