2000 U.S. presidential election
| A guide to|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
The 2000 U.S. presidential election was a
disaster highly controversial affair that was eventually decided by a 5-4 vote along ideological lines in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore. It ended with the proclamation of George W. Bush as the public representative of Dick Cheney, the real leader of the free world.
“”We don't really care for this Will & Grace thing. And here's what we're going to do about it.
The evangelical movement was growing in influence and things like the Lewinski Scandal fed into the right-wing resurgence. (it's possible millennial eschatology also played a part, but it's hard to find stats to bear that out.) Bush represented a unique synthesis of the country club set and the religious right.
Both of Bush's campaigns were well-done. Maybe not the most ethical, but damn did they do a good job. The only real competition was McCain and they dragged his name through the mud, but used other entities to do so (similar to what they did to Kerry in '04); that way, the Bush campaign could remain clean. They even did push-polls on it. "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" Which implied that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was born out of wedlock. (Among South Carolinians too, Christ almighty.)
“”He didn't know anything, but dammit, he was sure about what he didn't know. He was John McClane, and Al Gore was Hans Gruber.
Gore was all about balancing the budget and spending down the deficit. He wanted to protect Social Security and Medicare while Bush was trying to privatize it, proposed tax credits on green energy and college tuition, and favored middle-class tax cuts that wouldn't disproportionately skew to the 1% of income earners like Bush's did.
Bush, no joke, ran on not being the world's policeman and using American power with humility. He even wanted to remove U.S. peacekeepers from Bosnia. Gore ran on a more interventionist/globalist platform. Another huge part of Bush's campaign was based on his claims of "compassionate conservatism", i.e. stronger social programs and less demonizing of minorities and the poor; a strange U-turn for a man who worked with Lee Atwater and Roger Ailes as part of his father's campaign during 1988 U.S. presidential election, and used Willie Horton to scare the bejeezus out of white America so they'd vote Republican. At the same time, faith was a major part of his persona, so he locked up the religious vote. You can see where the "guy you’d want to have a beer with" stuff came from. Also Al Gore is about as exciting as a turtle.
You can see more than a little of this in Donald Trump's dumber answers during his debates with Hillary Clinton over the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential election (although his performance wasn't anywhere near as bad as Dubya's). The fact is, the American people don't hold it against you when you muddle through an obscure topic that they know even little about either. While the media mocked Bush as someone who resembled "a kid giving a book report about a book he didn't read" (a phrase also used to describe Trump), people across the country instead said: "Yerp, he's one of us." He was sort of a predecessor to both Palin and Trump, in that he was built to take every attack on himself and convert it into political fuel. He was risible by design. This Yale-attending scion of a blue-blooded New England family wore a cowboy hat and made Crawford his second White House to attract the scorn of non-Southerners. That's why liberals fumed and raved, because they could never defeat him (although they came close during his first run at the presidency).
Coming down from the high of the Clinton '90s, many comparisons between Vice President Gore and the other guy were downplayed and likened to "Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee." While the media proceeded to do little to expose what in hindsight were pretty significant ideological differences between Bush and Gore, and even between Gore and Clinton, some hippy also ran, hijacking the late Gen X/early Millennial vote from Gore (and even poaching some votes from Bush).
8 years of general prosperity under Clinton, virtually no wars, deficits under control. Gore should have mopped the floor with Bush, and even if Gore wasn't the world's worst campaigner and Bush was one of the best (he wasn't), the American people still should have had some common sense. But instead they got exactly what they deserved: two huge recessions in 2001 and 2008, a war based on a lie killing hundreds of thousands and paid for with a credit card, and a natural disaster killing another 2,000 people (largely due to poor leadership). That's just the three greatest hits.
The outcome in Florida, which was the state that ultimately determined the winner in the Electoral College, took more than a month to be considered definitive. The initial count in Florida had Bush winning by just 1,784 votes, which automatically triggered a recount. The rather clear voter disenfranchisement of minorities and the very shady pro-Bush decisions by his brother, the Governor of Florida at the time, contributed to the ultimate outcome. The Democrats in Florida were hardly innocent of such chicanery themselves, as they had spearheaded an effort to make it more difficult to count absentee ballots; this just happened to affect, among other groups, military voters, who consistently vote Republican. However, according to one source, Republican county clerks were actually the ones saying "'No, these [absentee ballots] can't be counted. They're being FedExed in three days after the election.'".
