The links between Trumpism and George W Bush go far beyond a contested election

The effects of the 2000 presidential election are still being felt, 20 years on.

When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”

In the days since the US election I have thought about Margaret Atwood’s reflections on time and narrative – of how it is only after events have passed that any meaning or consequence can be imposed on them.

Few people in 2000 could have known the consequences of that year’s presidential election between George W Bush and Al Gore, which was settled by the Supreme Court a month after polling day. Even fewer would have predicted that its aftershocks would be felt as far into the future as 2020, with Donald Trump challenging the results of an election, and his legal adviser Harmeet Dhillon imploring the Supreme Court to “step in and do something”.

If Trump’s stand-off with the American electorate has an origin story, arguably the tale begins in 2000. The election between Gore and Bush came down to Florida’s then 25 electoral college votes. The final result was close, and Gore asked that manual recounts be carried out in four counties. Florida’s Supreme Court later ordered a statewide manual recount, but, at the request of Bush’s legal team, the US Supreme Court intervened and ruled that the recount be stopped. Bush was elected president.

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The ghost of Bush vs Gore haunts the 2020 election. Three of the lawyers who worked on Bush’s legal team – John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett – now sit on the Supreme Court. One week before the election, Justice Kavanaugh cited Bush vs Gore in his opinion supporting the court’s refusal to extend the deadline for mail-in ballots in Wisconsin. “Those states want to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election,” Kavanaugh wrote. States, he went on, “want to be able to definitely announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter”. This is the same argument Trump used when he objected to the counting of votes after election day in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Another legacy of the Bush vs Gore debacle centres on Barrett. In 2000 the then 28-year-old lawyer was sent to Florida as part of Bush’s litigation team to ensure that the 673 absentee ballots from Republican households in Martin County were included in the final tally, which may have made all the difference – Bush eventually won the state by 537 votes.

The idea that some votes should be counted …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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