William Saletan explains, yet again, why Bush didn’t steal the election of 2000. This old saw should have been exhausted by now, but it appears not:

The complaints are spreading and becoming more shrill. At last Tuesday’s debate among the Democratic presidential candidates, Carol Moseley Braun said Bush “was not elected by the American people.” Al Sharpton added, “We are witnessing a nonmilitary civil war. It started with the recount in Florida, it went to the redistricting in Texas, now it’s the [recall] in California. . . . It’s a rejection of the American people.”

On Saturday, at a Democratic steak fry in Iowa, several presidential candidates stood behind Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, as he charged, “Bush stole the election. . . . We know what the Republican strategy is: suppress the vote. . . . Look what they did in Florida. Look what they’re trying to do in Texas. Look what they’re trying to do in California.” Former President Bill Clinton told the crowd that in 2000, five justices of the Supreme Court “thought it was time for the minority to have the White House, they stopped counting votes in Florida, and they just gave it to them.” Clinton said Republicans “believe in government by ideology, enemies, and attack. We believe in government by experiment, evidence, and argument.”


In Florida, Al Gore originally asked for a recount only in counties in which he thought Democrats would gain votes. Moreover, to be precise, he wasn’t for “counting” more ballots; he was for reinterpreting already-counted ballots until he came out ahead. Gore’s lawyer, David Boies, argued that ballots should be interpreted as votes for Bush or Gore based on “the intent of the voter, not how the voter manifests his or her intent”–in other words, without rules. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., a Gore surrogate, actually claimed, “The punch cards were wrong.” Gore eventually moderated his position, but not until he had to.

In Texas, Republicans seeking to redraw congressional districts in the third year of the decade are violating custom but not law. On Friday, a panel of federal judges dismissed a lawsuit by Democrats claiming that the GOP’s redistricting tactics violated the Voting Rights Act. As for the 11 Democratic state senators who fled to Oklahoma and then New Mexico to prevent the majority from gathering a quorum, I can only imagine the cries of outrage I’d be hearing from my liberal friends if those were Republicans thwarting a Democratic legislature.

Many Democrats have questioned Bush’s legitimacy because he lost the nationwide popular vote. It doesn’t seem to bother them that this principle–the right of the majority to get like-minded representation, regardless of which party wins jurisdiction by jurisdiction–is exactly the principle they deny in Texas. Gore lost the Electoral College while winning a 48 percent plurality of the vote nationwide. Texas Republicans lost a majority of the state’s congressional seats in 2002 while winning 56 percent of the vote statewide.

Yep. I definitely get tired of this one. But it bears repeating on a frequent basis, given the constant use of Goebels’ Big Lie theory by some prominent Democrats.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. lefty skeptic says:

    “Texas Republicans lost a majority of the state’s congressional seats in 2002 while winning 56 percent of the vote statewide.”

    This mistakenly assumes that voter presidential preference or party registration maps directly to party preference in congressional elections. Historically, Texans tend to vote for incumbents they are comfortable with, regardless of party affiliation. As do residents of many other states. So this point is just opportunistic whining.

    “But it bears repeating on a frequent basis, given the constant use of Goebels’ Big Lie theory by some prominent Democrats.”

    Snort! They’re learning at the hands of the masters in the White House.

  2. James Joyner says:

    LS: It’s certainly true that at-large and district results don’t always match. That said, Texas has been trending GOP for 20-plus years now. Gerrymandering is a fact of life in districting, and Democrats controlled the process last go-round, thus they drew lines that favored them. Now the Republicans are trying to draw lines that favor themselves. I don’t like it, but it’s the norm.

    The problem I have with the Democrats on this one is that it deligitimates the process and weakens the instititutions. I wouldn’t mind abolishing the Electoral College outright, but that’s not the currect system.

  3. Matthew says:

    “So this point is just opportunistic whining.”

    Yeah, because Will Saletan is a noted Republican opportunist.

  4. lefty skeptic says:

    JJ – Fair enough, but my point is that using the fact that there are more Democratic congressman than would be suggested proportionately is irrelevant. You would really need to do a district-by-district breakdown of registered voters in order to make a solid case.

    Matthew – “Yeah, because Will Saletan is a noted Republican opportunist.”

    So you don’t think I can point to a Republican opportunist that provided Saletan with this line of reasoning?

  5. James Joyner says:

    LS: The problem with a “district-by-district breakdown” is that the district lines themselves are precisely the issue. Aside from issues of contiguity and the demand that they not look TOO funny, they are completely arbitrary and at the discretion of the legislature.

  6. Matthew says:

    I think it’s amusing that Will Saletan only thinks for himself while writing liberal columns, which are stock and trade. But if he criticizes liberals, it’s because Republicans gave him something to say.

  7. lefty skeptic says:

    JJ – I think you are missing the point. Saletan is claiming Democrats are denying “the right of the majority to get like-minded representation”. To determine if this is actually the case with the current districts in Texas, you’d have to look at the district-by-district numbers to see if there were (for example) 16 districts that were 52% D and 48% R, while there were 14 districts that are 80% R and 20% D. The fact that there are currently 16 D reps and 14 R reps may only show that Texans often cross party lines when voting for their representatives. In fact, they could exactly be getting the “like-minded representation” they want – they may prefer conservative Democrats to very conservative Republicans.

    Matthew – I’ve never read anything by Saletan, until his recent series of hatchet jobs on the Democratic candidates, and this article. If what you say is true, and his “stock in trade” is “liberal”, and my sample of his writing is an aberration, you have my apology.

  8. JadeGold says:

    Saletan’s case is non-existant; the fact is either Gore or Bush had every right to demand recounts in whichever counties they liked or thought would benefit them.

    What Saletan doesn’t mention are things such as the ‘scrubbing’ of voter registration lists or the USSC decision which even conservative jurists have criticized. Robert Bork, while thrilled with the outcome, laughs at the ‘equal protection’ rationale given by the 5 thugs. Terrance Sandalow said, ” It can only be understood as a politically partisan decision.”

    In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find many jurists that are willing to defend the Bush v Gore decision. I’ve found two: Douglas Kmiec (Dean of Catholic U Law School) has written one; John Yoo of Berkeley has written another (but it’s not really a defense of the law as much as a plea to ‘move on.’)