"The Republicans enlisted the aid of the military brass to increase the number of military ballots. They also pressed local election boards to validate military ballots that lacked postmarks, bore postmarks later than the November 7 Election Day, or failed to meet other legal requirements." "In Washington, senior Bush campaign officials urged the Pentagon to accelerate the collection and delivery of military ballots, and indeed ballots arrived more quickly than in previous elections. Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee helped the campaign obtain private contact information for military voters." The Bush campaign also explored "the legality of late voting [...] by members of the military, who, according to its internal memorandums, were "presumed" to "represent conservative electors." Many of these absentee ballots were blatantly invalid according to U.S. electoral laws. "[I]n about a dozen Republican-leaning counties [...] long-standing election rules were bent and even ignored. Boards counted ballots postmarked as many as seven days after the election, including some from within the United States. They counted two ballots sent by fax. Officials in Santa Rosa County even counted five ballots that arrived after the November 17 deadline. Again and again, election officials crossed out the words "REJECTED AS ILLEGAL" that had been stamped on ballot envelopes."
Republicans were able to play on the respect and reverence most U.S. citizens have for members of their own armed forces, and essentially argued that the rules should be overlooked in this case. The Democrats were finally beaten on the issue by none other than Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, who decided to break ranks and announce on national television "that election officials should give the "benefit of the doubt" to military voters", handing the Republicans an easy victory.
However, to make matters even more complicated, it became clear, both for America and the entire rest of the world, that thousands of voters in Broward, Volusia, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties apparently possessed the collective IQ of a sea cucumber. These voters evidently had no idea what the hell they were supposed to do in the voting booths, and did things to the ballots that defied any kind of logic. Several thousands of people were apparently intent on voting for two presidents, or just seemed interested in wholly or partially punching out random holes in their ballots to see what would happen; the answer, as it turned out, was a totally FUBAR result. Further adding to the confusion was the notorious "butterfly ballot" used in Palm Beach, where around three thousand people apparently managed to accidentally vote for Pat Buchanan because they couldn't be bothered to actually follow the arrows on their ballot. Palm Beach County happens to have one of the highest concentrations of Jewish people in the country (approximately 255,000, or around 20% of the county's total population), which made the number of votes for Buchanan especially improbable, given his open anti-semitism. Buchanan even went on television and agreed that the votes he had received were likely the result of a mistake, which must be one of the only times in the history of politics that a candidate has actually rejected votes that were cast for them. He told reporters that "I don’t want any votes that I did not receive, and I don’t want to win any votes by mistake", an astonishingly principled position to take even at the time, and especially now, in an era when candidates are actually willing to foment a coup against their own government when democracy doesn't work in their favour.
How hard can it be to punch a paper ballot? "It's pretty God damn hard when you're eighty something years old, you're arthritic, and you're blind as a fucking bat. Unfortunately [...] blind fucking bats tend to vote Democratic." Looking back, the design of the ballots wasn't exactly brilliant; in particular, "the space that voters pressed to mark their choices was misaligned with the row of the given candidate". This would not be the last time that "bad ballot design" was cited as an issue in a Florida election. The infamous "dimpled chads" were also likely the result of elderly voters who "may have failed to apply enough pressure to properly punch the ballot for their candidate." "Some machines reportedly were jammed up with un-emptied chads that prevented the voter from punching out their choice". And even if you did manage to apply enough pressure, if any part of the chad was left clinging to the paper ("hanging chads"), such ballots "would not be registered as votes by vote-counting machines." The Republicans claimed that ""dimpled ballots" should not be counted because people were either indecisive or incompetent and a dimple doesn't represent a vote." Presumably the ballots just magically indented themselves.
"In the end, some 172,000 mis-votes were recorded." This was no isolated incident either. "The American system of elections routinely fails to count hundreds of thousands of ballots because of errors by voters, confusing ballot instructions, poorly designed ballots, flawed voting and counting machines and the failure of election workers to adequately help voters." After the national embarrassment that was the presidential election of 2000, "most states moved to bring on a new generation of voting machines". However, problems with outdated voting technology still persist to this day, and the issue has even been used by unscrupulous politicians to make dubious claims about elections which they clearly lost.
