Election fiasco opens our eyes to the system

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 15, 2000

Before I began working for a newspaper, I watched movies about journalists in which the editors sit around and try to decide what the headline’s going to be the next day.

I didn’t think that actually happened.

And, for the most part, it doesn’t. Until the really big stories roll around.

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We’ve had a few of those lately.

And yes, we made at least one glaring error in those 100-point headlines, but then, so did almost everyone else around the country.

We usually spend a good 15 to 20 minutes hashing out exactly what those few words will say and what they will mean. Not as much time as it takes to, say, write your own concession speech, but still a fair amount of time on deadline.

Wednesday night, however, we didn’t spend our normal 15 minutes deliberating over which cliche or quote or catch phrase to sum up history in the making.

So I take full responsibility for appropriating an offhand remark from MSNBC’s Brian Williams as our headline: &uot;We have a winner.&uot;

In hindsight, I’m not pleased with it. I suppose we could have said something more compassionate and healing, more in line with the speeches Gore and Bush delivered.

In fact, all week I’ve been preparing to write a column about that need for healing. I even looked up Bobby Kennedy’s extemporaneous speech delivered for quite a different, and much more tragic, night of national division: the night Martin Luther King Jr. was killed.

After a long year of elections – in Natchez and the nation – I’m just a little tired of runoffs and recounts.

I’m ready for a break from votes and chads and speeches.

And I do think it’s time for a little healing.

But, as a friend of mine – an admittedly bitter friend – pointed out Thursday morning, how do we arrive at that healing?

We have a divided Congress, a divided voting public and a divided Supreme Court.

And we’re supposed to arrive at some sort of consensus?

It made me wonder whether arriving at consensus is the right thing in the first place.

I don’t mean that I think we shouldn’t work together, at every level.

But although I found little inspiring in the two nominees throughout the campaign, I think the past five weeks have served to educate everyone on the political process.

And, by the looks of the protesters from Austin to Tallahassee to Washington, they’ve inspired more than a few voters to action, depending on whether they thought the process was working.

It’s that passion to fight the good fight – no matter what side you’re on – that I hope does not subside.

If this election fiasco taught us anything, it’s that every vote counts – or at least that it should.

I imagine we will spend the next four years examining how we vote in this country.

(I’ve found it ironic that Florida has garnered so much attention for its election irregularities when the last two states in which I’ve voted don’t even require me to show proof of identification at the polls.)

And I imagine those protesters – and the silent ones at home – will be examining how the people they sent to office vote.

My friend, saddened by the results of this election, says she will be watching carefully for the next four years.

I hope we all will.

Kerry Whipple is news editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3562 or be e-mail at kerry.whipple@natchezdemocrat.com