Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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I have collected below, without comments,  several quotations concerning the December 12, 2000 Supreme Court decision. Bush v. Gore.  I begin with excerpts from the four dissenting opinions of Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer.  The remaining quotations are from lawyers, journalists and others.  

For a more balanced collection of commentaries, see the Brookings Institute website.

 The Gadfly.

The Justices

Bush v. Gore: The Complete Ruling.

Justice John Paul Stevens:

... once a state legislature determines to select electors through a popular vote, the right to have one' s vote counted is of constitutional stature. As the majority further acknowledges, Florida law holds that all ballots that reveal the intent of the voter constitute valid votes...

In the interest of finality, however, the majority effectively orders the disenfranchisement of an unknown number of voters whose ballots reveal their intent—and are therefore legal votes under state law—but were for some reason rejected by ballot-counting machines... Thus, nothing prevents the majority, even if it properly found an equal protection violation, from ordering relief appropriate to remedy that violation without depriving Florida voters of their right to have their votes counted. As the majority notes, "[a] desire for speed is not a general excuse for ignoring equal protection guarantees."

The Florida Supreme Court ... did what courts do — it decided the case before it in light of the legislature' s intent to leave no legally cast vote uncounted. In so doing, it relied on the sufficiency of the general "intent of the voter" standard articulated by the state legislature, coupled with a procedure for ultimate review by an impartial judge, to resolve the concern about disparate evaluations of con-tested ballots. If we assume—as I do—that the members of that court and the judges who would have carried out its mandate are impartial, its decision does not even raise a colorable federal question.

What must underlie petitioners' entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today' s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year' s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation' s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.

I respectfully dissent.


Justice David Souter:

Unlike the majority, I see no warrant for this Court to assume that Florida could not possibly comply with this requirement before the date set for the meeting of electors, December 18.... But as JUSTICE BREYER has pointed out, no showing has been made of legal overvotes uncounted, and counsel for Gore made an uncontradicted representation to the Court that the statewide total of undervotes is about 60,000. To recount these manually would be a tall order, but before this Court stayed the effort to do that the courts of Florida were ready to do their best to get that job done. There is no justification for denying the State the opportunity to try to count all disputed ballots now.

I respectfully dissent.


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

.. [D]isagreement with the Florida court' s interpretation of its own State' s law does not warrant the conclusion that the justices of that court have legislated. There is no cause here to believe that the members of Florida' s high court have done less than "their mortal best to discharge their oath of office," and no cause to upset their reasoned interpretation of Florida law...

The extraordinary setting of this case has obscured the ordinary principle that dictates its proper resolution: Federal courts defer to state high courts' interpretations of their State' s own law. This principle reflects the core of federalism, on which all agree. "The Framers split the atom of sovereignty. It was the genius of their idea that our citizens would have two political capacities, one state and one federal, each protected from incursion by the other." ...

I agree with JUSTICE STEVENS that petitioners have not presented a substantial equal protection claim. Ideally, perfection would be the appropriate standard for judging the recount. But we live in an imperfect world, one in which thousands of votes have not been counted. I cannot agree that the recount adopted by the Florida court, flawed as it may be, would yield a result any less fair or precise than the certification that preceded that recount...

The Court assumes that time will not permit "orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise." But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court' s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court' s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States.

I dissent.


Justice Steven Breyer:

The Court was wrong to take this case. It was wrong to grant a stay. It should now vacate that stay and permit the Florida Supreme Court to decide whether the recount should resume...

The majority justifies stopping the recount entirely on the ground that there is no more time. In particular, the majority relies on the lack of time for the Secretary to review and approve equipment needed to separate under-votes. But the majority reaches this conclusion in the absence of any record evidence that the recount could not have been completed in the time allowed by the Florida Supreme Court...

By halting the manual recount, and thus ensuring that the uncounted legal votes will not be counted under any standard, this Court crafts a remedy out of proportion to the asserted harm. And that remedy harms the very fairness interests the Court is attempting to pro-tect. The manual recount would itself redress a problem of unequal treatment of ballots...

