The Unfinished Election of 2000

By Jack N. Rakove | Go to book overview

1
"THE LEAVING IT"

The Election of 2000 at the Bar of History

JOHN MILTON COOPER, JR.

TWO OF SHAKESPEARE'S MOST OFTEN-QUOTED LINES come early in Macbeth, to describe the death of the traitorous Thane of Cawdor: "Nothing in his life/Became him like the leaving it." Those lines apply equally well to the election of 2000. Not the contest itself, but its ending, made it memorable, exciting, and revealing. Those qualities arose out of its outcome and the postmortem disputes over how people actually voted and who really won. Otherwise, this election could easily have gone down in the historical record as yet one more unremarkable and forgettable contest.

Issues and perceptions of differences between the two major candidates and parties actually played a greater role in deciding the election than some observers had predicted. Throughout the campaign, however, it became commonplace to complain that the stakes seemed small and that few differences of policy and principle appeared to separate the main contenders. Great crusades, do

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