Saturday, December 11, 2010
Ten Years Ago....
....a day that will live on in infamy. That was the day the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) made its worst decision in my lifetime. They voted in Bush v Gore to stop the recount of Florida's election to determine who would be president of the United State starting in January 2001. Unfortunately they decided it was George W Bush. And we have been paying the price since.
I feel that way because I felt the basic foundation of my country's principles get violated blatantly by individuals who use their personal feelings and agenda to overturn the will of the people.
Ahhh, I remember late 2000. I had just moved back to Seattle after living in the suburb town of Federal Way. I was trying to get my life together (again) with a new job and a new place in the city. I was still reeling from the results of the 2000 Subway World Series and had no clue who was going to win the 2000 presidential election. It seems that after 8 years of Bill Clinton was president, It seems the American people were fatigued by peace and prosperity and they wanted a change. So who to vote for? The vice president of the current regime, Or the son of the former one term president? It seems it wasn't much as a choice so it was no surprise that many voters chose a third option in Ralph Nader.
Now Ralph Nader gets a lot of the blame for how the results of the 2000 election ended up, Certainly the rational to vote for him because "there wasn't any difference between Gore and Bush" was short sighted but Al Gore ran a weak enough campaign by running away from the Clinton legacy. He got tagged as being an exaggeration king and somehow the American people were offended when he sighed over something stupid George Bush said during the debate. So most of the blame for those who voted for Nader goes on Gore.
On election day I'm watching the results and it wasn't looking good for Gore, Yeah, he got the usual Democrat states but there wasn't a conclusive pattern that seemed to favor a victory to Gore. I went to sleep with the feeling that "Oh well, Bush is our next president". I wasn't too concerned about that weirdly enough, Maybe I just looked at Bush being a stop gap to the next liberal president that will finally move the US forward from where we left off in 1980 in the 2004 election.
But something weird happened. The results of the 2000 election wasn't settled yet. Several states hadn't officially declared a winner but only one state, Florida with its 25 electoral votes mattered, Because it was the only state in which the declared winner would be ensured the presidency. Unknown to me on the night of the election, Gore HAD been declared the winner at one point. But a Bush operative (a family member no less) cried foul over the announcement. Although it was suspicious how he would know that the rest of the count would work in his boss's favor, Still he was correct in calling out the media for declaring a winner with the vote being that close.
How close? In a state with a population of well over 10 million the first machine count gave Bush a vote margin of less than a thousand. That's a margin of less than 0.009 percent!!! According to Florida state law that meant a automatic recount would go in effect. It did and it closed the gap Bush and Gore even further to about 500 votes.
So now the state of Florida had to determine what the next step would be, In most states it would automatically go to a hand recount. It usually isn't a problem because when it usually occurs it involves the recount of at most, tens of thousands of votes in local elections with consistent voting machines. In Florida a hand recount would involve about ten million ballots with various voting set ups in place, Mostly involving punch out ballots that gets counted by a machine. Taking the same ballots and counting it by hand presented interesting dilemmas.
First and foremost was the dilemma of what the voter's intent was when they were punching out the card. Some people made mistakes in the punch out and they hand wrote who they really wanted to vote for, Some of the cards weren't punched out completely and others had a ballot in which part of another "chad" was removed enough to make the fully poked out candidate invalid. Also there were badly designed "Butterfly" ballot books that seem reveal that a lot of the citizens in a heavily Jewish district voted for well known anti-Semite Pat Buchannan.
There were charges that many military folks absentee ballots were mistakenly not counted for being filed late and other charges that late military absentee votes were purposely mailed late (and counted) after the stalemate occurred. Neither of the accusations turned up much fruit.
The battle lines were being drawn at this point with each side accusing the other of tampering with the results of the election. Al Gore made a calculated error in only wanting a recount of heavily Democratic areas while the Bush campaign was demanding that Al Gore concede as quickly as possible so that a Bush inauguration can be set up in time by mid January.
Needless to say it was getting ugly. Protesters from both sides were out on the streets, Republican operatives were banging on the windows and the doors of the recount offices to intimidate the counter volunteers, The Democratic team followed tractor trailers filled with the voting ballots paranoid that they may be hijacked.
The hand recounts were going very slowly, Partly by all the lawsuits flying around with Al Gore suing to keep the voting count going and the Bush campaign in starting to realize that an accurate state wide hand recount was not going to be in their favor, suing to stop the hand count completely and to certify the results based on the previous machine count tally.
Several irregularities in the voting seemed to have favored Bush. The so-called "butterfly ballot," A purge of some 50,000 alleged felons from the Florida voting rolls in which The majority of these were not felons and should have been eligible to vote.]. Additionally, there were many more 'overvotes' than usual, especially in the Jacksonville area, where some 27,000 ballots showed two or more choices for President. Unlike the imfamous 'butterfly ballot,' the Duval County ballot spread choices for President over two pages with instructions to 'vote on every page' on the bottom of each page.
The post election crisis would go on for over a month, The election was becoming a running joke, tensions beginning to mount to the point where there was a possibility we might have a temporary president in the form of the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert if the count wasn't finished by January 20th.
