Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Revisiting Bush v. Gore, 2000

In 2004, Mrs. Supercomputer and Mr. Supercomputer got into a very heated argument about the Presidential election between Democrat Senator and sad-sack John Kerry, eventual winner and Letterman/Stewart fodder incumbent George W. Bush, and then the third through fifth party candidates, Ralph Nader, David Cobb, Michael Bednarik and probably someone else that you've never heard of.

It was Mrs. Supercomputer's contention that the candidate you vote for should be nearly absolute in your support. It was Mr. Supercomputer's contention that you should be willing to make concessions and, in some cases, vote for the "lesser of two evils." We both knew that our votes from Texas meant very little on the national scale. The only way Bush would have lost Texas is if he pissed on the Alamo or something. And even then...

But beneath our convictions was another point of contention: should you vote according to principal or vote for what you think would practically benefit the country (and world) most. It was Mrs. Supercomputer that an anti-war candidate was the only way she could vote. And since Mr. Supercomputer shares similar, if not identical, views he should vote similarly. However, Mr. Supercomputer voted in a pragmatic mindset. Mr. Supercomputer looked at the Supreme Court and saw that Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was at death's door, and that the next four years could result in multiple Supreme Court vacancies in addition to the Chief Justice opening.

The thought of George W. Bush being able to stack the court with his own brand of neo-conservative justices was as frightening to Dear Mr. Supercomputer as the threat of terrorism. There's no telling what kind of appointees he would put forth.

So, once the Mr. and Mrs. began discussing our votes and, well, let's just say it was a long night.

As it turns out, Mr. Supercomputer's fears were greatly exaggerated. John Roberts seems to be doing a nice job. And apparently George Bush was too much of a liberal when he nominated Harriet Miers. And even if Bush had nominated DMS's worst fears, DMS should have considered history first.

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Hugo Black was a reformed Klansman who became the Court's greatest champion of Civil Rights. Sandra Day O'Connor was nominated by the president who helped politicize the religious right and she ended up being as centrist as anyone. But the value of a lifetime appointment is, I believe, characterized best in Rehnquist.

The Supreme Court Chief Justice was highly critical of two decisions made by an earlier court: Roe v. Wade and Miranda vs. Arizona. Yet, when presented with opportunities to overturn both decisions, he abided by precedent.

So that should give us all hope that justices can exercises restraint in their own political views.

Except....

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For all of the grousing by conservatives about the judicial activism throughout the Civil Rights movement and criminal rights cases such as Miranda, there is probably no better example of judicial activism in Bush v. Gore which determined, as it turns out, well, everything that's happened in the past six years.

The Supreme Court reached down into Florida and told them that they weren't allowed to recount their votes anymore, despite the last recorded margin of victory for Bush being just 327 votes.

327.

327 votes.

There are so many ways this blows my mind, I'll try to stay on the subject at hand: the Supreme Court.

Anyway, the Supreme Court said that a recount was unconstitutional since A) all the counties weren't abiding by the same recount standards (debated), and B) there just wasn't enough time.

How did Rehnquist and all the other justices vote? That's right: not with political restraint, but just the opposite. They all voted according to the party of the president who nominated them. A straight party ticket for a Court that prides itself on being impervious to political sway thanks to their lifetime appointments.

Six years later, think about how different the world is because of Bush v. Gore. It's hard to overstate the gravity of that decision. And sure, while a favorable decision for Gore would have not ensured his presidential victory, we'll never know.

No Child Left Behind. The Iraq War. $1.3 trillion of tax cuts. The rejection of Kyoto. "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie."

I don't know if the country and the world would be better off with Gore. But the Rehnquist Court, which prided itself on judicial restraint and states' rights, threw those values out the window in 2000 with Bush v. Gore.

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It was this thought in my mind that caused DMS to vote for "the lesser of two evils" and compromise some of my beliefs in favor of avoiding a packing of the Supreme Court with politicized neo-conservatives. I'm still not sure that was the correct decision. But in my opinion Bush v. Gore was clearly was not.

2 comments:

sk said...

I'm not convinced that it's a bad thing to 'pack the court with "neo-conservatives" (by the way, is there such a thing as "neo-liberal" ?).

Let's look at California, where you have liberal judges, appointed by Clinton. There are measures working their way through the system, with judges approving, getting rid of "In _God_ We Trust", and the Pledge: one nation, under _God_..." And getting rid of Ten Commandment displays.

Yep - these are affronts to our liberties. Thou Shalt Not Kill. Can't have THAT anywhere in public !!

Besides, W has been everything the left could have hoped for: bloated, expanded government. No Child..., Medicare/Medicaid programs, Amnesty, emphasis on ethanol, border guards in Federal prison while the illegal drug dealer they shot has been released and granted citizenship....

The Democrats should enjoy the times....controlling the 3 branches of government

gk said...

Well, my point was (one of them, at least) that my fears of packing the Supreme Court with conservatives was unfounded and uninformed. I should have considered that justices, once appointed, are entirely different creatures than before.

My example was Rehnquist who stateed openly that he would like to overturn Roe and Miranda, but when he had the opportunity, showed restraint.

But as politically sequestered as the justices are with a lifetime appointment, Bush v. Gore threw that restraint out the window and made the most "activist" decision I can imagine. I feel like it was an incorrectly derived decision to say, "No, Florida, you have to stop counting the votes, becuase we say so." And the fact that every justice voted along party lines 4-3, gives me some creedence.