The Longest Night: Polemics and Perspectives on Election 2000

By Arthur J. Jacobson; Michel Rosenfeld | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Quite unexpectedly, the American presidential election of 2000 has become the most remarkable and in many ways the most unsettling one that the country has yet experienced. The millennial election stretched for well over one month, and its repercussions are sure to be felt for a long time to come. It has raised fundamental questions not only about American democracy but also about the nation's more than two-hundred-year-old Constitution and about the legitimate role of American courts, state and federal and in particular the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court, which in effect put an end to the election in a bitterly divided 5–4 decision rendered on December 12, 2000.

As the polls began closing on the evening of election day, November 7, 2000, there was no reason to anticipate any of the remarkable developments that were about to unfold. True, there had been a closely fought and vigorous campaign and much heated rhetoric. The intensity of the candidates, however, by and large did not spill over to the great majority of the voters. The country was at peace and in the midst of a long period of unprecedented prosperity. Moreover, in spite of their sharp differences, Bush and Gore seemed to aim for the center of the American political spectrum.

The opinion polls had been fluctuating, but Bush had maintained a small but steady lead in all the major polls in the weeks leading up to the election. On the eve of the election, most pundits were confident that Bush would win the popular vote, although some speculated that there was a remote chance that Gore might win a majority in the Electoral College. If that were to happen, moreover, it might well rekindle the debate over abolition of the Electoral College, one of the seemingly most vulnerable institutions of America's eighteenth-century Constitution. With the completely

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