Close Presidential Race: Cause for Revolution?

Watching last night the incredibly tight race for the White House inevitably lead me to recall another close presidential race: the one that took place in Yugoslavia just over a month ago. The outcome of that election and events that ensued in Belgrade are generally described as a “Democratic Revolution.”

It was a “revolution,” albeit a quick and mostly peaceful one, because it involved some aspects of violent behavior, most notably the desecration of the National Assembly and setting on fire of the state TV station. Otherwise the revolution was non-violent in an exemplary way: no deaths are attributed to the “revolutionary” activities (there were only two deaths, both ruled accidents). Why the revolution is deemed “democratic” is somewhat less clear. Perhaps the reason is the perception that the anti-democratic forces of the old regime, primarily Mr. Milosevic and his wife, were dethroned and new “pro-democracy” forces installed to power.

To further ponder the puzzling phrase “democratic revolution” let us go back to last night’s close and contested (at least in Florida) US presidential elections. Imagine that the following should unfold in the next few days. The count and re-count of the Florida vote drags on and on and the two parties start accusing each other of improprieties there. This is not a farfetched scenario, already this morning I heard on the radio that Democrats in Florida were luring the homeless with free cigarettes to the polling booths. On the other hand, Democrats complain that in some county the ballots were “confusingly” printed to have Buchanan as number 2 so as to cause many who wanted to vote for Gore to pick Buchanan.

More significant accusations are ponderable from both sides. Let us further imagine, somewhat more fancifully, that Mr. Bush and his party come to the realization that they are being denied a clear victory by the trickery of the current resident in the White House and his party. They incite Mr. Bush’s supporters to take it to the streets.

Mr. Bush wins wide ranging endorsements from around the world and money starts poring in from China, Iran, Libya, Russia etc. in support of his bid for the White House. Hundreds of millions of dollars are channeled in various clandestine ways, perhaps through Buddhist temples or “independent” media, to his campaign. With this insane sum of money the Republicans stage a march on Washington, the mob (using bulldozers donated by China) demolishes Capitol Hill, and similarly in Atlanta the CNN headquarters are burned to the ground.

As a result Mr. Gore decides to concede, Mr. Bush is declared president and sworn in immediately as Mr. Clinton escapes from the White House and joins Mr. Gore in hiding. A successful Democratic Revolution is declared worldwide and the new democracy-loving president of the United States and the free world is celebrated universally.

Now, if this fictitious scenario that will not come to pass deserves to be described as a “democratic revolution” so do the events in Yugoslavia.