In this edition: Chinese Wisdom – A Test Of Faith
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Sludge Report #44
From the Analects of Confucius.
Tzu Kung asked about government. Confucius said: "The essentials are sufficient food, sufficient troops, and the confidence of the people." Tzu Kung said: "Suppose you were forced to give up one of these three, which would you let go first?" Confucius said: "The troops." Tzu Kung asked again: "If you are forced to give up one of the two remaining, which would you let go?" Confucius said: "Food. For from of old, death has been the lot of all men, but a people without faith cannot survive." [XII:7]
A Test Of Faith
There will be many politics watchers outside the American continent who, viewing recent events in Florida and Washington, will conclude that the best take from Indecision 2000 is that the once great US democracy has already lost its soul.
Afterall, here is a nation in which 90% of those elected to office spent more on advertising than their opponents; a nation in which less than 50% of the eligible population bothered to vote; and now a nation in which a majority, it seems, does not care too much whether the votes that are cast are actually counted.
As the battle continues the front-line has become the so-called “court of public opinion”, and the weapons are argument and rhetoric.
On the one hand the George W. Bush camp’s argument is, “enough is enough, give it to me”. Al Gore and Senator Leiberman reply, increasingly timorously, “but all the votes must be counted!”.
Sludge is of the opinion however that neither of these “arguments” capture the real point in this conflict. This is now far bigger than just a question of who received the most votes, even if that is ultimately what it all comes down to.
As argued in earlier Sludge reports the issue at the heart of this matter is whether the electoral process and the US Constitution still has any integrity.
Not whether dimpled votes count, but rather whether George Bush and his friends should be allowed to “Dubya” their way through the constitutional niceties of allowing the courts and legitimate authorities to administer the election and count the votes properly without intimidation and obstruction.
And in this what we are really seeing unfold here is a test. A test of the resilience of the US Constitution, and, in the words of Confucius, a test of the faith of the American people.
If Gore was to walk away at this point, an action that polls would tend to indicate a majority of the US public would approve of, then the test would be over.
And there is little doubt that the verdict, at least of the international community and probably among the political establishment inside the US (once they start thinking about it), would be that the Constitution had failed.
The US people would then have an outcome that would forever cast a black stain over the history of US democracy, and which in the long run would serve to further undermine what remains of the faith of the American people in their democratic institutions.
Al Gore, while it seems losing the PR battle so far, does appear to have some understanding of what is going on here.
Towards the end of his statement yesterday explaining his decision to contest the Florida result he said:
“In the end, in one of God's unforeseen paths, this election may point us all to a new common ground, for its very closeness can serve to remind us that we are one people, with a shared history and a shared destiny. “
The truth is that even the most imaginative script-writer could not pose a test of the US Constitution as rigorous as that posed by events presently unfolding.
This is indeed one of God’s unforseen paths, and it is now the responsibility of the Democrats, and indeed of the US people, to remain on the path and follow it through to its logical conclusion. Noone knows of course where this will take us but it is certainly better than the alternative.
The alternative, to give up the journey, is to fail the test of faith and to risk losing, as Confucius says, everything.
Earlier Sludge On The US Elections
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