Gore’s Disservice

From the standpoint of the popular vote the 1960 presidential election between then Senator John Kennedy and Vice-President Richard Nixonwas far closer than the razor thin 2000 election between Vice-President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush. Kennedy won the popular vote in 1960 by 119,000 compared to the 545,000 margin for Gore in 2000. In addition, the total vote count was only 69 million in 1960 compared to the 105 million voters in 2000. A change of only a modest number of votes in Illinois and Texas (the home state of the vice-presidential candidate Lyndon Johnson) would have swung the election to Nixon.

Although there were some issues of fraud particularly in John Daly’s Chicago, Nixon conceded rather quickly. The day after the election, Nixon gave a conditional concession that the Kennedy campaign dismissed as insufficient. A little later, Nixon sent a concession telegram. The Kennedy campaign was still upset, considering the modest gesture small and lacking in class. Nonetheless, Nixon conceded and despite some continuing disputes led by the Republican Party, the decision was settled without the same prolonged tension the country suffered in 2000.

It is unclear why Nixon conceded. Was he really concerned about the consequences of tearing the country apart over a disputed election or did he simply believe that his case had little merit? In truth, elections are like calls by referees in the National Football League. The only way a call is overturned is if the instant replay shows conclusive evidence. In such a disputed election, conclusive evidence is needed and such evidence is hard to come by.

If Nixon had managed to compel an election reversal, Democratic partisans would have been even angrier than Republicans because Democrats would have tasted victory and had it confiscated from them.

Much of the current animosity and acrimony in American politics is the result of the decision by Vice-President Al Gore to vigorously contest the results in Florida in 2000. With each day, tension grew as accusations flew. Despite the eventual gracious concession by Gore, many weeks later, Democrats have been grumbling ever since. The effects are still being felt in the deep anger directed against Bush.

Reasonable people can agree and disagree with George Bush’s policies, but certainly his choices fall within the mainstream of choices presidents in the past have made. George Bush instituted tax cuts, but there were smaller in nature and more progressive than those initiated by Ronald Reagan. Bush may have deployed troops without the authorization of the United Nations, but Clinton deployed military forces to Bosnia not only without such authorization, but with nary an argument that US vital interests were involved. Moreover, Bush asked for a received authorization from Congress for his actions in Iraq.

Within the scope of recent presidential decisions, Bush, especially in the context of the attack on US soil by terrorist, Bush actions could even be characterized as moderate. Bush and the US military have shown far more concern about avoiding civilian casualties than previous administrations and certainly more than other countries.

The current sharp divisions in the country, may not be a direct consequence of Gore’s selfish decision to contest the 2000 election, but Gore’s decision certainly pried any gaps wide open. Richard Nixon had many faults, and Watergate revealed many of them. He was forced to leave office in 1974 in disgrace for his mendacity. However, he at least had to good sense to concede a close election, despite personal misgivings. Unfortunately, Gore did not exhibit similar character, and did the country a cruel disservice.

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