[T]he inability of the Florida courts to conduct the recount on time is, in significant part, a problem of the Court' s own making. The Florida Supreme Court thought that the recount could be completed on time, and, within hours, the Florida Circuit Court was moving in an orderly fashion to meet the deadline. This Court improvidently entered a stay. As a result, we will never know whether the recount could have been completed...

The Florida Supreme Court, applying this definition, decided, on the basis of the record, that respondents had shown that the ballots undercounted by the voting machines contained enough "legal votes" to place "the results" of the election "in doubt." Since only a few hundred votes separated the candidates, and since the "undercounted" ballots numbered tens of thousands, it is difficult to see how anyone could find this conclusion unreasonable— however strict the standard used to measure the voter' s "clear intent." ...

Despite the reminder that this case involves "an election for the President of the United States," no preeminent legal concern, or practical concern related to legal questions, required this Court to hear this case, let alone to issue a stay that stopped Florida' s recount process in its tracks...

[T]he Court is not acting to vindicate a fundamental constitutional principle, such as the need to protect a basic human liberty. No other strong reason to act is present. Congressional statutes tend to obviate the need. And, above all, in this highly politicized matter, the appearance of a split decision runs the risk of undermining the public' s confidence in the Court itself. That confidence is a public treasure. It has been built slowly over many years, some of which were marked by a Civil War and the tragedy of segregation. It is a vitally necessary ingredient of any successful effort to protect basic liberty and, indeed, the rule of law itself... [We] risk a self-inflicted wound — a wound that may harm not just the Court, but the Nation...

I respectfully dissent.

From the Lawyers

We are [306] Professors of Law at American law schools, from every part of our country, of different political beliefs.  But we all agree that when a bare majority of the U. S. Supreme Court halted the recount of ballots under Florida law, the five justices were acting as political proponents for candidate Bush, not as judges.

It is not the job of a Federal Court to stop votes from being counted.

By stopping the recount in the middle, the five justices acted to suppress the facts.  Justice Scalia argued that the justices had to interfere even before the Supreme Court hears the Bush team's arguments because the recount might "cast a cloud upon what [Bush] claims to be the legitimacy of his election."  In other words, the conservative justices moved to avoid the "threat" that Americans might learn that in the recount, Gore got more votes than Bush.  This is presumably "irreparable" harm because if the recount proceeded and the truth once became known, it would never again be possible to completely obscure the facts.  But it is not the job of the courts to polish the image of legitimacy of the Bush presidency by Preventing disturbing facts from being confirmed.  Suppressing the facts to make the Bush government seem more legitimate is the job of propagandists, not judges.

By taking power from the voters, the Supreme Court has tarnished its own legitimacy.  As teachers whose lives have been dedicated to the rule of law, we protest.

David Chambers, University of Michigan
William Gould, Stanford Law School|
And 304 additional Law Professors
Released December15, 2000


I am dismayed by this opinion. I have spent my career studying law and the Constitution as independent from politics. This opinion long way toward proving me wrong.... There is really very little way to reconcile this opinion other than that they wanted Bush to win.

Suzanna Sherry
Professor of Law
Vanderbilt University
The New York Times, 12/14/00
(Also quoted from "Rivera Live," 12.14)


Two centuries ago, our greatest chief justice, John Marshall, declared that American was a "government of laws, not men." No longer. The price of George W. Bush's victory has been the immolation of America's last great standing institution: the Supreme Court. By elevating politics over principle, the court revealed itself to be no better than any other institution or actor that touched this election. Its decision will prompt an attack on the court from Congress, lower court judges and scholars. And the court has only itself to blame.