Even worse, a
successful attempt at voter suppression "botched voter purge" prevented thousands of legally eligible citizens from voting. Back in 2000, "Florida was one of eight states that prevented ex-felons from voting." Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State (who was also co-chair of George W. Bush's election efforts in Florida; surely no conflict of interest there), hired a company "to produce a list of probable and possible felons before the election." At the time, Florida was "the only state in the nation to contract the first stage of removal of voting rights to a private company". "The company warned the state that many people on the list would not be felons, but officials wanted [them] to use broad parameters — that meant more felons off the rolls. People whose names appeared on the list of more than 50,000 names had to prove their innocence or automatically be dropped from the rolls within several weeks of receiving written notice. Twenty counties ignored the state's directive because they found the data unreliable, including the Madison County elections supervisor, who found her own name among suspected felon voters." "No one could ever determine precisely how many voters who were incorrectly labeled felons were turned away from the polls", but one analysis "turned up 12,000 voters who shouldn’t have been labeled felons." Unsurprisingly, this "error" disproportionately affected African Americans, who tend to vote Democrat. What a coincidence. There was also jack shit the Dems could do about it afterwards, because you can't count votes which were never cast.
In the midst of all this confusion, both parties flooded Florida with enormous amounts of people to engage in a near riot outside of the locked room where votes were being counted. In scenes which were eerily reminiscent of a more recent election, Republican supporters actually invaded the building housing the Miami-Dade County Canvassing Board, in an event which "became known as the "Brooks Brothers Riot" because the white protesters were well-dressed in button-down shirts and sport jackets." This was organized by Republican political strategist Roger Stone, who also worked wonders for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and even The Donald himself. "Stone recruited Cuban-American protesters through warnings on the radio that Gore planned to stage a coup like Fidel Castro attempted in Cuba. Stone also organized phone banks that encouraged Miami Republicans to storm the downtown counting site. On the day of the rioting, he operated a command center from a Winnebago parked nearby. Other organizers arranged to fly Republican lawyers and staffers to Miami from Washington, D.C. in flights provided by the Enron and Halliburton corporations. Enron later disintegrated in scandal. Dick Cheney, CEO at Halliburton until the summer of 2000, became Vice President in the Bush administration."
"Several "rioters" appeared outside the room where counting was taking place. Screaming, "Stop the count! Stop the Fraud!" they pounded on doors and demanded, "Let us in!" The county’s Democratic Party co-chairman, Joe Geller, was at the scene during the melee. When he procured an Official Democratic Party Training Ballot, protesters accused him of stealing a voter’s ballot. They kicked and jabbed him. Geller later reported, "At one point I thought if they knocked me over, I could have literally got stomped to death." He escaped in an elevator, where several protesters quietly joined him. When the elevator doors opened, revealing television cameramen in the lobby, protesters screamed about voter fraud. They performed on-time for the national media." This incident "left three canvassing board members fearful about intimidation and concerned about negative publicity. They decided to cancel the recount."
In addition to encouraging outright intimidation of vote counters, the Republican Party, with Tom Delay at the helm, quickly developed a strategy of taking advantage of possibly the dumbest trial judge in the State of Florida, who consistently delayed ordering a recount of the multiple defective Florida election results. The head of Bush's legal team, former Secretary of State James Baker, highlighted the irony of the situation. "We’re getting killed on 'count all the votes'...Who the hell could be against that?"
Déjà vu much?
Eventually, after a lot of legal wrangling, "the Florida Supreme Court ordered a recount of undervotes in all of Florida's 67 counties". In response, Bush's legal team immediately made an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, who decided to step in and order a halt to the recount. What was their rationale for this absurd and egregious violation of a sovereign state's electoral system? "The law is clear and long-established that the Supreme Court may halt another court’s order only if the person seeking the stay demonstrates that he or she would suffer an "irreparable injury" without one." And what sort of "irreparable injury" would be caused to George W. Bush by the counting of votes? According to Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, "the counting of votes that are of questionable legality does in my view irreparable harm to [Bush] by casting a cloud on what he claims to be the legitimacy of his election." Yes, you read that correctly.
