Judge Dennis Prince has your hanging chad right here. Caution: His hangs just slightly to the right.
"A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth."
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election is presented as a documentary in cheap clothing. It cheers and absolves one side of the political aisle while deriding and vilifying the opponent from across the way. Is either side really so completely faultless? Apparently one side is, or so purport filmmakers Richard Ray Perez and Joan Sekler, and at once this would-be, could-be objective and very important investigation into one of the most heated political debates of modern history exposes itself as just another piece of leftist propaganda.
Wait! Don't light your torches just yet. The point of this review is to examine the content and potential merit of this DVD product, not to re-stoke the embers of bitterness in the unending rancor over a close political contest and the allegations that surrounded the drawn-out assessment of the Florida state tally that would award its 27 electoral college votes to one candidate and, therefore, decide the presidency.
"Bush stole the election!" the left wails. "Gore wanted to keep recounting until he could find enough votes to win!" counters the right. Two sides, two assertions, two very important perspectives deserving equal consideration, but not in this presentation.
Forget the argument over whether your boy won or not and look, instead, at the opportunity such a documentary had to delve thoughtfully into one of the oddest and likely most embarrassing moments in the history of American elections. Both sides were anxious, both sides were determined to win, and both sides applied every standing law, every political strategy, and every possible appeal to public opinion in order to sway the outcome. This Unprecedented, unfortunately, is merely a mouthpiece of the bitter left that, although ultimately defeated after a remarkable bout of legal wrangling that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, continues to beat the tired drum that rings of voter manipulation, claims of disenfranchisement, and perversion of the ideals of democracy in America. It seems apparent, I suppose, that had Gore won, everything would have been just dandy and had the "other side" complained, well, they're just crybabies and sore losers.
The program begins by immediately jumping into an overstayed dissertation of the Florida felon list and how nearly 1,000 potential Gore votes were wiped off the slate, the list said to have included "false positives"—individuals who were not registered felons yet were identified as such, hence disallowed to vote. The argument is compelling and it's clear that mistakes were made. The documentary, however, never examines the opposite problem that, had no action been taken, all felons would have been able to cast votes, a situation clearly prohibited by standing Florida law. Neither situation is acceptable, yet only one side of this acrimonious argument is presented here.
Then it's on to voter disenfranchisement and the assertion that Florida Governor Jeb Bush willfully set about to intimidate black voters, preventing them from being able to cast their ballots, which most certainly would have added up to more votes for Gore. Interestingly enough, and something this documentary never discusses, is that the black turnout in Florida during the 2000 election registered as much higher than in previous elections, with the potential that the black turnout percentage actually exceeded the white turnout. This, of course, is never brought to light because Gore didn't prevail, and it was because black voters were disenfranchised.
Then it's on to the infamous ballot cards, punch machines, and all that talk about "chads." This continues to be the most amusing aspect of the Florida vote argument (to me, anyway) since Democratic partisans vehemently insist the infamous "butterfly ballot" was designed to confuse voters and cause them to mistakenly vote for Bush instead of Gore. What the documentary doesn't tell us is that the butterfly ballot was apparently designed by a Palm Beach County official who happened to be a loyal Democratic Party member. Okay, maybe that was an unintentional oversight by the filmmakers. Those punch ballots that played hose to all manner of swinging, dangling, and pregnant chads were certainly a major cause for the scales to be tipped to the right. Maybe, but never does the documentary address the clear voter instructions that encouraged all voters to carefully review the results of their intended votes prior to dropping voting cards into a ballot box. And, last, there is the discussion of electronic voting, purported early in the documentary to be the only way to eradicate the issues of the troublesome ballot designs. Late in the proceedings, however, "tech experts" indicate how these machines could be difficult for some citizens to manage and could be a source of fraud. That's a truly curious argument as these poor technically-challenged voters are the same folks who can extract cash from an ATM with ease, program a TiVo with envious accuracy, and regularly battle their kids and each other in all manner of GameCube, X-Box, and PlayStation diversions.
I'm looking for a fair and balanced discussion here and I'm just not finding it. Instead, all I see are a gaggle of left-leaning cronies queued up to cry in unison. Any utterances that come from right-oriented players come by way of carefully selected sound bites used to prop up the unilateral discourse at hand.
"Partisan politics is polluting our most important legal and ethical
processes…and is damaging our political system. Proceedings, while billed
as impartial, have become little more than witch hunts designed to humiliate the
opposing political party…It threatens the ability of the political system
to attract the bright, dedicated people that our nation deserves. It undermines
public confidence in government and its leaders."
As far as the disc itself goes, the full-frame transfer looks fine with good color and competent details. The audio comes by way of a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix that keeps the one-way dialogue anchored to the front channels (where I can keep it properly corralled). This particular release, brought to us by the usually well-grounded Shout! Factory, is billed as a special 2004 Campaign Edition and includes additional material that covers media malfeasance (read: FoxNews), corporate dominance, and other such right-wing nasties intended to sway…er…enlighten 2004 voters. Danny Glover (Predator 2) is on hand to bookend the show with his rather unconvincing entreaties that a political crime has been committed. Frankly, this only reminds me that I can also vote at a movie theater box office, choosing whose films I'll pay to see…and whose I won't.
Really, I can't recommend this disc, either for purchase or rental, yet not for reasons you might immediately assume. The political machine in this country is complex, convoluted, and oftentimes contemptuous towards us voters. The two-party system is riddled with faults, that is for sure, but that is a problem that exists in both parties. Sadly, Unprecedented: The 2000 Election attempts to cast stones from within its own glass house at just its opposition, without ever conducting one iota of self-examination along the way. In the end, it only succeeds in immediately marginalizing itself as just another piece of politically charged propaganda. And, as it's guilty of presenting only one half of the argument at hand, this disc earns only one half of the total judgment available.
My parting advice is simply this: Rather than spend time gnashing your teeth over the angst and animosity this crock-umentary would like to stir up in you, spend that same time and energy studying political issues of local and national interest. Read books, newspapers, and online content from both political persuasions to be certain you fully understand the issues at hand. Then go to the polls, be deliberate and decisive in your voting, and walk away proud that you live in a country where you're free to vote and where your vote most assuredly matters; don't let anyone try to convince you otherwise.
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