These people who keep insisting that Al Gore won the presidential election bring to mind the losing horse players who park themselves in front of a video monitor at the racetrack and watch the race replay again and again and again, as if watching it often enough will somehow change the outcome.
The losing bettors study every camera angle; re-evaluate every nuance of the horses' journey around the track; reconsider every step or misstep that might have made the difference between victory and defeat.
But no matter how much time and effort they expend pondering the imponderables, one thing never changes: Every time the horses cross the finish line on that TV screen, the losing bettors still lose. You can't wish a horse into the winner's circle.
And you can't wish a candidate into the White House. I truly hate to be the one to break this awful news to Gore die-hards who can't stop replaying the race: Gore lost.
When somebody says, "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States" and the band strikes up "Hail to the Chief," it's George W. Bush who walks into the room, not Al Gore.
When it's time for the president to head for Camp David, it's George W. Bush who climbs aboard the helicopter, not Al Gore.
When a proud young American says, "My dad is president," it's one of George and Laura Bush's twin daughters speaking, not one of Al and Tipper's offspring.
And when there's trouble in the nation or the world, it's George W. Bush who will deal with it, not Al Gore.
It doesn't matter in the least that the election ended in a photo finish. The losing railbird's pari-mutuel ticket is worthless whether his horse loses by a nose or by the length of the home stretch.
But that doesn't mean he can resist the urge to watch that replay again and again. It doesn't mean he won't insist until the day he dies that he picked the best horse in the race and that only some bizarre, unfair twist of fate prevented him from cashing.
So here we are, more than two months into the Bush presidency, and the anti-Bush crowd is still screaming that Gore, not Bush, won the election; that Bush has no claim to the people's support for his policies because the people preferred his opponent.
"Gore won the popular vote," the sore losers like to say. Surely they know that under the U.S. Constitution, racking up the most total votes gives a candidate no more claim on the presidency than finishing first in a Gallup Poll.
We Americans choose presidents on the basis of electoral votes, which are allocated by state. Bush won a majority of those votes including the 25 that he snagged in Florida.
"But he didn't win Florida," insist the election replay watchers. "More people went to the polls in Florida intending to vote for Gore than for Bush."
The contention that a majority of Floridians "intended" to vote for Gore but were thwarted by devious ballot designs, antagonistic counting devices and conspiratorial election laws is so deliciously idiotic that it would be amusing if it weren't so outrageous.
For one thing, the people who keep saying this have no way on earth of knowing what a majority of voters "intended" to do. Even those folks who actually attempted to count the votes had no way of knowing all they could do was guess which is why the U.S. Supreme Court ordered an end to the counting.
All these recounts and re-examinations of the Florida ballots by various news organizations and other groups are proof positive that hand-counting those votes was too subjective a process to be worth doing. So far, one newspaper has counted "undervotes" and said that Bush still won. Another counted "overvotes" and said that Gore won.
If you watch the replay enough times, you might eventually convince yourself that the horse that finished second really finished first. But the racetrack still won't cash your ticket.
Bush won. Gore lost. It's official.