In 1970, Fernando Lopez, then vice president of the Philippines, was asked how it was that a local mayor who had apparently won a senatorial election had wound up being mayor instead. "[Ferdinand] Marcos and I knew we had to have a Muslim in the Senate, for obvious reasons," he explained, "so we dagdag bawas the votes a bit, and I gave this fellow the mayor's job." (In Tagalog, the national language, dagdag bawas literally meant add a few, take a few, as needed.)
Over the years, this genially imprecise tradition presided over close elections in that country and even some not so close. Those who had the power preserved the power.
Most people didn't expect it to come to the United States. But many political junkies knew better. In 1962, two years after President John F. Kennedy's controversial victory over Richard M. Nixon, I worked as a summer intern at the Democratic National Committee in Washington. There I had an opportunity to learn about dagdag bawas, American style, from a short, tough and brutally frank fellow--a Kennedy operative. With about as much moral outrage as Vice President Lopez had shown, he explained how the party had delivered Kennedy the presidency with the help of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's patronage. As he told me at the time, long before journalist Seymour Hersh added piquant detail in "The Dark Side of Camelot," Cook County Republicans, lacking any chance of ever winning city hall, and thus no road contracts, had cut a silent deal: If they stayed home on election day, thus not adding to the downstate Republican vote, they'd get a piece of the action. Roads. It was as simple as that.
To the political aide, it couldn't have been cleaner or simpler. Everybody won--no cheating, just trading favors. None of the dirtier sort of stuff that Lyndon B. Johnson had to pull off in Texas, as the White House gang laughed at their Friday evening get-togethers. It was winning by the higher logic, thereby delivering to a grateful nation the Kennedy presidency. The only losers were Republican voters, who, in the lower logic of honest votes, may have actually won the election.
The situation today in Florida of course has many differences. But attitudinally the same mindset is guiding it--even some of the same guides. Once you know what you need--in this case, 930 votes, or 537, or whatever--you dagdag the votes until you get what you need. Moderation is the tribute electoral vice pays to republican virtue, as everyone down there knows, even if no one admits it.
So much as breathe such a suggestion and draw gasps of horror--such an accusation! Why, it's as extraordinary a thing as Capt. Renault's shock when he "discovered" gambling in Rick's casino in "Casablanca." That the orchestral conductor of the whole operation is the son of Daley doesn't prove anything, but it does add historical perspective.
Al Gore must have studied the Chicago lesson. He also must have learned from the president he served with how to tough it out no matter how degraded he becomes. Don't even think of doing the honorable thing. Use the stone walls of the presidency--and vice presidency--to wait. Find any sort of benefit that can jiggle the election for you. Chads. Recounts. Courts. Time. Dagdag wherever necessary.