A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

Supreme Injustice

Alan M. Dershowitz

Having survived the political partisanship of the Clinton impeachment trial, the nation was swept into controversy once again by the presidential election of 2000. For thirty-six days following the November 7 vote, the election remained undecided. Democratic candidate Al Gore clearly had won the popular vote. However, with Florida’s results uncertain and contested, neither he nor Republican candidate George W. Bush had the necessary 270 electoral college votes to claim the presidency. In the end, the outcome of the election was determined by a 5–4 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In this excerpt from his book, Supreme Injustice, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz analyzes the process by which George W. Bush became what some commentators called the “president-select.” Dershowitz is strongly critical of the actions of the Supreme Court, arguing elsewhere in his book that “Bush v. Gore showed [the Supreme Court justices] to be little differen[t] from ordinary politicians. Their votes reflected not any enduring constitutional values rooted in the precedents of the ages, but rather the partisan quest for immediate political victory.”

Many Americans believed that these contested origins would always shadow Bush’s presidency. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, pushed the divisive election struggle well into the background. Why, then, is the struggle over the 2000 election significant?

Shortly before 8 P.M. [on November 7, 2000,] the major television networks projected, based on exit polls, that Al Gore had won Florida. Within a few hours, they retracted this projection and declared the state too close to call. At approximately 2:15 A.M. on November 8, the networks declared that George W. Bush had won Florida by approximately fifty thousand votes and hence had won the presidency, despite

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