Split Decision 2000: Fools Weigh In

Thanks to a Florida electorate split nearly down the middle for presidential candidates Bush and Gore, we still don't know who'll live in the White House next. Today, Fools weighed in with their thoughts on everything from the economy to psychology to the incredible value of a single vote.

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By Motley Fool Staff
November 8, 2000

Last night was a long one for millions of Americans who stayed up late in the vain hope that they might know who their next president was before falling asleep. Those plans were confounded, but that doesn't mean Fools of every political stripe didn't react to the news of the deadlock today. Read what a few Fools had to say, then share your own thoughts on our Political Asylum discussion board.

David Gardner (Motley Fool)

The market hates uncertainty. Not knowing who's the president a full day after Election Day is a great example of uncertainty. Unique uncertainty! Now, "David Gardner's Market Day Alert Trader's Fax Line" (tm) does not and never will exist. But if it did it would have had this to say: This morning as I finally turned in to bed at 5:10 a.m. (bleary-eyed after watching 10 hours of entertainingly bad TV that blended the historic with the hysterical), I was pretty sure the market would get pounded. Similarly, I'm pretty sure that once this uncertainty is removed in a day or two, the market will rebound, as well. The market hates uncertainty! These moves are interesting and, I think, interpretable. Interpretable, but not meaningful to long-term investors.

I went on record with my Foolish Presidential Predictor back in February, and if you read that link you'll see my Predictor selected Gore. I do not personally believe he will win, now, though in this period of dynamic reversals, anything still goes. The Predictor is predicated on the belief that the performance of the economy and stock markets ultimately predict Election Day performance. At the point that I ran the Predictor (February), the trailing 12 months for both the market and the economy were outstanding.

Since February, interest rates have risen and the market has gotten pounded. The result? Economic uncertainty for some, and stock-market frustration for many. In future, to reflect this I will definitely be running the Predictor closer to Election Day (2 months away, say)! I truly believe that if the Nasdaq were ridin' high and everyone was as happy about their pocketbooks today as they were in February, Gore would have won. I am very impressed that Bush has managed to do as well as he's done, given the momentum created by longer-term prosperity throughout the past administration. Not that I believe the administration deserves much credit for that.

Selena Maranjian (TMF Selena)
What an odd surprise, that we have to wait. Life is full of waiting, for many different kinds of things: We wait for our stocks to advance and our portfolios to blossom. We wait for that promotion. We wait to meet Mr. or Ms. Right. We wait for a winning season for our favorite team. We wait for the next book from our favorite author. We wait for the Publisher's Clearing House van to pull up in front of our house.

Most of this waiting is open-ended -- we don't know when it will be over. But with politics, with elections, things have always seemed more set in stone. Those inspiring commercials ("Did you know that so-and-so voted to legalize sweatshops?") seemed to run forever, but we knew they'd suddenly end on November 7th. That was when we'd know who won. But here it is, the 8th, and we don't know. What an odd surprise. Like the old Chuck Berry song goes, "C'est la vie, say the old folks. It goes to show you never can tell."

Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
As a registered voter -- as a Florida registered voter -- I've been getting a lot of questions from my friends who live on the other side of the state line today. Did you vote yesterday? Yes. Is it true that dead people voted in a recent mayoral election? Yes. Who did you vote for? Yes.

Why upset 52% of you with the answer to that last one. Anyway, maybe this amazingly bizarre electoral cliffhanger was just what democracy ordered. Face it, we've all been just phoning it in. Our voice -- our vote -- has been complacent, seemingly meaningless. When's the last time you were at the ballot box, or as a shareholder filling out a proxy statement, and felt you really could make a difference?

We all know better, now. Even after the fog lifts on this presidential uncertainty we will begin to question everything from the merit of the electoral college to why nearly half of us stayed home. A lot will change. Our voice -- our vote -- is valuable. Seemingly priceless.

Chris Rugaber (TMF RFK)
One interesting aspect of this presidential race is how it will affect the Securities and Exchange Commission's regulation of the financial markets. As most investors know, the SEC has taken on some high-profile cases recently, most notably the fair disclosure rule, or Regulation FD, that requires publicly traded companies to release all material information publicly, rather than to just Wall Street analysts or other select groups. Subsequently, the SEC proposed that accounting firms not be allowed to receive lucrative consulting companies that they also audit, in order reduce potential conflicts of interest.

As The Washington Post noted over the weekend, this more consumer-oriented outlook from SEC Chair Arthur Levitt is considered by some Wall Street observers as a more "Democratic" approach to regulating the markets, while the same Wall Streeters "privately" express hope that a GOP administration would back off from measures such as the proposed restrictions on accounting firms.

As a result, while it's conventional wisdom among many individual investors that a GOP administration is better for financial markets, that may not be the case when it comes to regulating them.

Jeff Fischer (TMF JeffF)
To me, the interesting aspect about today is the psychological side of it -- meaning, the way that it feels to go through the day without knowing who is the president-elect. Today the country is united by a collective lack of specific knowledge about something very important (our new president and leader!), and that's an interesting feeling to "share." It's easy to feel part of a much larger group (200 million adults), all of whom are waiting with you to see who we'll call our next president. Interesting dynamic! (If you've ever worked at a company where you're waiting to name your CEO, you've known this shared feeling, only on a much, much smaller scale!) When it comes to investing, the election's outcome shouldn't change anyone's long-term investment strategy.

Bill Mann (TMF Otter)
I found myself swelling with pride as I waited in line to vote yesterday morning. Yes, it was a long wait, more than an hour. Other people waited much longer. But as I was standing there, with my wife and baby daughter, I realized just how orderly the voting process is.

Not from an organization standpoint, necessarily. Rather, there we were, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and so on, but there was no argument, no intimidation, just small talk. In fact, it seemed quite ordinary because the United States has had such a long history of democratic process.

I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate, and it is about even money that my streak will remain intact. But I voted yesterday in a community center, completely devoid of police or military presence, at a poll staffed by volunteers. And whether or not I ever vote for a winning candidate, the importance of my ability to make my selection with impunity is really more important.

Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC)
It is only the fact that the state legislatures require the electors to vote for the president chosen by the people of their state that makes the popular vote meaningful at all. According to the U.S. Constitution, the electors could vote for anyone. So today I've been thinking: Dump this silly archaic method of electing a chief executive.

That shouldn't have any effect on this election, of course. You play by the rules currently in force.

Yes, I'm a Gore supporter, but I don't want to see a protracted mess made out of this election, and there is a lot of potential for that. I hope Gore concedes gracefully if the count goes against him and works like hell for the next four years to make sure that the next president is elected by popular vote. Even if that means Bush wins next time, too.

Tom Jacobs (TMF Tom9)
As an investor, my concerns are two: Both the candidates and Congress appear determined to deplete the surplus and return us to deficits, and also to provide some kind of tax cuts -- which tend to be inflationary in good economic times. Neither deficits nor inflationary tax cuts would be good for interest rates, and the stock market usually moves inversely to interest rates. Economic gridlock would be best for the market.

Your Turn:
What's on your mind today? Stay up too late? Didn't give the election a second thought? Share your thoughts on our Political Asylum discussion board.

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