However, the Bush campaign had an inside man on the job. There was a Bush working for Fox News who berated the media for declaring Gore the winner too early, There was candidate Bush's brother Jeb, Who as governor of Florida did whatever he could using his power to ensure his brother George wins the needed electoral votes of Florida. Then there was the proto-Palin, Katherine Harris who somehow was able to be both Secretary of State of Florida AND Bush campaign chairperson. As secretary of Florida she was able to declare Her candidate Bush the winner of the Florida vote. Very convenient. If a Democratic candidate tried this there would be huge uproar. But the only uproar over Katherine Harris was how much makeup she wore and how aggressive her "cougar" act was in her dealings with men.
It finally came to the SCOTUS to come to a decision, Even that would go back and forth between the grieving parties and slowed the hand recount to the point where an arbitrary deadline date would be reached and the vote could be stopped at that point. The final deadline date was ten years ago today, December 12, 2000. The 5-4 vote went as would be expected, Going by an ideological split with the conservatives voting to stop the hand vote count to give the victory to Bush and the "liberal" wing of the court voting to keep the vote count going to its proper conclusion.
It was an outrage! How dare the conservatives stop democracy like that? Florida set up a flawed voting system that wouldn't have drawn attention if the vote wasn't so close. It needed to be fixed and the hand recount of the WHOLE state (Sorry Al Gore) was the best way to do it. Scalia cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment as the reason for the vote to be stopped. This was utterly ridiculous because many people were denied their right to have their vote counted because of his BUSH V GORE decision. He also overlooked the 11th amendment that conservatives say they favor so much in regards to state rights. The SCOTUS overturned the Florida Supreme Court in dealing with the recount thus violating their state rights. Plus there were reports of Sandra Day O'Conner voting in the majority merely because she was thinking of retiring and didn't want a Democrat to vote for her successor. Talk about judicial activism bias!
Still, I was in the "Let the baby have his bottle!" state of mind. I thought having Bush in the White House would be preferable in a disputed election than Al Gore because Gore would have been raked over the coals viciously by the Republicans and the conservative media. I thought, How bad could it be? We survived the stolen election of 1824 in which yet another scion of a one term president John Quincy Adams had an election stolen in his favor and he too was a one termer. So Bush will be a one termer too. He won't be able to govern with a mandate, Can't screw too much but certainly the regime would change again in 2004. How bad could it be?
How bad indeed, First A bunch of his campaign contributors go joyriding in a nuclear submarine that KILLS Japanese kids. He orders a plane to do a little spying in China and when it gets captured he caves in to the Chinese and lets them have the plane! His Vice President has a VERY closed door meeting with an "Energy Task Force" that deregulates the oil industry so much that years later we get the worst oil spill in our country's history. He gives aid to the Taliban because they "wiped" out poppy fields AFTER the Taliban destroyed some Buddhist statues. And then came September 11th, 2001, In which Bush failed to prevent the worst terrorist attack in WORLD history (He was too busy trying to revive the Star Wars program), Which was horrible of course, But perversely it somehow made Bush out to be a hero. He kept us "safe" throughout the rest of his administration. I dunno that's like praising OJ Simpson for NOT being a murderer if you don't include that ONE bad night.
So because of this need to revere Bush after 9-11, He was able to push his flawed economic policies that took a record surplus and instantly made perennial record deficits with nothing to show for it for the American people. He was able to start a bogus war with Iraq based on a personal vendetta against the leader Saddam Hussain ("He tried to kill my daddy")that has killed 4000+ Americans and who knows how many Iraqis. the economy was weak throughout his administration as jobs were hemorrhaging to other countries. It took a hurricane and his terrible leadership throughout the aftermath that finally had the American people to realize what an awful president he was.
So yeah, Justice Scalia, I haven't gotten over it. It was your twisting of the very Constitutional principles you SAY you stand for that gave us what will go down as one of the worst presidencies of all time. And it didn't need to happen. Even though the SCOTUS stopped the vote, An independent group did under the rules in place of the state of Florida. The results? Al Gore won in any scenario that involved the full hand recount of the state ballots. Ironically one of the scenarios in which Al Gore lost was the one that he tried to sue for, The recount of votes in selective counties. And THAT was the headline in a series of articles buried in the pages of newspapers November of 2001. It was too close to 9-11 to point out to the American people that the wrong man was sitting in the White House.
Would a Gore presidency have been better? Of course it would have BUT there would have been so much contentiousness about the 2000 election against Gore by the right wing that even IF 9-11 would have happened under Gore, The American people would not back him up.
The economy would certainly have been better under Gore, The surplus would be intact but smaller and the American people would be told to turn against him because he was not as good a Clinton. Certainly there would be no war against Irag even if 9-11 would have occurred under Gore. However, Even if these scenarios would have played out as I predicted I would have to speculate it would still ensure that Gore would have lost a re-election campaign in 2004. What Republican would have beaten him in 2004? Why,George W Bush of course! And the idea that Bush would be serving his second term right NOW would be a nightmare I'm glad is not occurring today.