Perhaps it's only because I actually lived in Broward County, Florida for 10 years of my life (including during the 2000 election, though I was not yet old enough to vote), but I found HBO's original film Recount, which premiered on Sunday, to be completely fascinating. This really is impressive, considering we knew exactly how the film would end before it even began. Whether a Democrat or a Republican, a Bush or a Gore supporter during that election, I think a person can learn a lot from watching this film, or in the very least have a lot to think about.
It is certainly possible that both Bush and Gore supporters will find this movie infuriating - Bush supporters because the film comes from an undeniably Democratic perspective (with Republicans perhaps vilified more than necessary, I admit) and Gore supporters because the film obviously is digging up old wounds.
For this reason, I think it's important to remember that the film openly admits that it's a dramatization. We should accept that the film is not entirely factual and not waste time dwelling on all of its inaccuracies (or omissions or creative license that was taken) in the retelling of the 2000 recount. If we do this, then we can instead focus our energies on considering the questions that the film raises, which are legitimate, and truly thought-provoking.
These questions include but are not limited to: Is the intent to vote (i.e. a dimpled chad) enough to count something as a vote? What happens when a person in a position of considerable power (Katharine Harris) is allowed to make decisions that they are probably not qualified to make? Can a person in a position of power truly make an unbiased decision when they have their own personal agenda? Why would the Supreme Court state that their final decision stopping the recount applied only to this single instance? What would have happened had the entire statewide recount been completed? Would Bush have still won? Would Gore have won? Different studies have claimed different things again depending on whether or not dimpled chad were counted as votes (and as I learned from the film, the plural of chad is in fact chad - not the often utilized chads). Finally, of course, though slightly more indirectly, would this country be profoundly different today if Gore had ended up taking the presidency in 2000?
The cast of Recount was all superb, particularly Laura Dern as Florida's Secretary of State, Katharine Harris (though I can only hope that her incompetency was to some extent exaggerated, Dern did a great job of capturing it). Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Ed Begley, Jr., Bob Balaban and Denis Leary also star. Interestingly, the film was written by Danny Strong, who some of you may remember more as Jonathan Levinson on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doyle on Gilmore Girls; I had no idea he was also a writer until I saw his name in the credits. By the way, my favorite line in the movie was, "It's like Night of the Living Bubbies" - when a character was referencing what is more or less the essence of the population of Palm Beach County.
For me, though again a person could potentially find the film to be depressing, I finished watching with a sense of optimism. One can only hope that we have learned from our mistakes and taken the appropriate steps to ensure that an election will never get so mucked up again (changing and standardizing ballots, etc.). Secondly, especially as a young person, I think this film reminds us all that no matter what we think that the ultimate difference in votes between the two candidates was, that taking the time to vote does or at least can make a difference when an election is incredibly close - especially since there will never be another hanging or dimpled chad again.