Columnist George Will has a good if not slightly scolding-to-liberals recap of the recount drama that unfolded in Florida in November of 2000 between then-candidates for president Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore which resulted in Bush v. Gore, which resulted in the SCOTUS ultimately ruling on December 12, 2000 that election laws could not be revised nor re-written by the FL state Supreme Court in the aftermath of the contested election because they violated the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee. As a result, Al Gore grudgingly conceded and George W. Bush won the state of Florida by 537 votes – becoming the 43rd President of the United States.
Will drives us down Memory Lane:
In the end, seven of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices (and three of the seven Florida justices) agreed on this: The standardless recount ordered by the Florida court – different rules in different counties regarding different kinds of chads and different ways of discerning voter intent – violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
Two of the seven U.S. justices favored ordering Florida’s court to devise standards that could pass constitutional muster and allowing the recount to continue for six more days. Five justices, believing that the recounting had become irredeemably lawless, ended it.
Once Gore summoned judicial intervention, and Florida’s Supreme Court began to revise state election law, it probably was inevitable that possession of the nation’s highest political office was going to be determined by a state’s highest court or the nation’s. The U.S. Supreme Court was duty-bound not to defer to a state court that was patently misinterpreting – disregarding, actually – state law pertaining to a matter assigned by the U.S. Constitution to state legislatures.
Suppose that, after Nov. 7, Florida’s Legislature had made by statute the sort of changes – new deadlines for recounting and certifying votes, selective recounts, etc. – that Florida’s Supreme Court made by fiat. This would obviously have violated the federal law that requires presidential elections to be conducted by rules in place prior to Election Day.
Hard cases, it is said, make bad law. But this difficult case seems to have made little discernible law. That is good because it means no comparable electoral crisis has occurred. What the Supreme Court majority said on Dec. 12, 2000 – “our consideration is limited to the present circumstances” – has proved true. And may remain true, at least until the next time possession of the presidency turns on less than one ten-thousandth of a state’s vote.
Make sure to read the whole thing.
I remember when all of this started unfolding. I was at Universal Studios in Orlando, FL with friends – at least one of them at the time was Democrat (she became a Republican not long after 9-11). We didn’t talk about what was going on at the time because the issue was so contentious. But I remember that a lot of the TVs at the restaurants at Universal were always tuned to a 24-7 news network like Fox or CNN. Same same at the airport. You really couldn’t go anywhere without seeing something about the latest claims being made by one side or the other.
It was a relief when it was over – especially considering the outcome. Ignorant, uber-partisan liberals, of course, claimed – and still believe to this day – that the so-called “conservatively biased” SCOTUS “invented” laws in order to hand the presidency to George W. Bush. Their belief that he was “selected, not elected” greatly aided in clouding their judgment of both Bush the man and Bush the President, and they allowed this flawed belief about both the SCOTUS decision and him to negatively color their opinions on his decision-making from that point forward. 2004 Democrat candidate for President Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) even used the 2000 election results as a rallying cry to the Democrat base when running against President Bush, suggesting (paraphrasing) that 2000 ‘couldn’t be allowed to happen again.’ There were liberals post-2004 elections who suggested that Bush stole that election as well.
Remember how all the claims about stolen elections dramatically decreased in 2006 when Democrats started winning again? Yeah – me, too. Apparently the only time elections aren’t stolen is when Democrats win. Or something like that.
Anyway – so that’s my story. Where were you when the decision came down from SCOTUS on December 12, 2000? What were your thoughts?