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

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

Somebody here gets a mangled baby
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   11/17/2000)

Last week I opined that even a judge with the wisdom of Solomon couldn't redeem this election. Those of you from old-time bible-thumping families (like mine) no doubt got the reference right off. For the rest of you heathens here's the story, from First Kings, 3:16-28, King James.

"Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king…. And the one woman said, 'O my lord… I was delivered of a child with her in the house…. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also…. And this woman's child died in the night; because she overlaid it…. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me… and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom…. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead; but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear…. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son….

"And the king said, Bring me a sword…. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other…. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king… O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it…. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof…."

I stopped short, last week, of spelling out all the ways this election is like the Solomon story, because I saw right away the analogy would not hold, mainly for three reasons.

  • Take that first line, "Then came there two women, that were harlots…." As you see, the gender is all wrong.

  • Second, who would be Solomon in this analogy? It sure isn't Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who prematurely ruled on Tuesday that the election was over. Turns out she was co-chair of Bush's campaign in Florida and a delegate to the Republican Convention. Does the phrase "conflict of interest" ring a bell?

    Of course, there can be no Solomon in this case. This election is beyond redemption. That was the point of my column last week. Somebody ends up with a mangled baby here. But then maybe it wasn't fair to raise the analogy to start with. Under U.S. law, Solomon's solution would be forbidden. Imagine the hoopla if a judge should rule, "Divide the living nation in two, and give half to George, and half to Al."

    Gore, no doubt, would become president of the city slickers, while Bush would preside over the hayseeds. Maps show that's how this election broke down. Bush won most of the towns and villages; Gore won most big cities.

  • Third, I don't really believe either candidate should assume the role of selfless mother and give away the election. What's so noble about telling 50 million supporters you're forsaking them? That's not statesmanship. Statesmanship demands that you ascertain the truth, figure out why the system broke down and try to fix it.

Let's start by hand-counting all those votes where punch cards were used. If that's unfair to Bush, then recount all the votes cast in Florida. Shucks, if need be, recount Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Oregon. There's plenty of time. The electoral college doesn't meet for another month. Only the hotheads on all-night TV follow the Bush line that this must be decided by yesterday. You and I have read about recounts all our lives, and never heard of "chads," those bits of paper that cling to the holes of punch ballots and prevent machines from counting them. Let's get real here. Any normal person should be able to look at a punch card and tell whether somebody tried to poke a hole in it. You could do it. I could do it. With a Republican and a Democrat seated at every table to double-check the process, what's wrong with recounting? In fact, I'd like to see every state make recounts a given where election returns are within one percentage point. We would be wise--maybe not in Solomon's league, but wise--to consider other reforms, such as:

  • Either do away with the Electoral College or assign its votes proportionately. For example, in Florida, Bush would get 13 electoral votes--assuming his lead holds--and Gore would get 12. That way, the winner of the popular vote nationwide would be guaranteed a majority of electoral votes.

  • Require that all polls close at once--say 9 p.m. eastern and 6 p.m. Pacific.

  • To ensure more people get to vote, make Election Day a holiday (Veteran's Day could do double duty). This would prevent hotshot TV anchors from making false prophecies that could dampen the vote out west.

  • Require a run-off election when no candidate gets a majority. We'll never know whether George Bush the senior would have defeated Bill Clinton in a head-to-head election. We'll never know for sure whether Gore would have beaten Bush without Nader and Buchanan in the race.

Several weak presidents have served without majority support. Why? Four words: Electoral College; no runoffs. Unfortunately, it's too late for this election.

This time around somebody wins, if not a mangled baby, a divided nation, when the last vote is tallied.