There's something funny -- and educational -- about TV's week long frenzy, says Ty Burr

By EW Staff
Updated November 15, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Bored with neverending election coverage?

Who knew history could be so exciting — and, at the same time, so excruciatingly annoying? More than a week after the election, we’re still a nation with a finger on the pause button, waiting patiently while George and Al (or, rather, their combative spokespeople) engage in an epic battle of parking lot chest shoving.

Day after day of legal threats, counterthreats, accusations, and pregnant chads. Personally, I’m beginning to miss the stunning dramatic shifts of CBS’ ”Big Brother.” I understand that this is an unprecedented moment in American democracy. I appreciate that everyone and especially their kids are getting a crash course in the fine points of our political system (jury rigged as it was by our founding fathers back in the day). But I worry that if this goes on too long, we’ll collapse into a quagmire of recrimination and Capitol Hill civil war (if we’re not there already).

On a day to day level, however, I’m pretty bored. Okay, somewhat amused by the spectacle of the news media contorted into a rictus of illogic: It’s the biggest story in presidential election history, but it’s advancing in tiny half steps toward an undetermined end. Every pundit and partisan has been interviewed so often that the earpieces must feel spot welded to their heads, and the mental exhaustion that comes from running in place for a solid week is rather touching to witness (in everybody except for ”Hardball”’s Chris Matthews, who’s just more obnoxious).

But listen, wake me when the overseas ballots come in, okay? And if there’s an actual revote in Palm Beach County (about which my own opinion shifts back and forth every 23 minutes), all right? Spare me the bloviation from both sides about the fairness of the election: Everyone now fully comprehends that the actual mechanics by which we vote need serious repair and monitoring by capable people so that this embarrassment doesn’t happen again. (Although maybe we should be thankful it DID happen, if only bring it to light).

As for the Bush and Gore diehards insisting that the election was fair (Was not! Was too! So’s your mom!), please, don’t hypocritically wrap wanting your guy to win in a shroud of red, white, and blue. Here’s the test of whether you’re a gimlet eyed partisan or reasonably levelheaded: Imagine that everything was reversed. That George Bush had taken the popular vote, that Gore was leading by a hair in the electoral college, that all those grannies and gramps in Palm Beach had wanted to vote for Dubya, that the overseas vote might favor Al, that George was the one who wuz quite possibly robbed. What would you want? WHO would you want? Honestly now.

Yes, Palm Beach County election supervisor Theresa Lepore should hang her little Democratic head in shame for concocting the Butterfly Ballot — but so should the senior citizens who, I’m sorry, didn’t stop to look closely at what they were doing. (Touch screens across the country in 2004, anyone?). Yes, there should be an investigation into voting booth improprieties in Florida (and everywhere else they’ve been alleged), but let the transfer of power go forward — there’ll be time enough for spankings later. And yes, George W. should understand that he has nothing remotely close to a mandate and govern accordingly. And if by some fluke Al Gore finds himself in the White House, he should do much the same.

Silly me. That’s hoping for rational behavior from both of these guys. Unfortunately, to paraphrase good old Gerald Ford, our long national nightmare may be just beginning.