November 17, 2000
Ray Suarez talks to a group of community college students in Cheyenne, Wyoming, about this year's election controversy.
| JIM LEHRER: Now, what a group of Wyoming college students
think about what's going on. Ray Suarez spoke to them last night.
RAY SUAREZ: I'm here with a group of students at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Thank you all for being here. One of the things pollsters asked people coming out of the booth was whether they were generally excited, optimistic or not looking forward to the next four years, depending on who won. Now we have the luxury, ten days later, of still not knowing who won, but I'm wondering whether that changes your level of optimism, pessimism, excitement about the next four years.
STUDENT: We're an instant society. We want to know, and the anxiety has got to raise every day -- not just for the politicians but as citizens, also.
DAVID SHIPMAN: Because I couldn't not stop watching what was going on. And actually there was a couple of tests I didn't do well on because I was too busy watching this. That's how much some people care. There is passion now with your candidate.
CURTIS JONES: I'm on the opposite spectrum from here. It makes me not want to turn on the TV. It makes me not want to pick up the paper. The only reason I voted in this election because I know people fought and died so could I have this right. It wasn't that I wanted to pick this person. I think they're the best for the country. I don't think that you're really particularly fond of either candidate. And now this has just proven to me like, you know, why politics isn't, you know, my bag of tea exactly.
DONNA SIGWARD: I'm more concerned about what's happened in the Congress and the seats that have been... how that balance of power has changed that will make a difference in what happens in our country -- maybe not so much who is going to be President, but who is going to be passing the laws.
RAY SUAREZ: So with a 50-50 Senate and very close House...
DONNA SIGWARD: That's more alarming to me or concerned
RAY SUAREZ: Does that heighten the need for compromise?
DONNA SIGWARD: Probably.
RAY SUAREZ: Does it lower the possibility of compromise?
DONNA SIGWARD: It feels like it might be tough to get things done.
STUDENT: But I think that's good for the country because you are not going to be making radical decisions.
DONNA SIGWARD: Yeah, at the same time it's not going to be just radical quick changes because there are things that, if it's Bush, I'm concerned about, and if it's Gore, I'm concerned about.
RAY SUAREZ: So everybody seems kind of at peace with the idea of a gridlocked Congress. It's kind of interesting, actually.
RICH YOUNG: I think partisanship, the partisanship in this country today is just horrible, and I think if they don't start working together, then nothing is going to get accomplished. The Republicans come out a plan to fix this and then the Democrats attack it. The Democrats come out with a plan for this and Republicans attack it. And I think we're not going to get anywhere with that. And I think... I don't know if the Congressmen and the Senators need to start listening to the people more or they need to start using common sense and saying hey, we need to get something done here; this is not going to work for the country.
RAY SUAREZ: Is this hurting the country? How is it hurting the country?
RICH YOUNG: It is going to divide the country. I feel that the Democratic Party Al Gore, is vote shopping. There are still over 10,000 overseas ballots left. Why don't they just wait and see what the results are going to be Saturday morning. And if they're not happy with it, then, I don't know, try some litigation at that point, but...
KEVIN WINGERT: You have overseas criticism that we're receiving right now. You've got Russia -- Putin offered to send observers to Florida to observe the recount. I mean, we look like idiots in front of the rest of the country.
JAMIE CRANE: What's going on right now is undermining the authority and the integrity of both candidates. It's no longer I want to be your President. It's if I don't win, I'm going to take my ball and go home.
JENNIFER HARTIGAN: It's encouraging that our democracy can be tested like this and, you know, it's going to be improved because I don't think that anybody ever thought we could have a situation like this and everything is going to be looked at at a different scope and possibly be changed and made better.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, if we could somehow get you on those teams of regular citizens that the candidates sometimes use to bounce things off of, what would you tell either man about what to say after one of them becomes the winner and one of them becomes the loser? What would you want from them at that very difficult moment?
JEREMIAH ERVIN: To accept it. Say good job, and hope the next four years is, you know, good for you, and, you know, just be nice about it.
STUDENT: Take it graciously.
