Outside U.S. Supreme Court. AP Photo/Hillery Smith Garrison
And the winner is...
... not George W. Bush. But it ain't the end of the world
December 14, 2000
The absurdity of it all. The United States, the cradle of democracy,
has elected a president who has received fewer votes than his rival. Worse
still, the election was decided by an incomplete vote count.
Yes. George W. Bush won. But this is a hollow victory at best.
The issue is not that a Republican defeated a Democrat. What's deeply
troubling is not Al Gore's loss at all. The issue is that what happened
to him could happen to any candidate. He was denied the right to count
how many people actually voted for him. And the nation was robbed of a
As odd as it sounds, the United States could learn a thing or two from
other nations, even those as far from a true democracy as Iran, about the
sanctity of people's vote. Elections should be determined by the majority
of ALL the people's votes. Plain and simple.
But there is one other crucial aspect to this historic saga. And that
is the rule of law. The dispute over the presidency was not resolved by
military intervention, assassinations or bloody demonstrations. It was
resolved in the courts.
There is no doubt that there were problems in the electoral process
in Florida. Al Gore's objections were perfectly reasonable. He took his
case to the courts. He lost. And then he conceded.
Read this over and over again: There is a dispute. There is a judicial
review. There is a decision. There is a resolution. That's it.
Of course, judicial decisions and conflict resolutions-- like everything
else in this universe -- are relative, imperfect. In the case of Bush vs.
Gore, the resolution is unsatisfactory to many. There is a thick cloud
of suspicion over Bush's victory.
But there is an undeniable, reassuring civility about the process. Al
Gore got every opportunity to challenge his opponent's victory. Legally.
Peacefully. From Florida's lowest courts up to the Supreme Court in Washington,
Gore's lawyers did everything they could to win by reasoned argument. They
lost. But all is not lost. Not at all.
Who wins or loses is not as important as having the opportunity to put
up a fair fight. It's not even important if the final outcome of a court
battle is wrong. You can be wrong but still be fair.
What the majority of Supreme Court justices decided was wrong. But the
process was fair. That's why Al Gore conceded. That's why Americans can
accept George W. Bush even knowing that he indeed may be an illegitimate
president. And that's what the rest of the world, especially Iran, can
learn from the United States. Fairness. Civility. The rule of law.