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To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, November 25, 2000

A nation united
by indecision

FLIP a coin a hundred million times and expect to see 50 million heads and 50 million tails, give or take a few. Given the months of rhetoric Americans have endured since the New Hampshire primary, you'd think the presidential election would come down to more than a coin flip, but it hasn't.

The two philosophical camps make equally compelling arguments: Cut taxes or pay off the debt; guarantee Social Security or let people invest a little on the side; stimulate more self-reliance or provide more benefits. Admit it -- we want it all. Knowing that either way would probably work just fine, we voted our druthers, not our convictions.

A good, old-fashioned election has things to vote against. A vote for a Gabbard was a vote against the "gay agenda" -- whatever that was. A vote for McGovern was a vote against the war in Vietnam. A vote for Reagan was a vote against Carter's failed Mideast policy, gas rationing and double-digit inflation. A vote for Lincoln was a vote against slavery and states rights.

When we voted for FDR we were against "fear itself."

But Gore vs. Bush -- what's to vote against? Neither candidate could stake a clear claim on a greater good. You can't vote against Dubya's being a good old boy or Price Albert's being annoyingly smart.

Worries about a divided nation are overstated. The Constitution and rule of law will endure. The partisan bickering isn't going to end, however.

"Electiongate" will predictably endure long enough to buy the braces on the teeth of hundreds of lawyers' kids.

The candidates and news media have worked to magnify the differences between the opponents, but in their efforts to capture the center of American public opinion the campaigns ended up about as far apart as two sides of the same coin.

On this Thanksgiving weekend it's good to appreciate that the photo finish in Florida has left more Americans amazed and entertained than deeply concerned or frightened.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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