The unsigned majority opinion can be summed up simply: It is lawless and unprecedented. The Supreme Court has never, in its 200-year history, decided that if ballots cannot be counted with absolute perfection, they cannot be counted at all. Nor has the court made a habit of intervening in elections in which the court itself was a central issue. This break with the court's tradition is even more chilling when we consider that the Rehnquist court has been built on the rock of respecting states' rights, not interfering with them. ...

At a time when the presidency and Congress have been rocked by scandals, Americans needed one institution they could trust. It's too bad the court couldn't provide it for them.

Neal Kumar Katyal
Assoc. Prof. of Law
Georgetown University
The Washington Post 12/14/00


I challenge anyone to tell me with a straight face that Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would have written this decision to reverse a judgment of the Florida Supreme Court ordering a manual recount in the event that Al Gore had a tenuous 150-vote lead in the presidential election. This is an entirely partisan and political act that led to a great division on the Supreme Court and will lead to a great division in the country. The U.S. Supreme Court has done grave damage to the rule of law and to the idea that the people should govern in a democracy.

Jamim Raskin
Prof. of Law, Georgetown Univ.
Salon.com 12/13/00


The 2000 election has finally ended, but in the worst possible way -- not with a national affirmation of democratic principle but by the fiat of the five conservative Supreme Court justices... over the fierce objection of the four more liberal justices...  The conservatives stopped the democratic process in its tracks, with thousands of votes yet unaccounted, first by ordering an unjustified stay of the statewide recount of the Florida vote that was already in progress, and then declaring, in one of the least persuasive Supreme Court opinions that I have ever read, that there was no time left for the recount to continue.

Ronald Dworkin
New York Review of Books


[The Supreme Court majority] played us all for dupes... And, by not even bothering to cloak their willfulness in legal arguments intelligible to people of good faith who do not share their view, these four vain men and one vain woman have not only cast a cloud over the presidency of George W. Bush. They have, far more importantly, made it impossible for citizens of the United States to sustain any kind of faith in the rule of law as something larger than the self-interested political preferences of William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Sandra Day O'Connor...

The unsigned per curiam opinion in Bush v. Gore is a shabby piece of work. Although the justices who handed the election to Bush – O'Connor and Kennedy – were afraid to sign their names, the opinion unmasks them more nakedly than any TV camera ever could. To understand the weakness of the conservatives' constitutional argument, you need only restate it: Its various strands collapse on themselves. And, because their argument is tailor-made for this occasion, the conservatives can point to no cases that directly support it...

What, precisely, is the conservatives' theory? "Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another," they declare. The citation is Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections, the case that invalidated the poll tax in 1966 on the grounds that it invidiously discriminated against the poor. But there is no claim here that Florida's recount law, shared by 32 other states, discriminates against the poor. Indeed, Florida argued that its scheme is necessary to avoid discrimination against the poor, because a uniform system of recounting that treated the punch-card ballot used in poor neighborhoods the same as the optically scanned ballots used in the rich ones would systematically undercount the votes of poorer voters. By preventing states from correcting the counting errors that result from different voting technologies, the conservatives have precipitated a violation of equal treatment far larger than the one they claim to avoid.

Jeffrey Rosen
Legal Affairs Editor
The New Republic
December 14, 2000


God Himself couldn't have won this case before the Supreme Court – not with a dream team of Abraham, Jesus and Mohammed. [The positions of] these five were written in stone. The is the first case in my lifetime that ever decided by the court based on of the name of the plaintiff and the name of the defendant. This was not an ideological split. The ideology favored [a ruling] against equal protection. We're talking about five justices who let people get executed in this country on the basis of no standards – [but] on the basis of racial discrimination. If you had shown this opinion to one-hundred legal scholars three months ago and asked them, without knowing the names, whether Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas would join an opinion like this, there is not a scholar in this country that would tell you they would do so. . .   These are five republicans who voted for Bush on election day, and voted again in this decision yesterday. Nothing in the world would have changed those views. The only thing that might have changed was the [supporting] rationale. The constant was the Bush victory – the variable was the arguments. Any good lawyer knows that there are arguments available to be pulled in by clever lawyers. What these five people did was simply pull in the arguments. They had the chutzpah to say in this opinion that this was not a principle to be applied in the future, that it was to be limited to this case because of the complexities of the equal protection clause. So the next time an equal protection case comes us before this court it will forget about the fact that it wrote this decision. This was a decision, as Justice Jackson once said, "limited for this train and for this ride only." It is a judicial disgrace, I will never stop criticizing this Supreme Court until the day I die. This is the most disgraceful Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott.

