Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Presidential Elections - Part 6

Bill Clinton couldn’t run for a third term, so there would be a new president in 2000. Al Gore was chosen as the Democratic candidate. Interestingly enough it’s rare for a vice president to be elected president. George Bush did it in 1988, he was the first to have done so since Martin Van Buren in 1836. There were a wide range of candidates initially for the Republican nomination but George W Bush (son of the aforementioned George Bush) who was governor of Texas won out.

The campaign was hard fought. Republicans brought up the Clinton scandals and impeachment. Democrats questioned Bush’s fitness for office and that he simply wasn’t smart enough to be president. Gore caught grief for a quote that he “invented the Internet” which actually was a quote taken out of context. As the election grew near, a drunk driving record of George Bush’s surfaced from 1976 (in Maine). All the polls pointed to a very close election.

As I watched the returns, all the networks almost immediately declared Gore the winner in Florida. Losing Florida would severely hurt Bush’s chance to win. As the night rolled on, Bush took a big lead in Florida and finally the networks flipped Florida back to undecided. As the night wore on, it became very apparent that the electoral votes of Florida would decide the election. I went to bed not knowing what would happen. The networks later declared Bush had won Florida and then retracted that. Bush was ahead by a few thousand votes. Gore had called Bush to concede then retracted and demanded a recount. This reduced the margin to about 900 votes. He then demanded a manual recount in several counties. This really got the controversy rolling.

Several counties used paper ballots and there were several claims that ballots were marked incorrectly. There were ballots rejected because they were not marked correctly. There was an argument as to if a “chad” was hanging or dimpled should it count. Florida’s Secretary of State put a limit on how long the hand count could go on. This ultimately went to the Florida Supreme Court which allowed the count to continue. The Supreme Court returned the matter to Florida’s Supreme Court vacating their decision saying they had violated the Florida and US Constitutions. The Florida Supreme Court again started the manual recount. The case went back to the Supreme Court finally halted the recount. So finally on December 12th, George Bush was declared the winner of Florida and the Presidency. If the above sounds confusing, it is. I lived through it and I still don’t understand it.

There was much complaining of course. There were two things that ultimately cost Gore. One was Ralph Nader running as a third party candidate. But the biggest thing was Gore didn’t even win his own state of Tennessee. Had he done that, he would have won despite losing Florida.

I personally think (and you may disagree) that George Bush did a great job especially during the 9/11 crisis. In the 2004 election, he ran against Massachusetts senator John Kerry. Bush maintained a lead on the polls based mainly on his leadership during his term – which he emphasized. Kerry was portrayed as a “flip-flopper” who couldn’t stick by a decision. The race tightened as the Election Day drew near. The electoral votes for each state almost mirrored 2000. Iowa and New Mexico flipped to Republican and New Hampshire to Democrat. A key in this though was that the 2000 US Census changed the number of Electoral votes per state. “Red” states picked up 11 votes and “Blue” only 1 (California) resulting in 10 more Electoral votes in 2004 than 2000 for Bush. There was some controversy over the state of Ohio, but Kerry conceded the election to Bush and he was elected.

So, that’s the end of my blog articles on this topic. It’s interesting to see how things have changed in the forty something years. Who knows what is going to happen this year on November 8th. I have to think it’s going to be interesting and most likely controversial.