Along the Tracks

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Jersey shuffle

All right, let me see if I’ve got this. In New Jersey, the Democrats are arguing that, since their candidate turned out to be a poor nominee (Robert Torricelli) and was likely to lose, they should be allowed to scratch his name from the ballot and replace it with someone (Frank Lautenberg) who has a better shot at winning - not to mention, previous name recognition as a former senator and a hefty personal fortune to spend campaigning. All this is to be done not according to the state’s election laws, but unapologetically in violation of them. “Democracy trumps legal issues” is their motto - at least in Jersey, where it suits them.

First, those “legal issues” - also known as “the law” - are impartial as to party or candidate, precisely to avoid last-minute manipulations which the Democrats are now attempting.

Second, those “legal issues” - also known as “the law” - arise not from some distant dictator's lips but from a process in which the people of New Jersey vote for representatives and those representatives then debate “legal issues” and decide to codify standards which best serve the people of New Jersey. This process is known as “democracy.”

If the Democrats’ argument sounds eerily similar to the Florida 2000 debacle, that’s because it is. Democrats don’t want anything so “arbitrary” and “rigid” as “legal issues” - also known as “the law” - standing in the way of their favored candidates taking power. In Florida, Democrats sued to perform multiple recounts, rather than the single recount specified in Florida law; they sued to extend the certification deadline, despite the clear limits set in Florida law; and they sought to redefine what counts as a “vote,” also despite the clear specifications of Florida law. In the Sunshine State, Democrats found a state Supreme Court fully loaded and willing to give them “the benefit of the doubt” - all of Florida’s justices were Democrats. Thus, the law was consistently twisted and stretched and finally, just tossed aside. That’s when the Bush team took the issue to the Supreme Court, where sanity was restored.

This whole Democratic argument, if successful, could quite easily be turned against them - this year. On the opposite coast, Republican Bill Simon is foundering in his campaign against the highly-unpopular incumbent Gray Davis, in the California governor’s race. Scuttlebutt out west indicates The Terminator, Arnold Schwartzenegger, who happens to be a Republican, is at least mulling stepping into the election as a write-in candidate - still an option according to California law. Opinion polls indicate Schwartzenegger would become the instant favorite. Still, write-ins are always uphill battles, and “Conan the Barbarian” might end up splitting the GOP vote with Simon.

So, here’s an idea: If the Jersey shuffle goes down, why shouldn’t the California GOP dump Simon and get Ahhhhnold on the ballot with the party name instead? After all, the same “extenuating circumstances” that Democrats are citing in NJ apply in California: Simon has a scandal taint and, more importantly, he’s losing.

Come on, give the people a choice!

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