November 9, 2000

C.U. Students, Professors React to Cliffhanger

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Neither presidential candidate has yet officially claimed victory in the most contested race for the White House in modern times, leaving a nation still in limbo and doubtful of the next move forward.

The uncertainty surrounding each candidate’s future has evoked a heightened sense of partisanship among their supporters.

The statements from the Gore campaign, suggesting that it may challenge the results in Florida, have conjured images of past controversies for Prof. Jeremy Rabkin, government.

“[Gore campaign manager William Daley] is refusing to set any deadline [to end the Democratic campaign],” Rabkin said.

Democratic supporters at Cornell have rallied behind the campaign supporting him indefinitely until an outcome is announced.

The Cornell Democrats met yesterday to review the results of the various local elections, their candidates emerging victorious in the senatorial race, a congressional bid for re-election and the Tompkins County Judge’s contest.

Still, the presidential election loomed large in the minds of the Democrats.

“The fact that this [presidential race] was up in the air really clouded over the other races,” said Alexandra Sanchez ’03, treasurer of the Cornell Democrats.

Going into the election, many Gore supporters were not expecting him to win the popular vote, Sanchez said. Regardless, “we wanted a victory in any form,” she said.

Rabkin noted that the repercussions of a drawn-out battle following the election could cast a shadow over either victor.

“I think it shows a decline in the political ethics since the 1960s,” Rabkin said, arguing that Richard Nixon set a precedent, reluctant to contest his narrow defeat by John F. Kennedy 40 years ago.

“Maybe Gore will relentlessly pursue this,” Rabkin said. “He certainly has been relentless throughout this campaign.”

If Gore were to pursue a legal challenge, Rabkin noted, it would set off “a very awkward fight, at the end of which Bush will still be the victor.”

Thus, Rabkin expected that Gore will concede defeat tomorrow or soon thereafter.

“People will feel that he cheated. It is a very bad thing to do to the country,” he said. “The Gore people should be saying that this is it.”

As it is, “I don’t think there are a lot of people in the country who like Gore,” Rabkin said.

On the Democratic side, there appeared to be a renewed sense of rivalry with the Republican Party, but a new rift may have also opened up between the Green Party and the Democrats.

The two parties, widely perceived to be competing for the same progressive side of the political spectrum, became increasingly contentious as Election Day drew near. Based on the election returns, some have found evidence that the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader in fact swung the election to Bush.

“I wouldn’t like to be Ralph Nader,” said Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government. “It really seemed that he was in it for the [federal matching] money for next time [the 2004 election].”

After all the speculation, Sanders concluded, “He did cost Gore the election.”

For some Republicans at Cornell, the results across the nation compensated for the Republican losses in Tompkins County and in the New York Senate race. If victorious, Bush would become the first Republican president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to share power with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

“With Bush in there, it’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” said Matt Flahive ’02, a Republican supporter.

Though Bush claims that he will be a ‘uniter’ if he becomes the 43rd President, many predict that Washington may remain divided along party lines.

“Bush is going to win the presidency,” Sanders said, but “the economy is going to slow down, and the Republicans are going to try to repeat the Reagan Era.”

“If the Democrats have a sense of the election being stolen from them, I don’t think they will be in the mood for cooperation,” she added. “So four years from now, Gore can try it again.”

Prof. Theodore J. Lowi, government agreed that Gore’s best chance for the White House may not be past. In fact, with a slim margin of support in Washington and potentially fierce opposition from outside of the Republican Party, Bush may face Gore again soon.

Still, Gore must retain his popular support won on Tuesday, Lowi said.

“It’s not necessarily Gore’s political death to be declared the loser in this race, if he goes out gracefully,” Lowi said.

In the meantime, political supporters on all sides may take aim at the system that may have elected the Republican nominee this year, with the consideration of eliminating the Electoral College altogether.

Several hours after the polls closed on Tuesday, and with Gore announced the victor in Florida by most media networks, Republicans were faced with the possibility of winning the popular vote but losing in the Electoral College.

Now, in a suspended state of disbelief, Democrats are “just waiting on an official announcement,” Sanchez said.

With the worst case in mind, Sanchez said, she remains behind her candidate for the White House — even if he must try again in a later election.

“I would definitely want Al Gore to run again,” she said.

— Heather Schroeder contributed to this article

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch