America must practice patience. And this country’s political parties must exercise restraint.
The search for a presidential winner might play itself out for a few more days without inflaming passions dangerously. But that is not something which can be guaranteed if the nation’s political leaders don’t behave carefully.
Even Thursday, the signs of breakdown began to emerge. The Democrats began edging toward expressions of absolute principle that might justify full-scale legal battles. Republicans seemed to respond with their own rhetorical escalations.
Crowds began to gather and chant in parts of Florida.
On Friday, there seemed to be a bit more sense returning to the discussion. The emphasis shifted back to recounting the results from Tuesday’s voting in the closest states.
The closeness of the results does justify whatever recount efforts that the individual states believe is necessary. But no election is ever conducted perfectly. Likewise, the recounting of millions of ballots can never be perfect.
It’s always easy to criticize, harder to do. That’s as true in conducting an election as in any other part of life. Gore Campaign Chair William Daley spoke of the election problems in Florida as possibly being "an injustice unparalleled in our history." Even if the magnitude were that big, this is more a misfortune than an injustice. No one stole anything. The Palm Beach County voting department is run by a Democrat, and both parties as well as the public were given notice of the planned ballot design. Human error is in evidence, not misdeeds.
And, please, losing the presidency may be agonizing but it just doesn’t register among the Top 10 disasters that could befall a person.
The final decision about victory is certainly worth waiting for. It’s worth patiently plowing through as much recounting as can be justified by the four states with the closest outcomes.
Before we are done, all of us will have learned lessons about the importance of each person’s vote and about the need to take individual responsibility for following voting procedures and instructions carefully. Perhaps elections officials will learn ways to make voting simpler.
In the coming days or weeks, we will know who received the most electoral votes. And that person should be accepted as the winner, without further legal and public relations maneuvering. Accepting such a close loss will take admirable grace from the loser — and from his supporters.
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