After the sharpest lawyers money could buy had managed to finagle Gore vs. Harris all the way to the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia finally led the Court into one of its most ignominious rulings in history, which was basically that since so much time had elapsed (chiefly due to Republican dilatory tactics, but also partially due to thousands of ballots being so horrifically mangled that just from looking at them it was impossible to be certain what in fuckballs the voter's intentions were) and that there was no one statewide process for a recount guaranteeing that every ballot would be counted in the same way (as all of these procedures were county-level and inconsistent with each other), they would not count the votes because there would have been too much of a rush to do so and no guarantee that they would all be counted the same way. The ruling also declared that it should not be considered precedent in any future case,
to guard against the possibility of a future Republican candidate having an election victory stolen from him in a similar manner because the circumstances were supposedly unique. When pressed on this matter, conservatives will typically point out that none of this would have happened if Gore had simply won his home state; while true, this completely (and deliberately) misses the whole point. Scalia himself later described this ruling in surprisingly honest terms; it was "as we say in Brooklyn, a piece of shit".
In the end, Bush won Florida by a margin of only 537 votes out of almost 6 million which were cast in that state, a difference of 0.009%. However, according to the National Opinion Research Center, "with a full statewide hand recount, Gore would have won Florida under every possible vote standard. Depending on which standard was used, his margin of victory would have varied from 60 to 171 votes." Unfortuately, Gore's legal team never requested a statewide hand recount of the overvotes and undervotes, probably because they knew that no court in America would rule in favour of such a lengthy process, which would also require the implementation of a uniform standard of vote counting. "There was no set of circumstances in the fevered days after the election that would have produced a hand recount of all 175,000 overvotes and undervotes." Consequently, "Bush likely would have won the hand recount of undervotes ordered by the Florida Supreme Court, although by a smaller margin than the certified 537 vote difference."
Due to the circumstances surrounding the election, or the first several months of his presidency, some people (Michael Moore, for example) maintained that Bush was not the "legitimate" president, and that the presidency had been stolen by Bush, his brother Jeb, the Governor of Florida at the time, and the aforementioned Katherine Harris, who oversaw the recount. The People's Weekly World went so far as to enclose the word "President" in scare quotes when referring to him. Such chatter mostly ceased when 9/11 and its aftermath gave these detractors a ready, large supply of valid reasons (with some exceptions on the validity part) to criticize Bush, such as concerns over civil rights violations.
Long story short
Dubya was well ahead for weeks until October, when he was considered the winner of many debates because he didn't actually shit himself off-camera (or if he did, his pants were of a stain-resistant material). Then a thin conservative majority in the Supreme Court will hand the Presidency over to the loser of the popular vote. Democracy!
In an example of supreme fucking irony, it turns out that if Bush had won the popular vote while losing in the Electoral College, his campaign would have engaged in "a multi-front battle to contest the results."
You just can't make this shit up.
Red state, Blue state
The 2000 election was also notable in that it was the origin of the color assignment of red to the Republican Party and blue to the Democratic Party on maps depicting who had carried what. This was largely by coincidence; it just so happened that red was given to Bush and Gore was given blue, and since this took so long to process, the color schemes stuck permanently in the public consciousness. This arrangement runs counter to the tradition in other democratic nations, where the conservatives are given the color blue, and the socialists the color red, but us 'Muricans don't cotton to none'o that furrner nonsense. Besides, this arrangement gives sensible Americans an opportunity to proclaim "Better dead than red!"
Purple states were also born, these are swing states.
Vote breakdown by education
||% with bachelor degrees|
|Gore||District of Columbia||44.2|
- 2004 U.S. presidential election
- 2008 U.S. presidential election
- 2012 U.S. presidential election
- 2016 U.S. presidential election
- 2020 U.S. presidential election
- Purple America
- Brett Kavanaugh, who had a hand in the election recount
- Roger Stone, who led the astroturf "Brooks Brothers Riot" during the recount
- Documents that Changed the World: ‘Hanging chads’ and butterfly ballots — Florida, 2000 Kelley, Peter. UW News. 03.14.16
- Taibbi, "Revenge of the Simple: How George W. Bush Gave Rise to Trump", Rolling Stone 1 March 2016.
- Or, as Futurama put it, "Jack Johnson and John Jackson."
- Thomas, Evan (2019). First: Sandra Day O'Connor. New York: Random House. p. 332. ISBN 9780399589287.
- Stupid White Men, Chapter 1.
- Percent of People 25 Years and Over Who Have Completed a Bachelor's Degree
- The Supreme Court declared that Bush had won Florida, but there was no reliable tally of the popular vote and the decision was that Gore had no right to ask for a recount.