Arbitrary, Capricious & Fair
A coin toss would make the winner feel blessed rather than entitled.
BY: Steven Waldman
This reminds me, perversely, of the battle over health care reform, and not just because the process seems painful and chaotic. During the political wrangling over health care reform, opponents argued that the government would end up "rationing" health care--that bureaucrats would be deciding who got what kinds of medical services. Opponents were left making the unsatisfying argument that if the government doesn't do it, "the market" will ration services anyway.
That argument was, in hindsight, true. Eight years later, health care servicesare
being rationed, just as health care reform advocates had predicted--not by the government but by insurance companies. But back in 1994, those opposed to health care reform had the much more persuasive argument--pitting a visible set of government officials and politicians against the somehow more trustworthy "market forces."
The advantage of a coin toss over a votomatic is that it carries no pretense of accuracy. Its capriciousness is its strength.
Whoever won the coin toss would have to enter the White House knowing that his election really was decided by fate or God or chance--and could have easily gone the other way.
This is really how Gore and Bush should be viewing the situation now. Currently, each candidate is sure that he is the real winner. Instead, each should be sure that neither of them is the winner. Both have legitimate claims in Florida: On the one hand, it seems more people went to the polls intending to vote for Gore. On the other hand, more people successfully voted for Bush. But, having come down to a question of a few hundred contested votes out of 100 million cast, this election was, in effect, a tie.
If the results are decided by the courts or Katherine Harris, the winner will strut down Pennsylvania Avenue thinking he actually earned the presidency.
If he won by coin toss, he would walk more humbly. He would feel blessed, not entitled. He would be forced to reach out to the other party because every time he looked at the losing candidate he would have to say to himself, "There but for the grace of God, or luck, go I."