22 August 2005

Don't Prettify Our History

Paul Krugman - August 22, 2005

The 2000 election is still an open sore on the body politic. That was clear from the outraged reaction to my mention last week of what would have happened with a full statewide manual recount of Florida.

[...] In November 2001 a larger consortium, which included The New York Times, produced more definitive results that allowed assessment of nine hypothetical recounts. (You can see the results at www.norc.uchicago.edu/fl - under articles.) The three recounts that had been most widely discussed during the battle of Florida, including the partial recount requested by the Gore campaign and two interpretations of the Florida Supreme Court order, would have given the vote to Mr. Bush.

But the six hypothetical manual recounts that would have covered the whole state - including both loose and strict standards - would have given the election to Mr. Gore. And other evidence makes it clear that many intended votes for Mr. Gore were frustrated.

So why do so many people believe the Bush win was rock solid?

[...] More broadly, the story of the 2000 election remains deeply disturbing - not just the fact that a man the voters tried to reject ended up as president, but the ugliness of the fight itself. There was an understandable urge to put the story behind us.

But we aren't doing the country a favor when we present recent history in a way that makes our system look better than it is. Sometimes the public needs to hear unpleasant truths, even if those truths make them feel worse about their country.

Not to be coy: election 2000 may be receding into the past, but the Iraq war isn't. As the truth about the origins of that war comes out, there may be a temptation, once again, to prettify the story. The American people deserve better.


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