Alan Dershowitz
Rivera Live
CNBC, 12/13/00


The "conventional wisdom" emerging immediately after the Court's ruling seemed to be that the Court, by its political ruling, had only lost a lot of credibility and altitude in the minds of many people.  But these critics of the ruling, even those who flat-out say the Court "stole" the election, apparently have not stopped to realize the inappropriateness of their tepid position vis-á-vis what the Court did.  You mean you can steal a presidential election and your only retribution is that some people don't have as much respect for you, as much confidence in you?  That's all?  If, indeed, the Court, as the critics say, made a politically motivated ruling (which it unquestionably did), this is tantamount to saying, and it can only mean, that the Court did not base its ruling on the law.  And if this is so (which again, it unquestionably is), this means that these five Justices deliberately and knowingly decided to nullify the votes of the 50 million Americans who voted for Al Gore and to steal the election for Bush.  Of course, nothing could be more serious in its enormous ramifications.  The stark reality, and I say this with every fiber of my being, is that the institution Americans trust the most to protect its freedoms and principles committed one of the biggest and most serious crimes this nation has ever seen -- pure and simple, the theft of the presidency.  And by definition, the perpetrators of this crime have to be denominated criminals....

That an election for an American President can be stolen by the highest court in the land under the deliberate pretext of an inapplicable constitutional provision has got to be one of the most frightening and dangerous events ever to have occurred in this country.  Until this act -- which is treasonous, though again not technically, in its sweeping implications -- is somehow rectified (and I do not know how this can be done), can we be serene about continuing to place the adjective "great" before the name of this country?

Vincent Bugliosi
"None Dare Call it Treason"  
The Nation, 2/5/01


The Court's power lies... in its legitimacy, a product of substance and perception that shows itself in the people's acceptance if the Judiciary as fit to determine what the Nation's law means, and to declare what it demands.

Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor
Casey v. Planned Parenthood, 1992

From the Journalists

...[P]resented with one of the most momentous cases in its history, the court produced a crimped ruling that may one day serve as the defining legacy of the Rehnquist court. By barring any further hand count of disputed ballots in Florida and effectively awarding the election to Gov. George W. Bush, the majority of five conservative justices overlook the bedrock democratic principle that every vote should be counted before the winner of an election is determined. Because the court is the nation's ultimate embodiment of the rule of law, its verdict has properly been seen as definitive by all Americans. But rather than ennobling the law and the Constitution, and sagaciously bringing the election to a resolution built on the ballot, the justices eroded public confidence in the court itself.

Editorial, The New York Times


Healing? Sure. American culture requires it, and so do the careers of American politicians. But healing is also a part of the strategy of the Republican larcenists, in and out of robes, who arranged to suppress the truth about the vote in Florida and thereby to make off with the election of 2000. Having satisfied their lower impulses, they are counting on us to act on our higher impulses, and to come together. Well, we cannot come together, at least not yet, because we have just been driven apart. The rupture is real, and it demands to be analyzed. After what happened at the Supreme Court on December 12, anger is a mark of analysis...

... We insist .. that the election of the president of the United States by the Supreme Court of the United States needs to be regarded not only legally, but also morally an historically. And morally and historically speaking, we have witnessed and outrage.

