Friday, January 1, 2010

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency

Good Riddance to Decade That Began With Theft of the Presidency


by John Nichols - Dec. 31, 2009 @ 12:44am


The British press has taken to referring to the passing

decade as "the Noughties" has made quite a big deal of

trying to identify the political, economic and cultural

trends of period from 2000 to 2009.


It is an amusing pastime that has some value, but only

if we're focused on identifying the root cause of what

made the Noughties such a miserable decade for the republic.


If we are serious about the task, there is not much mystery.


The original sin of the good-riddance decade came in

December of 2000, when the United States Supreme Court

intervened to stop a complete recount of the votes in

Florida and then declared George Bush to be the president.


This extreme judicial activism was not merely a

devastating assault on American democracy. It set in

motion the Bush presidency, and with it the pathologies

that the Bush-Cheney administration imposed on the

country in the form of unnecessary wars, failed

economic policies, assaults on civil liberties and

crudely divisive and hyper-partisan governance.


Bush, Dick Cheney and aides are surely to blame for

much of what ailed America during the 2000s, and for

what will ail America for decades to come.


But it was the U.S. Supreme Court's unprecedented

meddling in the presidential election process - an

intervention that would have horrified the founders of

a republic that was supposed to enjoy a separation of

executive, legislative and judicial powers - made the

Bush-Cheney interregnum possible.


Bush, it must be remembered, did not win the popular

vote nationally.


In fact, the American electorate favored Democrat Al

Gore over Republican Bush by more than 540,000 votes.


Of course, because the United States has a convoluted

electoral system that does not award the presidency to

the candidate who wins the most votes, the contest came

down to a fight between the Bush and Gore camps for

Florida's decisive 25 Electoral College votes.


Florida ran a confusing and disorderly election on

November 7, 2000, and then conducted a ridiculous

review of the close result that followed no standards

except those imposed by Florida Secretary of State

Katherine Harris, a Bush campaign co-chair.


When the Florida Supreme Court finally ordered a full

and consistent recount of all 6.1 million ballots cast

by the state's voters, the U.S. Supreme Court halted

the process and then declared Bush the winner of

Florida's electoral votes and the presidency.


The problem with this unprecedented move by a

conflicted high court was that more Floridians went to

the polls with the intention of electing Gore than Bush.


This is not some radical notion, not some conspiracy theory.


It is the reality that was evident to scholars of

voting behavior from the start.


As University of California at Irvine political

scientist Anthony Salvanto, who conducted some of the

first and most exhaustive examinations of contested

ballots, noted: "There's a pretty clear pattern from

these ballots. Most of these people went to the polls

to vote for Al Gore."


Salvanto was not an outlier.


Even the media consortium that tried -- after the

September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the ensuing

spike in presidential approval ratings -- to suggest a

scenario under which Bush might have won produced more

scenarios under which Gore would have won.


Media outlets that looked beyond the partisan spin to

the reality of what the ballots revealed acknowledges as much.


As The Associated Press noted, "Under any standard that

tabulated all disputed ballots statewide, however, Gore

erased Bush's advantage and emerged with a tiny lead

that ranged from 42 to 171 votes."


The Washington Post was even more blunt, stating that,

"If there had been some way last fall to recount every

vote -- undervotes and overvotes alike, in all 67

Florida counties -- former vice president Al Gore would

be the White House."


The Palm Beach Post, which conducted its own review of

the ballots and also participated in a review by a

consortium of media outlets, concluded: "Uncounted

ballots and voter confusion cost Gore the election."


Actually, that's not quite right.


The Supreme Court's blocking of the full and consistent

recount that could have sorted through the confusion

cost Al Gore an election. But the consequences were far

greater for the republic, which lost a decade of its

promise and possibility to the excesses and abuses of

George Bush's illegitimate presidency.




John Nichols is the author of a critically-acclaimed

study of the political and legal battles surrounding

the 2000 recount fight in Florida: Jews for Buchanan

(The New Press).



No comments: