We just watched HBO's Recount, which was (surprisingly) outstandingly good. I would not have thought that the director of Goldmember had it in him, but the film is incredibly taut and suspenseful, despite the outcome being a foregone conclusion. All of the performances are terrific, especially Kevin Spacey's self-effacing Ron Klain, Laura Dern's pitch-perfect Katherine Harris, and John Hurt as the hapless Warren Chirstopher. It was also acutely painful to watch all of those awful moments re-enacted (or sometimes just re-exhibited -- there's an awful lot of archival TV news footage woven into the film): the networks initially calling Florida for Gore, then pulling it back, then Fox calling the state for Bush and everyone else falling in line... Gore's aborted concession... the butterfly ballots... the Brooks Brothers riot... Joe Lieberman's stab in the back (the first of many)... the appalling voter purge... that fucking chad... and of course, the greatest legal travesty since Plessy v. Ferguson.
It's hard to watch Recount without becoming completely enraged and dispirited all over again -- if anything, our national media is even worse today when they were in 2000, when they opted to pretend like the blatant theft of a presidential election was simply business as usual. It's true they failed us horribly during the leadup to the Iraq war, but for that, they invoke the post-9/11 "patriotic fever" as their excuse for not exercising more skepticism. In 2000, they had no such excuse.
What is staggering to me, though, is that this year's class of incoming college freshman were ten years old when this all went down. To me, the scars of the stolen election in 2000 and all the tragedy that flowed from that are still a gaping, open wound, to the point where I can barely think about that stuff without wanting to punch through a wall, and I can barely get through this docudrama about the recount without weeping tears of rage. But these kids graduating high school next month, starting college in the fall -- they were too young to remember much of anything about the recount. George W. Bush is effectively the only president they have known. Maybe they dimly recall something about Bill Clinton's presidency, but they would have been, like, eight years old when the Lewinsky scandal broke. George W. Bush is their normal.
That is horrifying. (Also: I feel extremely old.)
If you know an 18-year old who's excited about casting their first vote this November -- I must insist that you get them to watch Recount. (Don't worry -- if they don't have HBO, they will know how to access the video by other means.)