In these early days of the Bush Restoration, it's easy to muster up the kind of sheer animus that so occupied the right when Bill Clinton eased into office on the strength of a bare plurality back in 1992. And it's not pleasant. Some days -- when W. nominated the sleazy Ted Olson as Solicitor General, for instance, or reinstituted the deeply offensive "gag rule" on foreign reproductive health providers -- some dark, feverish part of my brain fantasizes about a left-wing Rupert Murdoch or Richard Mellon Scaife arising from the ashes to drag W. through the mud. Perhaps a Texas Project to match the Clinton-era Arkansas Project? I know, I know, we've all had enough of that. But where's Ted Turner when you really need him?
Now come the partial results of the Miami Herald/USAToday/Knight-Ridder recount of Florida ballots to spoil my fantasy. If even a lenient standard -- counting "faintly-dimpled chads" -- had been used to count "undervotes" in Miami-Dade County, Gore would only have garnered 49 more votes. Since the Democrats had expected to pick up several hundred extra votes in Miami-Dade, this news is supposedly a blow to claims that Al Gore actually did win Florida.
Of course, there are all kinds of responses to this new development. For instance, that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered a statewide hand recount, not merely a Miami-Dade recount or a recount in the four counties where the Gore campaign had requested them -- so we don't really have a final answer yet. Or that counting only "undervotes" misses the so-called "misaligned" ballots that gave Pat Buchanan his oddly strong showing in Palm Beach. Or that we haven't even begun to look at the disenfranchisement of hundreds of black Floridians erroneously (and suspiciously) struck from the rolls by a private auditing firm with strong Republican ties. Or that we must also consider the uncounted "overvotes" -- like the ones where voters punched for Gore-Lieberman and wrote the Democrats in as "write-in" candidates -- that showed a clear preference despite being "spoiled." (If you want the most pro-Gore take on the recounts, you can check out the duly-footnoted compilation at Democrats.com, which gives Gore a 1,554-vote lead based on various media and official recounts and a less-convincing, but still striking, 29,454-vote lead based on media analyses of "overvotes.")
But since you're weary of this whole mess, dear reader, I'll save you some time: In principle, the results of the actual recount don't matter much at all. This is because the real crime was not that Al Gore may have won Florida had all his votes been accurately tabulated. It's that the Republican Party and five Supreme Court justices didn't care what the actual results in Florida were, period! That is, it may well be that under even a generous standard, George W. Bush would still have won Florida. The point is that the Republicans didn't want to find out, and were willing to do just about anything to avoid doing so.
Like what? There's no point in rehashing any of the many thoughtful critiques of the Supreme Court's disgraceful 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore (though this author likes Jeffrey Rosen's critique in The New Republic and Ronald Dworkin's in The New York Review of Books) or the Republicans' various efforts to halt, slow, or cast aspersions on various official and unofficial recounts. But here in the Washington bureau of The American Prospect, we have a new poster on the wall: a blow-up of the now-famous AP photograph of the "protestors" who "spontaneously" stormed the offices of the Miami-Dade County board of elections. This "protest" -- a truly disgusting, extrajudicial act of sheer thuggery -- was purely and simply an effort to intimidate the vote-counting volunteers so as to thwart the recount. Who were these protestors? They have since been identified as Republican aides -- legislative assistants, staff counsels, chiefs of staff -- flown down from Washington to turn Florida into an outpost of the Congo.
But we can, at least, thank these young fire breathers for relieving the GOP of one of its self-assumed burdens: Republicans no longer need consider themselves defenders of "the rule of law." In the Congo, after all, they might call what happened in Florida "democracy." But in America, we call it something else.
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