Whatever else the election was, boring it sure wasn’t

Call the 2000 campaign and post-election nasty if you want. After sifting through stacks of ridiculous political flyers (how many trees died for those worthless ads?) and being bombarded by vicious television spots, we don’t fault anyone for showing a bit of cynicism.

But don’t you dare call it boring.

Political media pundits, usually quick to slap the "boring" label on just about every humdrum election analysis, these days are working overtime to explain the events that have led to our country’s current political drama.

Agonizing. Historical. Unbelievable. These are more appropriate terms to describe what’s going on as the dilemma unfolds. But analysts seem to be overlooking an important piece of the drama as they regurgitate every detail of "The Florida Recount" for television viewers.

Why are we such a divided nation?

By all accounts, some say, Vice President Al Gore should have swept this race. No contest. The economy is good. We’re not at war. And he is part of the incumbent administration. Yet there was a contest. One that cut this nation’s people right down the middle. Squabble over thousands of votes, if you wish. That doesn’t change the fact that this election was pretty much a fifty-fifty split no matter who takes the reins in January.

Someone needs to ask why. Is it because the candidates were so similar in style and substance that people figured it didn’t matter who won? Did voters really think the nation would follow the same path if either candidate sat in the White House? Unlikely. It seems more probable that the candidates were as different as they claimed to be and people picked up on it. George W. Bush and Al Gore hold different philosophies on how the country should work. They are worlds apart on taxes and how to approach the resolution of the Social Security and Medicare problems.

This division is nothing new. Remember, Bill Clinton never had a clear mandate in either of his presidential victories. In fact, the majority of the voters didn’t select him as president. Just as Nader has been accused of digging in to Gore’s votes, Ross Perot was charged with swiping votes from both George Bush and Bob Dole in 1992 and 1996, respectively.

Along with an in-depth look at the philosophical and political differences in our country, it’s time to examine the role of third parties. This is the third election in which they’ve played a bigger role. Other countries — just look at Italy — are quite accustomed to numerous parties. But the idea is horrifying to some Americans. We like our candidates to win big. We want a clear mandate. That hasn’t happened in 12 years and it may not happen again in four years.

Get ready, America, for a lot more nastiness, but not an ounce of boring.

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