Local leaders say election damage done

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 14, 2000

While Gore’s concession brings some closure to the 2000 presidential election, new questions of unity and long-term damage to the political system still linger in the minds of Miss-Lou residents.

Pat Dickens, chairman of Adams County Republican Party said she became &uot;cautiously optimistic&uot; Tuesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court issued what she considered a complicated ruling Tuesday night.

&uot;I think it put the Florida Supreme Court and … put the Democratic Party in a quandary as to what to do.&uot; Dickens said.

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But Dickens also said she thinks it was in the best interest of the country for Vice President Al Gore to concede. &uot;I think the vast majority of Americans I know want it to be over and want closure,&uot; she said.

Now that the election’s outcome is finalized, Dickens said she expects President-elect George Bush to try to establish unity by appointing some Democrats to his cabinet.

The question is: Will everyone be able to rally together after all that has taken place in the last month, Dickens said. &uot;I just expect strongly there will always be agitators,&uot; she said &uot;I just hope the majority of people will move beyond that and make the next four years productive for all Americans.&uot;

Dickens also said she thinks Bush will be an asset to the presidency because he has a track record of working with people, listening to them and building consensus.

&uot;He’s going to bring a lot of integrity and dignity back to the office,&uot; she said.

Mona Ross, chairman of the Concordia Parish Republican Party, shares similar thoughts with Dickens.

&uot;I think (George Bush) can work with the Democrats,&uot; Ross said. &uot;He proved it in Texas. I don’t feel worried about him being president at all.&uot;

Both Republicans and Democrats need to work together for the &uot;good of the nation,&uot; Ross added.

And this election should also have an impact on how people view politics in their lives.

&uot;People get to thinking politics don’t run the world but they do,&uot; Ross said. &uot;(This election) proves it. Everybody is affected by it.&uot;

She views the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling as fixing something that had gone wrong.

&uot;Really the Florida Supreme Court had made laws and that’s not what they are supposed to do,&uot; Ross said. &uot;They are supposed to enforce the law.&uot;

But Beverly Merrill, a member of the Adams County Democratic Executive Committee had mixed feelings about the high court’s ruling.

&uot;Who knows what to think,&uot;&160;she said. &uot;They did what they were supposed to do, I guess.&uot;

Merrill said her initial reaction to the ruling was to wish the country could just throw out the Florida’s vote.

Since that is not possible, Merrill said she worries the new administration may not be able to get much accomplished.

&uot;(I’m) wondering if the next four years are just going to be four years,&uot; Merrill said, who added that she expected a great deal of nonpartisanship to take place, if only behind closed doors.

And she also thinks many controversial things took place during the Florida election which make her even more unhappy with the outcome.

&uot;It’s sad that the person that got the popular vote nationwide will now be denied the presidency,&uot; Merrill said.

But Merrill said she can resign herself to a Republican administration for the next four years.

&uot;(The Republicans) have it legally, I guess you can say, but it was not the popular vote of the people and I don’t think it was the will of the people,&uot; Merrill said.

Joseph Parker, professor of political science at the University of Southern Mississippi, said the damage to the political system and the next presidential term has already been done.

&uot;I think the U.S. Supreme Court made a bad decision,&uot; Parker said. &uot;Their statute will greatly be diminished.&uot;

&uot;The Supreme Court has been the one political institution that has remained highly respected&uot; even through Watergate and the Clinton scandals, he said.

Parker said he agrees with a description by the Rev. Jesse Jackson who said the Supreme Court reversal was a &uot;judicial coup de tat.&uot;

&uot;It will be some time before (the Court’s) integrity is reinstated,&uot; he said.

In the meantime, Parker said he believes the excitement and glamour of the inauguration will unify the country to a certain extent – at least until Bush is faced with the first major conflict.

As long as Bush sticks to campaign issues he shared with Gore, such as prescription drug prices and modest tax cuts, the American public will remain solid.

But more dramatic moves such as restructuring Social Security will expose a sharp partisan divide, Parker said.

&uot;Bush’s honeymoon is not likely to be a lengthy one,&uot; he said.