SUNDAY LETTERS
Above: On a recent pilgrimage, we visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia, birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

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29 October, 2000

Dear Friend,

. . . Is indifference a luxury? What about ironic detachment? Cynicism?
. . . If you believe they are luxuries, you may want to cast your vote for Al Gore for President.
. . . In a speech last week in Madison, Wisconsin, the President-to-be made a comment that stood out from his usual fare. There are people, he argued, whose lives are on the line in this election, on the line because the next President of the United States will make crucial appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. For such people, Mr. Gore said, "indifference, ironic detachment, and cynicism are luxuries they cannot afford."
. . . Actually, that isn't his quote but it's very close. What he actually said is confusing. I edited it so you would understand it immediately instead of puzzling over it for ten minutes. True, the Vice-President does not have George W. Bush's way with words, but he's no Jack Kennedy either.
. . . My first impression of Mr. Gore's remarks was to think he was courting the vote of the cynical, the indifferent, and the ironically detached. If so, it appears to me his campaign is misguided, but then, what do I know?
. . . Cynics vote for candidates who say they'll do the best they can but who admit the nature of politics is usually compromise or obstruction. Gore's campaign offers little to cynics.
. . . The indifferent? Why would anyone go after the votes of the indifferent? When they do vote, half vote FOR incumbents (the candidate must be good; they got elected last time) while the other half vote AGAINST incumbents (they must be bad; they're politicians). If you mobilize the indifferent, you gain nothing.
. . . Ironists (there must be a better word) like to vote with a wink. They like a candidate who has fun with the issues, who recognizes the humor in politics, the inconsistencies, anomalies, and contradictions. Ironists everywhere are eager for a candidate whose flag they can raise and then mock. None of the candidates knowingly court the ironic.
. . . An ironic voter, of course, is not the same as a quixotic voter. A quixotic vote is never cast with a wink. A quixotic vote is cast with hopeless passion, spitting in the face of fate. Ralph Nadar has the quixotic vote locked up. Meanwhile the votes of the cynics, the ironists, and the indifferent are up for grabs. None of the candidates has the means of galvanizing them on Tuesday.
. . . If Mr. Gore's remarks were aimed at anyone, it was to those who may not vote because they are teetering on the line between voting and not voting. Mr. Gore is saying lives are on the line, voting is important, and we can't let those U.S. Supreme Court justices be appointed by the WRONG PERSON just because we luxuriated in indifference at a time when the Republic's future was at stake.
. . . It is telling that Mr. Gore thinks those who are marginally indifferent, cynical, and ironically detached will vote Democrat if sufficiently prodded. Why does he think that? This seems to be a common idea among Democrats, that if the indifferent-but-good-hearted-and-clear-thinking people would vote, they'd vote Democrat. If it were true, it wouldn't speak well of the Democrats.
. . . Me, I'm not sure I want the indifferent to vote. I don't want cynics voting, or those suffering from detached irony. I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed to vote, just that I prefer they didn't, because it is difficult to imagine them making good choices. (It's difficult to imagine ANY voters making good choices, but it does happen.)
. . . Some of you, I know, will argue that detachment is a key ingredient to any good choice. Me, I'm for passion.
. . . Irony can be passionate. I'm all for passionate irony. If you're passionately ironical, I implore you to vote because your vote will, in all likelihood, (nudge, nudge; wink, wink) be a carefully considered one.
. . . As for the indifferent, I won't say whether they can be passionate or not. Can a person be passionate in their indifference or am I playing with words? It is a question I will leave up to you to decide. It is a question toward which I am indifferent -- passionately so.
. . . In closing, let me say, in defence of ironists everywhere, detached or passionate, that we won't be to blame if Vice President Al Gore does not become President of these United States. It won't be the fault of the indifferent or the cynical either. The blame will rest on good men and women who voted for someone else.
. . . Who knows -- it may turn out to be a matter of praise rather than blame.

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Sunday, October 22, 2000.

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