"The position by the majority of this
court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal
of judges throughout the land..... It is confidence in the
men and women who administer the judicial system that is
the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day
heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted
by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although
we may never know with complete certainty the identity of
the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity
of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence
in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
Justice Stevens in dissent, joined by Ginsburg and Breyer
A few weeks into the post-election interregnum
the Miami Herald, not a bastion of left thought, commissioned
an academic analysis of voting patterns in each of Florida's
5885 precincts. The study suggested Florida had voted for
Gore by about 23000. Of Course, the officially certified vote
goes for Bush by a figure of 537 votes.
The truth is very simple. Al Gore won both the popular vote
and the electoral vote and has been denied the Presidency,
while the loser in both categories has been appointed President-elect
by fiat of the right-wing majority faction in the Supreme
Court and against the will of the majority of the voting citizens.
The whole premise of the Bush camps' endless appeals to courts
at every level regarding vote-counting in Florida was that
a true count would find Gore the winner and so such counts
had to be stopped.
A future Bush Presidency is compromised to a degree almost
unique in American history. Corruption is a national pastime
in this country, but Bush's effect on the Supreme Court is
calamitous and scary. There is no way to avoid the obvious
implication that Gore and those who voted for him were cheated
out of that victory by five right-wing Supreme Court Justices
taking the law into their own hands, repudiating the will
of the citizenry and installing their own candidate as President.
This was the Establishment in action protecting and supporting
Two weeks before the November election polls began to indicate
the possibility of a split between the electoral and popular
votes, with Gore winning the Electoral College and Bush the
popular vote. The Bush campaign bragged to the Boston Globe
that it had already anticipated this outcome, that it had
the money and the media resources to raise a hullabaloo, arguing
the Electoral College was an outmoded remnant of a colonial
past, that the popular winner was the true winner, any other
option would leave the winner without a mandate. Of course
as it happened the roles were reversed, as Al Gore won the
popular vote and subsequent Bush court arguments were for
the purpose of winning the electoral college. While this appears
cynical, it is really only a reflection of the Establishment's
sense of entitlement, that Bush and the Republicans are the
right people and the nation's natural rulers.
A recent article by the nationally-syndicated liberal columnist
Arianna Huffington looked into aspects of the effective disenfranchisement
of large numbers of Black voters in the centrally-contested
state of Florida, where so many other voting irregularities
have been documented. She estimates that Vice-president Gore
received 93% of the African American vote in Florida-a number
pretty much in line with the Black vote nationally (she estimates
92%)-which is an astonishing figure. In Florida in particular
they turned out in numbers 65% higher than in 1996, which
pretty much indicates how Black America feels about a future
Even so, large numbers of potential Black voters never made
it to the polls, or had their votes thrown out. "In an unprecedented
move", Huffington wrote, "Florida had hired a private
company (laden, as it turns out, with Republicans) to purge
its voter rolls. But the 'scrub list' the company supplied
was riddled with inaccuracies-once again disproportionately
penalising African Americans. In Hillsborough County, for
instance, 54 percent of those on the error-filled list of
felons to be excised from the rolls were black, though African-Americans
account for less than 12 percent of the county's voting population."
It's worth noting the so-called "scrub-list" of
alleged felons in Florida contained some 173 thousand names;
moreover, also in Florida 31% of all Black men can't vote
because of a ban on felons. It will be remembered that Bush's
lead in Florida at the time the Supreme Court stopped the
recount was under 200 ballots.
While the Gore/Bush contest was presented as liberal vs.
conservative, this misses the point. Gore is hardly a liberal;
he has consistently and historically placed himself within
the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, the Democratic
Leadership Council. Bush is a "stealth" reactionary;
most of the hard right issues identified with the Gingrich/Buchanan
Kulturkampf wing of the Republican Party were downplayed
to the point of invisibility by the Bush campaign. But they
haven't gone away, and Bush's economic and social views are
truly appalling. Both Gore and Bush picked running mates with
views akin to their own. Lieberman is the former chairman
of the DLC while Cheney was one of the most right wing members
of congress the Reagan years produced.
Consequently Al Gore is not very highly esteemed by the core
constituencies that make up the voting muscle of the Democratic
Party - briefly, the women's and black and minority ethnic
movements, and the trade union leadership; although they worked
very hard and effectively in getting out the vote for Gore,
they were largely motivated by fear and dislike for Bush.
However awful Gore's views on some issues, Bush's were always
Coming out of the Democratic Party's Convention in Los Angeles
in August Gore took the lead in the polls and from that time
on, it was his race to win or lose. He proceeded to run what
was arguably the worse campaign of any Democratic Party candidate
of the past half-century, even surpassing the hapless Dukakis
campaign in this regard. What should have been a Gore rout
turned into the near-tie situation that created the whole
Did Gore run on the Clinton-Gore achievements? He didn't.
