Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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There is no way history can redeem this election
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   11/10/2000)

Way back in March, I predicted here that--barring the cataclysmic--Al Gore would win in a landslide. I was bad wrong. There was no landslide, and although there was a cataclysm in this race, it came not during the campaign, but after most voters had cast their ballots.

Millions sat up Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning watching spellbound as the networks gave Florida to Gore, then took it back, then gave it to Bush, then took it back yet again. Even now, the presidency hangs in the balance.

History can never redeem this election.

A judge with the wisdom of Solomon would have trouble awarding a presidency worth having to either of these candidates. Somebody gets a mangled baby here.

The networks tried. They declared Bush the legitimate winner. Millions listened as reporters chronicled how Gore phoned Bush to concede defeat in the wet murky hours of Wednesday morning. The buzzards circled as hostile commentators picked over the presumed loser's carcass, tearing into Gore for the awful campaign he supposedly ran. Only when the networks, in quick succession, took it all back, did they back off. Then, with sheepish looks, they acknowledged the race was too close to call.

A few had the decency to look and sound embarrassed when it became clear Gore would win the nation's popular vote.

As post-election coverage dragged on, reporters and commentators began stumbling over their own tongues, misstating numbers and percentages. At one point, part of a light stand inexplicably burst into flame in the ABC studios. "We have a fire here," Jennings said so calmly, I thought it was a metaphor only. Then a cameraman got a bizarre closeup of a man with a fire extinguisher putting out the small blaze. Jennings backed away from his lectern, still sounding suavely disconnected from reality.

The incident seemed symbolic of the train wreck the election of Nov. 7, 2000 had become.

How will this election ever assert legitimacy? More than any vote in a century, this one is tainted, destined to become an oddity of presidential lore; an automatic candidate for Ripley's Believe It Or Not and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire.

This election calls into question basic machinery of our political system. What's this antiquated gizmo, the Electoral College, doing here in the age of computers and exit polls?

It's an anomaly and a shameful one. Because of it, the candidate who won by several hundred thousand votes will likely not get the presidency. Explain that to Johnny and Susie and all their friends in civics class. And while you're at it, explain Nader.

Even if the courts and ballot counters decide Gore actually won this election, it'll stink to high heaven for years to come. That's because early Tuesday evening the TV networks projected that Gore had won Florida, when, in fact, Bush was leading. Who knows how many voters from the Florida Panhandle--where polls were still open--thought, "Why bother, it's all over?" and stayed home, thus depriving Bush of a clear majority in Florida.

If Bush's lead is upheld, however, Gore's supporters will indignantly point back to mysteriously missing ballot boxes and all those strange "butterfly ballots." In poling precincts such as Palm Beach, apparently hundreds or thousands of voters cast ballots for Pat Buchanan when they thought they were voting for Gore. These included Jewish and black voters, and Buchanan was the last person they would have wanted to win.

The end result?

If Bush wins, he serves without legitimacy.

If Gore wins, he serves with no mandate.

Put this debacle up there with Watergate and Clinton's impeachment. It's utterly demoralizing, it didn't have to happen, and American politics may never be the same. Even if a Solomon can be found.