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If anyone had any doubts that our politicians are dysfunctional, the rhetorical tone of the current election controversy in the state of Florida should put those thoughts to rest. For the last three weeks, we've watched and waited as the votes were counted and recounted and counted again. All the while, it has become increasingly apparent that no one representing either major party is interested in a fair and accurate count indicative of the people's will. Rather, party leaders have focused on getting their man in the White House by hook or by crook, regardless of who actually won more votes. Both Al Gore and George W. Bush are supremely confident that they won the Florida vote and hence the election, and both have solid foundations for their beliefs. But no degree of certainty merits rhetoric that distorts reality or attempts to delegitimize the electoral process. Who doubts, that should their roles be reversed, Bush supporters would fight tooth and nail for every dimpled chad? And that Gore voters would argue that the integrity of the initial vote should be respected in the face of attempts to steal the election through endless hand recounts? Members of the two major parties fight and argue; that is to be expected. What saddens us, though, is that they have ceased to argue over matters of principle or policy, but instead bicker over an electoral process in which partisan concerns have no place. No one is trying to hammer out a sensible, nonpartisan solution to the current impasse. The elder statesmen of both parties -- Robert Dole and James Baker for the Republicans, George Mitchell and Warren Christopher for the Democrats -- have abandoned their statesman-like postures for the low road of sound bite politics. These diplomats are behaving quite undiplomatically. If nothing else, this election evidences an electorate more divided than at any point in decades. The divisive tone of both parties during the recount process only pours salt into these wounds, squandering an opportunity for national healing.

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