The Orwellian character of the majority opinion in Bush v. Gore is plain from even a cursory reading. The justices cite precedents affirming "the one man, one vote basis of our representative government," and then they proceed to nullify the votes of thousands of men and women. They castigate the contest provision of the Florida Supreme Court for failing to "sustain the confidence that all citizens must have in the outcome of elections. They protest that none are more conscious of the vital limits on judicial authority than are the members of this Court," and then they proceed to extend judicial authority into the very heart of American politics – an extension so vast and so unprecedented that it can only be described as un-American.

... This ruling was designed to bring about a political outcome, and it is an insult to the intelligence of the American people to suggest otherwise.

The Editors
The New Republic


Bush takes office with the taint of an election wrested from the popular will and bereft of honest accounting. The Supreme Court administered the coup de grace by shutting down the Florida recount, but that only confirmed what has been evident for weeks: Between the intertwined interests of the Brothers Bush, the Florida legislature, the GOP Congressional majority and the Rehnquist Court faction, never has electoral power shifted so far, so fast, from the hands of the people.

The Nation, Editorial
January 1, 2000


The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment is the constitutional provision that protects African-Americans and other minorities against official discrimination.  In Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court invoked the Equal Protection Clause to protect ... whom, exactly?  And from what?  Don't say, "George W. Bush.  From democracy."  This is a period of reconciliation and healing the wounds, remember?  . . .

You might think that if voting is a fundamental right, the Constitution would be best served by maximizing the number of citizens whose votes are counted correctly -- not by worrying whether each vote has an equal chance of not counting.  You might wonder about a use of the Equal Protection Clause that takes away this fundamental right from thousands of voters without extending it to a single one.  But if you think like this, you'll never be a Supreme Court justice.  At least for the next four years.

Michael Kinsley
Slate, 12/14/00


Courts have an obligation to persuade. Their power is legitimate only if they give reasoned arguments for what they do. By that standard, the decision in Bush v. Gore was a dismal failure...

The majority's rush to judgment has no credible explanation in the per curiam opinion. So the country is left with the impression that five justices acted as they did because they cared more about the result – ending the recount – than they did about the reasoning that would compel it.

A thoughtful British columnist, Philip Stephens of The Financial Times, said the decision put "indelible stain on the court's always half-illusory reputation as honest guardian of the Constitution." Deciding a case of this magnitude with such disregard for reason invites people to treat the courts aura of reason as an illusion.

This would be a terrible price to pay. The Supreme Court must have the last word in our system because its role is essential to our structure of freedom. Preservation of the public respect on which the institution depends is far more important than who becomes president.

Anthony Lewis
The New York Times


The court has never before been so instrumental in the selection of a president, and its decisions have rarely seemed so openly political...

A robust patriotism demands that we never forget how [Bush] achieved office, in order to make sure that this terrible venture away from the territory of democracy never happens again. And a genuine patriotism does not require anyone to accept the logic of five Supreme Court justices who clearly contorted their own principles and created new law to achieve this result.

E. J. Dionne Jr.
The Washington Post


The foundation of dynasty is not the throne but the institutions on which the throne rests. Relatives, friends or allies must dominate the praetorian guard, the regency council or the business empires that bless the transfer of power from one family generation to the next. To that list now add the Supreme Court of the United States...

Jim Hoagland
The Washington Post


[The] Supreme Court decision giving the presidency to George W. Bush, delivered in the dead of night in an opaque, anonymous opinion rendered by the Justices who gave no oral presentation from the bench (as they usually do) but instead appropriately snuck out of the Court building through the garage, leaves the country facing a worrisome political future. The damage done to the courts and to the rule of law by the Supreme Court's judicial overreaching into politics and the damage done to democracy by the sudden interruption of a vote count ... have been commented upon by many observers... Will the distressing, unprecedented televised image of vote-counters physically putting down ballots they had been examining become the symbol of an era?

