My, how times have changed.
In this past mess of an election, the campaign of Vice President Albert Gore demanded that no one lose his right to representation in the razor-thin Florida vote count. With the vote so close, just one could make the difference as to whether he or Texas Governor George W. Bush was the next president. Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley adamantly insisted that each and every vote be counted.
But let's flash back to a year ago, when the census - the once-every-ten-years accounting of the national population - was being planned. The Clinton-Gore White House demanded that a statistical scheme called sampling, which would have estimated the number of people in an area rather than actually counting them, was the best way to conduct the census. Daley, who was the Commerce Department secretary at that time and had direct control of census efforts, defended the plan against a Supreme Court ruling and congressional legislation opposing sampling.
Supporters said sampling was necessary to represent people in the inner-city and the homeless who might not be counted by the traditional headcount. Since census data is used to draw voting districts, critics pointed out the process could be abused to inflate population numbers in areas dominated by one political affiliation while lowering them in places where the opposition is strong. In the Clinton-Gore White House, politicization of government agencies has been common. Why, critics noted, should they be given the power to potentially adjust the make-up of Congress for the next ten years in a way that would fit their political agenda?
What's worse, in order to meet desired results, sampling would actually remove people who dutifully participated in the counting. Real people would literally disappear from the rolls in order to create a fictional person elsewhere.
Clearly, sampling is not fair. The Clinton-Gore Administration, however, went to the mat to make sure that it was employed in the 2000 count as much as could be managed. As with the current election, the results are almost assured to be challenged in court.
It now seems the chickens came home to roost.
It's ironic that the very same people who not so long ago told us estimating was the best way to go have demanded precise, exact counts when they think it will be in their best interest.
How is one to now believe the sincerity of Vice President Gore and Secretary Daley. One year ago, they did everything in their power to ensure heads weren't counted during the census. Now, the American people are supposed to believe they are pure of heart in their desire to see that every vote is counted in Florida. I don't think so.
These must be wonderful days for the alumni and faculty of private St. Alban's School for Boys in Washington, D.C. One of their own, Vice President Gore, has taken the idea of sore loser to a whole new level. Is he typical or atypical of their alumni? As a graduate of public schools, I'll never really know what goes on in those hallowed halls on the grounds of the National Cathedral. However, based on Gore's behavior, I think some conclusions can be drawn.
Although the election and the census aren't completely comparable,
there is an interesting parallel to be drawn from the conduct
of the Gore campaign. It seems there is nothing they wouldn't
do to win. And, as America stopped everything to wait for Gore
to be mollified that he won an election when he really didn't,
the affairs of state sat by the wayside.
(Council Nedd is a member of Project 21 and a political consultant
in the Washington, DC area. He can be reached Project21@nationalcenter.org.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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