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2HRS2GO: Market worries shouldn&#039&#039t affect vote counting

    COMMENTARY -- I'm disturbed by this kind of thinking:

    "In earlier statements we've emphasized the importance of achieving some finality to the election process, not just here in Florida, but of course for the nation as a whole," Bush election recount observer Jim Baker III said this morning. "More and more we see uncertainty in financial markets and we see uncertainty abroad."

    It's not the desire for an end to the Florida electoral soap opera that bothers me. I can live with whatever the courts decide for Florida's recount. At this point, I don't care if Gore or Bush becomes president, because I don't find either man particularly appealing.

    (In case you care, I voted for Gore because I figured Congress would stay Republican. Like economist Ralph Acampora, I like gridlock. It has worked well for the last eight years, from an economic point of view)

    Those are my personal voting choices. I vote largely with the economy in mind.

    But when the former secretary of state cites "uncertainty in financial markets" as a factor in deciding in election, I get nervous. The current state of the Nasdaq Composite Index and S&P 500 ought to be the last thing on an election observer's mind.

    Who cares about Wall Street gyrations when it comes to something like this? "The Street" is not the most important factor in politics, nor should it be.

    I spend my work day focused on Wall Street, especially technology stocks, because that's how I justify my salary. But stock and bond trading is not the be-all and end-all of life.

    Democracy and governing are about far more than pleasing the investment banks. For that matter, the economy is about far more than the Big Board and electronic trade matching; that's why Alan Greenspan raised interest rates earlier this year.

    Besides, much of Wall Street's "uncertainty" has been building for months. It didn't take Florida's vote shenanigans to rattle investors' confidence -- most tech stocks have been in the dog house since April.

    Yesterday's market decline was at least as much about Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HWP) as Palm Beach ballots. Last Friday's tremulousness stemmed from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL), not hand counts versus machine tallies.

    Not that I'm discounting the election's effect on Wall Street. Traders are surely nervous about the whole thing.

    Big deal. So is everyone else.

    Wall Street's "sentiment" veers wildly on any given day. If government officials ran the country purely on Wall Street's whims, bills would be passed and repealed within minutes of each other.

    Investing conventional wisdom is also plain wrong, particularly on political matters. It's a Street cliche that a Republican president would be better for stocks than a Democrat. Unfortunately for that thesis, Bill Clinton presided over the biggest bull run in history.

    Arguably, he doesn't deserve the credit. Probably no president does -- economic cycles happen almost irregardless of who occupies the Oval Office.

    At least Clinton was astute enough to essentially leave things alone and let Greenspan do what he would with interest rates. If Jim Baker truly cares about pleasing the Street, he should campaign for a constitutional amendment that lets Clinton have a third term.

    Obviously no one wants that, except for perhaps Bill himself and scandal mongers. No one wants four more years of Clinton because there are other things that matter besides bull markets, when it comes to the rather large question of the presidency.

    Social policy matters. Highway funding matters. Judicial appointments matter. Foreign affairs matter. Military oversight matters. Immigration controls matter. Et cetera and so on and so forth and whatever else comes to mind.

    The one thing that doesn't matter that much is "uncertainty in financial markets." Ultimately, whoever wins the presidency isn't likely to affect growth in optical networking around the world, proliferation of new pharmaceuticals (Gore's tiresome harangue against Big Evil Drug Companies notwithstanding) or the construction of new airplanes.

    As long as those trends continue, Wall Street will take care of itself. 22GO>