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A German Conspiracy?

Was the voting debacle in the 2000 Presidential elections the result of a German conspiracy?

December 1, 2000

Was the voting debacle in the 2000 Presidential elections the result of a German conspiracy?

Regardless of who will eventually be declared the winner of the 2000 U.S. presidential race, one thing is for sure: politicians and historians will argue for a long time over whether the eventual outcome was fair or not.

Some have started to look for scapegoats to bring closure to this matter — ranging from county officials that approved confusing punch-cards to the election officials that conducted the hand recount. Yet in order to bring this highly divided nation back together, it would be best if the scapegoat did not turn out to be the operatives of either political party. Otherwise, the blame game could conceivably go on forever.

But where to find such a scapegoat? Since no one is likely to volunteer for such a role, it might be helpful to start looking among the deceased. And to truly bring the nation back together, it would be best if this person were a foreigner — or at least something close.

After some searching, we found what we believe to be the perfect scapegoat: He is a man of German origin, of course. After all, the Germans were America’s enemies in both of last century’s World Wars.

Both World War I and World War II inspired a fear of German infiltrators in the United States, resulting in poster campaigns that warned citizens not talk publicly about anything that could betray any kind of secret information to the “huns”. German U-boats caused special anxiety. They carried spies to Great Britain and supposedly to the United States who would furnish Germans with crucial strategic information.

What seems to have escaped everybody’s attention, however, is just how devastating and long-lasting the impact of the work of a particular German who set out to wreck the 2000 U.S. presidential elections operative has been.

He may not be a perfect scapegoat: his parents actually came to the United States way back in 1848. And what we will blame him for was an invention made over a century ago, around 1884. Yet he died back in 1929, making it unlikely that he was out to further either party’s interest — but simply to wreak havoc on U.S. democracy. Surely people will rally together in defense of their democracy.

Thus we present Herman Hollerith as our choice for the “Indecision 2000 Scapegoat.” Born to German parents in Buffalo, New York in 1860, Hollerith graduated from the Columbia School of Mines and taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It was he who invented the punch-card machine by devising a system of encoding data on cards through a series of punched holes in 1884. His invention was applied for the first time in 1890 for the U.S. census — and saved the governments time and millions of dollars. His Tabulating Machine Company, founded in 1896, was to be one of the forerunners of IBM.

His “Hollerith machine,” of course, is exactly what has made the Florida electoral process the laughing stock of the world. While Floridians might be using computers to send astronauts into outer space, to automate the process of brewing their morning coffee and even for sprinkling their lawns, they don’t rely on them for casting their votes for the President of the United States.

So there you have it. We blame faulty machinery for the flawed Floridian elections — and hold the inventor responsible. A full 71 years after his passing, this man has caused mass confusion about who the next U.S. President will be. You have to leave it to those Germans. Sure, technically our chief culprit was born a U.S. citizen.

But we’ve had enough of these “technicalities.” He may well have claimed to have nothing but the interests of the United States at heart, but who knows for sure? Let’s just hope that IBM’s erstwhile difficulties with its business fortunes were rooted in causes other than the machinations of our man.