The other night, CNN aired a special about the contested 2000 election between Gore and Bush. My son, who was a zygote in my belly a few weeks old when said election took place and now stands six feet tall, asked me how a candidate could win the popular election but lose the presidency. I explained the electoral college.
The discussion was enough to get me interested in watching the special. I also made a deal with him that we’d watch the HBO drama, Recount, so he could learn about how it all went down in a way I thought might be more engaging to him than a straight documentary. I felt it might help explain the origins of the special animosity progressives like me feel for Bush and the huge mess he made after this inauspicious beginning.
So I watched the CNN special. It was a run-of-the-mill recap of what happened. It opened up old wounds and stirred up buried frustrations in me. Watching it was probably a bad idea.
I used to be a total political junkie, following things so closely that I knew about policy and players down to a more granular level than most, tracking the results of faraway local elections and keeping up with rising stars (it’s how I decided shortly after the 2004 Democratic convention speech that I was for Obama all the way, years before anyone mentioned him as a viable candidate). But my political insatiability had begun to wane starting with the 2000 election. 9/11 broke my heart (an especially rough thing to watch with a toddler and a newborn in your arms), then the invasion of Iraq infuriated me. After Bush got reelected in 2004, I was so apoplectic that I couldn’t bring myself to watch or read the news for years.
But when the Obama candidacy became a reality I shyly ventured back. I never again got as reengaged, but I followed things. He didn’t turn out to be the knight in shining armor I’d hoped for, but he made some solid gains. He operated from a seeming sincerity. I listened to the scripted BS but saw some humanity in there. I healed.
Watching this CNN special brought out the cynic in me. Why would they air it now? After all, it’s a pretty sweet time to be a Democrat. The Republicans with their clown car politics of bombast and lack of viable policies are pretty much ensuring a blue win. So why throw red meat at us? Why now? Could it be to remind us of the last time we got complacent and terrible things happened as a result? It made me feel a little icky, like I was being manipulated.
There has been a fair amount of hoopla around the special, with accompanying articles analyzing what would have happened if all the votes had been counted. At first, I engaged. But, now, I won’t read them. What happened happened. I don’t want to participate in the politics of vendettas and old grudges. I fervently want a conversation among grown-ups about the issues that matter.