St. Petersburg Times Online: Election 2000
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Too long to wait? It was only 37 days

By MIKE BRASSFIELD

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 14, 2000


Can you believe the election dragged on this long? Can you believe it took five whole weeks for us to finally get a president?

Well, big deal.

Americans have had to wait a lot longer for other ordeals to end. The Iranian hostage crisis lasted 444 days. Our previous "long national nightmare," the Watergate scandal, went on for more than two years.

It's just that in this impatient age Americans aren't used to waiting.

Think about it: We have overnight package delivery, express lines at the supermarket, TV ads touting faster Internet access. Faster, faster. Instant gratification isn't fast enough.

This time, we were forced to wait for a president. Maybe we're not as good at waiting as we used to be.

"The older generation is far more patient about this because they weren't raised in a hyperspeed environment, whereas the younger generation is more intolerant of the slow pace," said Renee Frengut, a Boca Raton consumer psychologist.

Around-the-clock news coverage only adds to voters' frustration, Frengut said.

"In the past, before we had mass media, there was just the daily newspaper," she said. "But this is virtually a 24-hour news story, and that keeps it in our faces."

Before competing cable news channels, the Lindbergh baby kidnapping lasted 72 days before the baby's body was found four miles from Charles and Anne Lindbergh's home.

The civil rights struggles of the 1950s began with Rosa Parks and a bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., that lasted 381 days.

The 2000 presidential election was a measly 37 days ago. That's nothing.

A University of Florida psychologist suspects that Americans grew impatient with this election not because it was too slow but because we had no control over it.

"Americans have become people who are hypercontrolled. They always want to control their environment, and as a result, they're used to speed," said Dr. Samuel Sears, a UF assistant professor.

Then there's another school of thought that says maybe all this waiting is good for us. Maybe it forces us to slow down and look at what's important.

"I think this is a fantastic thing to have happened. It's an excellent reminder for the collective American psyche," said Laura Shamas, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. "We're used to speed and instant gratification. We want our democracy to be like fast food, but it's clearly not.

"This is character building," said Shamas, a self-described cultural mythologist. "Our democracy is precious to us, so let's see it at work."

Waiting game

The 2000 presidential election was 37 days ago.

The O.J. Simpson murder trial lasted 258 days.

Elian Gonzalez was in the U.S. for seven months and three days.

The Civil War lasted 1,456 days from 1861 to 1865.

The Gulf War lasted 44 days.

The 1954 McCarthy hearings in Congress lasted nearly two months.

A human baby's gestation period is 280 days.

The Alabama Supreme Court took 18 months to rule in the Baby Sam case.

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