DONNA SIGWARD: Being honest about this struggle right now that we're in because if the table were turned, the other party would be most likely no different. They would be wanting the votes checked on. If it was that close,....
RAY SUAREZ: But so many of you have expressed the desire to see them make some sort of gesture of reconciliation when it's all over. Why is that important?
STUDENT: To pull our country together.
STUDENT: It's not so much reconciliation toward one another, but reconciliation to their office, their positions so that we can accomplish something.
BRENDA KELLY: I've also heard it said that, you know, Gore, if he should not win this election, you know, he would be the prime candidate in four years. But if he or Bush are going to be cry babies about this, I don't think the American public is going to want either one of them around.
STUDENT: Either candidate in four years will be fine -- I mean no matter what happens here. They always say that, but it's never the case, obviously.
RAY SUAREZ: You don't think they have to worry about how they handle themselves in that first week after the vote is over?
DAVID SHIPMAN: That's a good speech and one of the candidate, whoever wins, will come out and give the speech, we must come together and all the people will go, oh, that's nice. But we know, as soon as that's over, it is right back to the way we were.
STUDENT: I believe that's true. That's true -- what David said. Even though I don't like it, that's true.
CURTIS JONES: Reconciliation, all of that really doesn't matter whoever wins if they shake the other person's hand and rallies their people, get behind them -- it doesn't matter for the simple fact of you still have a party playing to a particular side and not looking out for the whole. So I think it still doesn't make a difference about that. If you're going to go ahead and be a part of your political machine, just go ahead and do it. I would rather see you be real than be fake and act like you guys make up but you guys still are going to be playing the same agenda that you were going to be playing before.
RAY SUAREZ: Do you really believe that, that the party that you didn't choose this past week doesn't care about what kind of coming four years you have, that they don't see any advantage in it for them if you have a good four years?
CURTIS JONES: I really don't. And I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but I don't feel that they support or that they're looking out for my best interest or my family's best interest or anything like that. I feel like we're sort of the workhorses to pull the load. So that's how I feel about the party.
JEREMIAH ERVIN: And don't you think if one of them does win... Well one of them is going to win... But if one wins, the other one, when they say good job or something like that, it's letting the person that vote, all the people that voted for them know that it's going to, you know, it's going to be okay and that you should just deal with what the majority of the vote was and just go with this guy that is going to be the President for the next four years?
CURTIS JONES: I think still you're going to see that line. You are going to see the divide. It doesn't matter about the fake handshake or the fake congratulations or the speeches. It doesn't matter -- you are still going to see the divide. No one is doing anything to address the divide in the country. People are still going to play to their side.
RAY SUAREZ: If your guy, whoever your guy happens to be, turns out not to be the winner, how do people like you, you and all the people who were on your side of the question, how do they move on from here? Do you say, well, we've got one President?
JULIA SIGWARD: You compromise your own beliefs. If you want to be satisfied you --
VICKIE YEOMAN: You work with your Congressman and try to get things that you want to focus on so that they represent you in Congress. So if your President is not... If your President is not the one that you elected, you'll have to refer to your Congressman to represent you in Washington.
RAY SUAREZ: So what's the assignment now for whoever comes out of the next week or so looking like they're going to be the next President? What do you want them to say to us? This is a very tough time to be becoming the President.
KEVIN WINGERT: Well, I think the first thing that they need to focus on is reunifying the country, because obviously you've had this big schism between Democratic and Republican Party lines. So the first focus needs to be okay we now have a President; let's get everybody rallied behind the President and then we'll step and go from there. If we try to continue along the same lines of being broken the way that we are, we are going to be ineffective in anything that we do.
DAVID SHIPMAN: Bring the two parties together that don't seem to want to get together. I mean every incident that happens, you have each party taking their side every single time. It's going to happen next time. I do don't think the two parties really want to get together. The people either hate Gore or you hate Bush. There's no compromise at all. Why do you think there will be, because if someone gives a speech and goes, we have to unite now and get together? It doesn't work anymore.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, this is a discussion that still has a couple of days to run. I want to thank you all for taking some time out of your day to be with me. Thanks.
GROUP: Thank you.