The Election in Perspective:
Two Nations, Four Parties
John Kenneth White
THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WILL BE FOREVER REMEMbered not for what the candidates said or did during the campaign, but for how it ended. Not since the disputed Hayes-Tilden contest of 1876 has there been so much drama, confusion, and excitement. The trouble began on election night, when the broadcast network projections gave the state of Florida to Al Gore, then to George W. Bush, then to nobody. It only got worse when the same networks called the presidency for Bush only to take back their declaration a few hours later. And it ended when, for the first time in history, the Supreme Court of the United States determined the winner. But that body's certification of George W Bush as the nation's 43rd President was not a triumph for our democracy or its institutions; rather, it happened only because Al Gore and the Democrats reluctantly surrendered.
When it comes to selecting a president, Americans want the process to be both fair, yet provide for majority rule; deliberative as well as quick; representative, but with some having a greater voice than others. Viewed from this perspective, the 2000 election failed on all counts. Many did not see the electoral count as fair; rather, the candidate who won the popular vote did not become president. It was neither deliberative, as the courts rushed to beat the clock set by the Congress and the Florida legislature. Nor was it quick, as the turmoil dragged on for five weeks after the balloting. Finally, the five members of the Supreme Court that foreclosed all recounts were not the "greater voices" either