As The Nation pointed out at the time, whenever he played
his populist card he surged in the polls. But he did that
only infrequently, and in the closing week of the campaign
in a desperate attempt to catch up. He campaigned frenetically,
and with great energy, and in the wrong direction.
The differences between the candidates' programmes were very
wide, and Gore's views were much more in synch with the voters.
This was particularly true vis-a-vis issues such as Social
Security, the environment, abortion rights and affirmative
action, gun control and Medicare and education. These were
not great reform issues, but factors in making the lives of
the majority of the populace more comfortable. What was bewildering
was that only rarely did he cast the debate in a form to demonstrate
this. Bush ran a relentlessly negative campaign (while denying
he was doing so) portraying Gore as a prevaricator, an exaggerator,
a liar, a man who would say anything to get elected. For the
most part Gore remained silent. Gore allowed Bush to blur
fundamental differences while turning the presidential campaign
into a personality contest, where Gore couldn't win. It was
a truly bizarre spectacle.
Finally, somehow, Gore became convinced that his ties to
Clinton and his administration would be a burden on his campaign
- this is the whole issue of the Monica Lewinsky affair -and
that it shouldn't be mentioned any more than necessary. So
Clinton was only marginally involved in the campaign and the
whole issue of the 8-year long Republican attempt to destroy
the Usurping and Illegitimate Clinton Administration, from
Whitewater to the Gingrich-inspired shutting down of the Government
to the Impeachment itself, passed without a mention. "The
Impeachment" was a fitting reply to Bush's talk about
cooperation and "bipartisanship", and Gore never
This blunder probably cost Gore his best shot at winning.
Clinton's approval ratings stayed in the range of 60% over
the past two years - even higher here in California - and
the idea that he was an embarrassment or a pariah was a ridiculous
fantasy; he's enormously popular to this day. Clinton is a
master campaigner and has in the past showed considerable
strength in precisely those geographical areas where Gore
was weakest - Ohio and the upper Midwest, the Appalachian
region, Arkansas and Missouri and Tennessee.
This may be as good a place as any to comment on The Question:
did Ralph Nader and the Green campaign cost Al Gore, and the
well-being of the country, the election? If there is anything
beneficial about the ruckus in Florida and the Supreme Court,
it is that it has placed this question on hold for the duration.
It's simply the nature of the two party system, with two
entrenched parties sharing the majority of political influence,
that any independent party plays the role of a spoiler. Like
a zero-sum operation, what weakens one side strengthens the
other. Nader unquestionably hurt Gore more than Bush. Had
Pat Buchanan run a competent and serious campaign he would
have hurt Bush. (As a matter of fact Buchanan does seem to
have hurt Bush in Iowa and Wisconsin, and possibly elsewhere.)
And so what?
To say one should never support an independent party for
fear of playing the role of a spoiler to one of the major
parties (both of them securely anchored in the status quo)
is to abjure using the electoral process to effect major reform.
And spoiler accusations against Nader on this level smell
highly at this date of an apologia for Gore.
The Nader campaign was undoubtedly one of the factors which
led to Gore's defeat, although I would guess a rather insignificant
one. It certainly rankles those of us who supported the Green
campaign and voted for Nader. But what hurt Gore was his own
political timidity, his own penchant for self-destruction
and in particular his refusal to make use of President Clinton's
campaign talents and ability on his own behalf. Nader was
not a determining factor in Gore's inability to carry Arkansas
Nader can be faulted in some regards. He seemed oblivious
to the evident fact that minor parties all fade in the polls
on the eves of close-fought elections - precisely because
people vote tactically and will give way to the lesser evil.
(It's a necessary skill in a two-party state.) Accordingly
he believed his 5% target was within reach.
However, had Nader recognized the inevitable, that in the
immediate days before the November vote the race was very
close, he should have had the sense to appeal to his own supporters
in the toss-up, so-called "battlefield" states to
hold their noses and vote for Gore. He would have lost very
little in concrete terms, emerged a hero to most of the progressive
forces in this country, he would be in a position to demonstrate
his party's clout, and most importantly, would have spoken
to the real anxieties of those sectors of American society
most fearful of living under a Bush regime.
Some of Nader's post-election boasting and mocking Gore leaves
a sour taste. We have not won a marvellous victory. The left
needs to find ways to approach many of the social forces and
movements who for various reasons chose to support Gore in
this election. And we do not need beforehand to make them
even more sceptical of our own intentions.