A FLAWED YET RESILIENT SYSTEM:
A VIEW FROM JERUSALEM
For an outside observer, the crisis surrounding the November 2000 U.S. presidential election presented a mixed and contradictory picture. On the one hand, it proved beyond doubt the resilience of the American political and judicial system under difficult circumstances, which easily could have led to an intractable constitutional crisis—if not to something even worse. On the other hand, it brought to light, perhaps more than any crisis since the outbreak of the Civil War, some of the internal tensions, contradictions, and political costs involved in maintaining as a functional system a constitutional order built on eighteenth-century republican—and not democraticU +2014principles. The survival of this system was made possible by grafting on the original constitutional principles ideas of universal suffrage and equality of access to political power in a haphazard and unsystematic way. This grafting has been done through a series of constitutional amendments, creative and innovative judicial interpretations of existing constitutional principles, and subsequent legislation, a panoply of overlapping and sometimes contradictory federal and state laws—all coupled with political pragmatic practices anchored in a two-party system aiming at continuity and avoidance of stasis.
Moreover, it was obvious that the crisis seriously tested some seminal aspects of the separation of powers, the principles of federalism and judicial independence, at both the federal and the state level. In other words, the historical U.S. constitutional achievement—two centuries of constitutional continuity, with just one brutal interruption leading to the Civil War—as well as the limits of this achievement and its costs, stood out in the weeks and months of the crisis.
Adjusting an eighteenth-century constitution to the conditions of the twenty-first century cannot be smooth sailing, and some of the costs—and