Jonathan Schell
The Nation, 1/1/01


The rule of law has taken a terrific beating from the Supreme Court. Basic principles of adjudication have been trampled on: that the Court should stay out of partisan political fights a much as possible; that state courts are the arbiters of state law, one of the oldest principles in our jurisprudence and one that this states' rights-loving Court in particular might have been expected to honor; that a court doesn't create new doctrines that no one could have anticipated without giving the affected parties a chance to comply; that before hearing an argument, courts don't issue interim relief that could prove decisive unless absolutely necessary to avoid irreparable harm – hardly the case here since the results of the recount could have been set aside if necessary.

In 1857 the Court intervened in a bitter national dispute when it decided the Dred Scott case. It took decades for the Court and the country to recover from that. How long will it take this time, especially if further investigation confirms what we all already know – that this election was stolen under color of law?

Herman Schwartz
The Nation, 1/1/01


[George W. Bush] gained office through an act of judicial usurpation.  We will not 'move on.'  Indeed, some of us will work for the next four years to correct this affront to our constitutional order....  The best that can be hoped for under such circumstances is that this illegitimately gained presidency will give rise to a determination on the part of the people to resume the burden and the privileges of self-government.

William Kristol, Editor
The Weekly Standard
Quoted in The Nation, 1/8/01


The dubious elements of Bush's victory are so numerous that questions regarding his legitimacy are appropriate -- even urgent...  Where in the Constitution -- it certainly wasn't in the intent of the framers -- does the Supreme Court get its power to decide presidential elections?  Because the simple fact is that George W. Bush is the first president to be chosen by the Supreme Court -- by a single vote....  The current situation is the first in which a Court dominated by the ebbing party has gone so ar as to void an election result the majority deemed unacceptable.

Kevin Phillips
Prospect, 1/29/01

In a slapdash job of constitutional interpretation, the conservatives upended and ravaged four foundational relationships in our constitutional system.  It usurped the role of the Florida Supreme Court in interpreting state law.  It usurped the role of the American people by halting the counting of ballots in a presidential election and effectively choosing the president for them  It usurped Congress' power to acept or reject the states' electoral college votes. And it reversed the proper distribution of powers in the federal government by having Supreme Court justices appoint the president rather than vice versa.

James Raskin
Washington Monthly, 3/2001

Other Opinions

(From more than 459 Historians):  For two hundred and thirteen years, against formidable obstacles, democracy in American has expanded.  We opened up the right to vote, securing the popular election of US senators and presidential electors, securing voting rights for the poor, women, and blacks.  Now, in an act no less reprehensible than the partisan resolution of the election of 1876, a narrow majority of the Supreme Court has pulled the nation backward.  Its decision to halt the full and accurate counting of Florida's legal votes prevents the American people from selecting the next president of the United States. 

The narrow majority has simultaneously cast doubt upon its own motives and undermined the legitimacy of the next chief executive.  There is, justifiably, a widespread impression that this narrow majority acted as it did in order to install a Republican president and to expand its political position on the Court.

Historians will draw their own conclusions about the election of 2000, based on the facts and evidence as they emerge.  But there are already strong reasons to believe that the candidate who, on November 7, won enough votes to carry the Electoral College is nto the one who will become president.

We are outraged and saddened at this wound inflicted upon American democracy.  We call upon our fellow citizens, Republicans, Democrats and independents, to join us in dedicating ourselves to reform the electoral system so that the democratic will of the people is never again violated in an American election.

Lizabeth Cohen, Harvard University
Todd Gitlin, New York University
Davin Brion Davis, Yale University
George M. Frederickson, Stanford
Michael Kammen, Cornell University
Mary P. Ryan, UC Berkeley
Sean Wilentz, Princeton University
Garry Wills, Northwestern University
More than 450 other Historians.
(New York Review, 2/8/01)


Who has done everything to win? Who thinks winning is not everything, it's the only thing? The Republicans felt cheated in 1960; cheated again in 1973-4, with Watergate; cheated again by Bill Clinton, who dared to win in 1992; cheated yet again when, having impeached him, they failed to convict him. Their court did what it was appointed to do – defend the rights of state authorities except, when push came to shove, when defending those rights might have benefited their opponent. Push has come to shove. Claiming Gore would do anything to be president, the Republicans have stopped at nothing to get themselves a president. This is a moment of truth. Let scales fall from our eyes.

