[Viewpoint]Birds of a featherWhat lesson can we learn from the life and death struggle between Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye? People tend to talk lightly about things that don’t have a direct bearing on them: “What! How can they make such a fuss over a few hundred votes out of more than 100,000!”
But that statement overlooks the magical power of the small margin. A margin of less than 1 percent can change the fate of a country and even the future of the world.
On the morning of Nov. 8, 2000, Americans woke up to witness a magical situation. Although George W. Bush was leading Al Gore in Florida, which became the key to an election win since its 25 electoral votes would give the presidency to Bush, who had 246 electoral votes against Gore’s 255, the margin was only 1,764 votes, or 0.03 percent of 5.9 million voters of the state. It was the beginning of a memorable drama.
After the recount was completed on Nov. 10, the margin further narrowed to 327 votes, or 0.006 percent of the total. The Supreme Court of Florida decided to accept Gore’s demand for hand recounts in three counties.
Gore’s supporters included more voters with lower educations than Bush’s supporters, and many Gore supporters did not punch their ballot cards properly.
This led vote counting machines to classify the ballots as void. If the hand count had been carried out, the void ballots of Gore supporters would have been counted and Gore might have been elected president.
But with a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States halted the Florida recounts. The court was worried about a national division due to a prolonged controversy over the recount, so it made a decision that resulted in giving the presidency to George W. Bush.
Considering all of the voters in the United States, 0.006 percent is something like the weight of an ostrich feather. But a feather had the power to usher George W. Bush into the White House. After assuming the presidency of the world’s sole superpower, Bush started to exercise unilateral leadership in all corners of the world. As the United States tilted conspicuously in favor of Israel, Islamic fundamentalism started to heighten and the 9/11 terror attacks against the United States happened. President Bush overturned the Clinton administration’s engagement policy toward North Korea. North Korea was driven to the brink and became a country armed with nuclear bombs.
A feather flown from Florida changed the fate of Koreans living on the opposite side of the globe. If the feather had flown to Al Gore, the world could have changed a lot.
In Korean history, too, the difference of a feather has created many unexpected changes. The New Korea Party elected its presidential candidate with a primary election on July 21, 1997. In the first ballot, Lee Hoi-chang won first place, as expected.
The people’s attention was focused on who would win second place because the four candidates had all agreed to give, on the second ballot, their support to the second place winner. Therefore, there was a high possibility the second place winner would become the overall winner. Lee In-je won second, while third place went to Lee Han-dong. But the margin was only eight votes, or 0.06 percent of the total. Although the agreement was not kept and Lee In-je ended up winning only 40 percent of the votes on the final ballot, the fact that he won second place totally changed his way of thinking.
He bolted from the party and created a new party to run for president. What would have happened if Lee Han-dong won second place? Lee In-je would not have been motivated to run for president because he didn’t reach the final ballot of his own party’s primary.
Lee Han-dong would not have been in a situation to bolt from the party even if he won second place, because Lee Han-dong did not have the popular support that lured Lee In-je to run for president. After all, Lee In-je ran out of the party because of the eight-vote margin and greatly helped the election of Kim Dae-jung as president by splitting the votes of governing party supporters in two.
Now, the Grand National Party’s primary is back on track. Within three to four months, the winner will be decided. Nobody can tell which direction the feather will head. However the point is how to cope with the shock of the feather.
For that reason, the primary regulations should be as fair as a sharp knife. The loser should accept the results. Then the primary can be elevated to political art.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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