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Election Flashback Week

Friday, November 2, 2012

Remembrances of elections past—the throbbing heart of freedom

Posted By on 11.02.12 at 06:45 AM

The infamous butterfly ballot
  • from the Sun-Sentinel
  • The infamous butterfly ballot
2000: I went to bed thinking Gore had lost, woke up and nobody knew, and then it wound up in the courts. That was a nasty election. It wasn’t just that Gore won the popular vote and Bush won the White House. It was that everyone with half a mind—Republicans included—knew Gore should have carried Florida too and didn’t only because of a half-assed ballot design in Palm Beach County. It’s possible to be magnanimous in victory and the same in defeat, but being handed a prize you don’t deserve brings out the worst in just about everybody. We’re still suffering from 2000.

1988: Michael Dukakis, a death penalty opponent, is asked in a debate, "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis replies, "No, I don't . . .” and explains why with all the ardor of a tailor reciting suit sizes. His campaign crashes and burns. It was a completely fair unfair question. What would have been wrong with an answer that began “I would want to kill him myself, slowly, over hot coals . . . . But I don’t want this to be a country where justice is the same as vengeance”? Any question is fair that reveals a candidate lacks a presidential range of emotions.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

And in this corner, the Rainbow Coalition!

Posted By on 10.31.12 at 06:53 AM

The Reverend Jesse Jackson was ahead of his time.

Back in 1984, when he first* ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, I was in college at the University of Iowa, and damn, was I psyched to take part in my first caucus. Double damn was I psyched at the prospect of a black U.S. president. He never had a chance in hell.

We were going on four years of Reagan at that point, and though you'd never know it based on the Gipper's current lionization, he was not popular. His approval rating in 1983 was at 35 percent, lower even than George W. Bush in his second term (37 percent). And it's no wonder. We were in a recession—well, supposedly just out of a recession, but really in one of those postrecessions that really, really still seems like a recession. (Sound familiar?) People were suffering, losing their jobs, their houses, their farms, their savings. (Sound familiar?) Meanwhile Reagan continued to call for tax cuts on the rich on the theory that this would stimulate job growth and the economy. (Sound familiar?) He also called for the U.S. to be king of the world and, I guess just to put some skin in the game, invaded the tiniest country in the Western Hemisphere.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Johnnie To's Election, which has little in common with the U.S. presidential election

Posted By on 10.30.12 at 12:49 PM

This looks so much more badass than my polling place.
  • This looks so much more badass than my polling place.
If you feel cynical about cutthroat politics undermining the U.S. presidential election, perhaps you'll feel better about our system after watching Johnnie To's Election (2005), in which rivals literally cut each others' throats. The film concerns a long-standing Hong Kong triad whose chairman of 30 years is about to retire; according to organized crime tradition, this means the high-level bosses must elect a new chairman from among their ranks. The election goes smoothly enough: To depicts it as a peaceful process, closer in nature to a dinner party than an impersonal poll. (It's one of many pleasant meals in this director's body of work.) The problems arise afterward, when it's announced that nice gangster Lam Lok (To regular Simon Yam) just barely won the vote over the hotheaded Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai). The latter then instigates a gang war, which halts all triad activity and leaves a number of men dead or in jail. Feel free to insert your own Bush v. Gore joke here.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Screw this election—let's talk about past elections all week

Posted By on 10.29.12 at 07:15 AM

The Tribune in funnier times.
  • The Tribune in funnier times.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word election? The 1999 Alexander Payne film? The 2000 Florida recount? Watergate? Tommy Carcetti running for mayor of Baltimore?

Election can have many different associations. Even though Nate Silver is pretty confident that Obama has this one in the bag, Rasmussen, Gallup, and whichever poll is invented this week confound anyone's assurance of who will win this presidential race. And with all the polling providing an overload of opinions and predictions, it might be best to step back and remember when elections were quieter, though not exactly quiet, events. After last week's writing about debates, this week we're going back in time and dedicating Variations on a Theme to elections of years past.

All this week, check back here to read Reader staff on the history of elections in the United States, abroad, and elsewhere (in the arts, media, and who knows). Don't forget that tonight at Martyrs' (3855 N. Lincoln) is the Reader's Honest Truth Party, where you can join Mick Dumke, WBEZ's Justin Kaufmann, and two of the subjects from this week's cover story for a good-natured discussion. And please don't forget to vote!

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