Clarence Thomas: A Biography

By Andrew Peyton Thomas | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTY
New Horizons

The 2000 presidential election was, to some extent, a referendum on the Supreme Court. With the stock market at a record high, leading economic indicators at their strongest levels in decades, and peace and security at home and abroad, Americans were ensured of food and safety, and therefore free to vote according to other factors, such as values. Abortion was more than ever a battleground. The Supreme Court had become the self-designated arbiter of this right and a growing list of other profound cultural disputes: homosexual rights, euthanasia, gun ownership, racial preferences. The next president, Americans realized, might nominate several justices whose votes could make the difference in cases involving any of these heated conflicts.

In their speeches, Al Gore and George W. Bush brought up Clarence Thomas's name to highlight their differences. Gore promised to appoint justices on the order of Thurgood Marshall instead of Clarence Thomas. Bush said he favored justices from the mold of Scalia and Thomas.

It was perhaps fitting that the courts ultimately decided the presidential contest. After the Florida Supreme Court voted unanimously to change the electoral deadline to allow for recounting in some of the state's counties, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned ths decision and remanded the case to Florida on December 4. A county circuit court judge then sided with Bush. Gore returned to the Florida Supreme Court. On December 8, a chastened but still-defiant Florida Supreme Court sided with Gore in a 4-3 vote. They denied Gore's challenge to votes certified in Nassau County and Palm Beach County. But they sustained his petition regarding the nine thousand ballots in Miami‐ Dade County for which the machines had not detected a vote (so-called undervotes). The court ordered a hand recount of these ballots. The

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