Tod Gitlin
New York University
Salon.com 12/14/00


In the campaign's aftermath, Gore, relentless in his quest to challenge the Florida secretary of state's certification of the election, necessarily upheld the proposition that the truth of who had won could be established. Bush, by contrast, revealed something deeper than the typical politician's willingness to manipulate the truth for his own purposes. In his determined effort to prevent anyone from ever knowing who actually won the state, he implicitly endorsed the notion that there was no truth even worth manipulating. When promulgated by left-wing academics skeptical of truth claims held to be timeless and universal – such claims, they argued, denied the proclivity of dominant groups to impose their values on the oppressed or the marginalized – postmodern skepticism has faced derisive rebuttal from political conservatives. But when it was expressed by George W. Bush and his supporters in their efforts to explain why it was unnecessary to count votes, conservatives applauded. Bush will be our first truly postmodern president, the first of whom it can be said that when asked how he came to be the winner, he can reasons that it all depends on the perspective one brings to the question.

We know, because President Clinton reminded us, that politicians who lie to flagrantly are hobbled in their exercise of authority, for if the are willing to lie under oath or in front of a camera, why should we ever believe them again? ... As a postmodern president, Bush will face a challenge to his authority far greater than Clinton's, for the foundation of his legitimacy will hinge on the proposition that ultimately it did not matter whether his victory was real or not. ..

Without truth, in the end, there can be no politics. There can be no purpose that requires government to take action for the collective good.

Alan Wolfe
Prof. of Sociology
Boston University
Salon.com 12/14/00


Can anyone deny that hundreds of thousands of Florida voters have already been denied the equal protection of the laws? Wasn't that what happened when voters in predominantly minority communities had to vote using antiquated machines that weren't properly maintained? When they were given misleading ballots with faulty instructions? When they had to brave police checkpoints to get to their polling stations? When polling stations were moved in the middle of the night? When minority voter's registration applications weren't processed and when longtime voters had their names illegally removed from the voting rolls?

And don't forget – while the state of Florida's election authorities did everything they could to place obstacles in the way of African American and other minority voters, other election officials in Florida were conspiring with the Republican Party to make sure that no matter what mistakes white Republican voters made on their absentee ballot applications, those voters would still get a ballot...

There were dozens of gross injustices in the Florida election. The huge number of undervoted ballots, concentrated in minority precincts across Florida, was the only one for which there appeared to be a partial remedy – and that remedy was the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court on Friday. For all the rest – the police blockades and the midnight moves of polling places, the discriminatory purges – there is going to be no remedy.

Now it appears, from the words of Justice Scalia, that the only meaning of the equal protection clause is that there must be no remedy at all for those who have been discriminated against.

Jesse L. Jackson
The Washington Post


This [seems] to me to be the most dismaying and shocking public event of our time. In an era when respect for the political system and the legitimacy of public institutions has already suffered terrible blows, the U. S. Supreme Court has violated all the norms of behavior that the judiciary has carefully created for itself, shattered its own image in the process, and undoubtedly confirmed the unwarranted belief among many Americans that our political system is hopelessly flawed and corrupt. That is not, I suspect, what Chief Justice Rehnquist and his colleagues had hoped history would remember them for.

Alan Brinkley
Prof. of History, Columbia University
Slate.msn.com 12/14/00


Stare Decisis be Damned!

Mere errors of state law are not the concern of this Court.

William Rhenquist
Barclay v. Florida, 1983

Our Consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.  [These "complexities" are not identified. Gadfly].

Bush v. Gore, Per Curiam
December 12, 2000

I plead with you that, whatever you do, don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution; they do not apply. The last political act we engage in is confirmation.

Justice Clarence Thomas


On Politics: Notes of a Reluctant Radical


Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .