Stivic's civics: Count all the votes

Published Dec. 8, 2000|Updated Sept. 28, 2005

As Al Gore's lawyers fought an increasingly uphill battle for the White House, Democrats turned to a big name Thursday for some happier headlines.

They brought Meathead to Tallahassee to teach schoolchildren about the Electoral College.

Rob Reiner, the movie director and actor who played Michael Stivic, a.k.a. Meathead, Archie Bunker's politically correct son-in-law on the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, spent one not-so-subtle hour in the state Capitol trading questions with local students.

Yes, most of the students were children of teachers union employees or their friends. Yes, all the adults, minus the news media, wore orange lapel ribbons to symbolize their opposition to a special legislative session that will convene today to ensure Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the presidency.

But the kids didn't always stick to the script.

"Why do people vote more than once?" asked 9-year-old Spencer Frankeberger.

"You're not supposed to do that," Reiner answered.

Spencer, as it turns out, is a Gore man, he said, "because he never drove drunk." But if the other students required a partisan nudge, Reiner delivered.

An advocate for children's issues and a generous Democratic donor, Reiner, 53, spent election night in Nashville, watching the television networks award victory in Florida to Gore, then snatch it back again.

Reiner's Electoral College lesson began matter-of-factly, introducing his less glamorous co-presenter, Mayor Frank Stare of Newark, Ohio.

"This man is mayor of a city in Ohio, and he got elected by people voting," Reiner said.

But if the kids couldn't tell from Reiner's orange ribbon, his remarks quickly showed his Democratic colors.

"Why won't they count all the votes?" asked Caleb Young, 11.

"George Bush doesn't want to count the votes because he says, "Hey, I already won,' " Reiner replied.

Some of the students, who ranged in age from 8 to 17, said they recognized Reiner from All in Family reruns on the Nickelodeon cable channel. The older ones also recognized the event's calculated nature, but at least one student hadn't let it color her evolving political views.

Taylor Thomas, 14, said she used to think she would have voted for Gore if she had been old enough. But on Day 30 of the presidential cliffhanger, Taylor was of a different mind.

"Just the way I've seen both of them act," she said, "I think I would've voted for (Ralph) Nader."