Tim Carney: The persistent myth that the Supreme Court decided the 2000 election

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

The Supreme Court did not decide the 2000 presidential election. Journalists should stop claiming it did.

Even if Al Gore had won his case before the high court, George W. Bush almost certainly would have been declared the winner of Florida after any recount.

It’s a myth persistent on the Left and in the media that Gore would have been president had the Supreme Court not intervened. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post, unfortunately, has let this myth settle into his head.

Writing of Joe Lieberman, Milbank asserts flatly: “He was denied the vice presidency not by the voters but by the Supreme Court.”

Sure, Lieberman won more votes for VP than Dick Cheney did, so maybe Milbank could have written, “He was denied the vice presidency not by the voters but by the Electoral College,” and that would be kind of, sort of, true.

But the Supreme Court didn’t deny Lieberman Florida. The voters of Florida did.

How do I know?

Because of the media recounts after the election.

If SCOTUS had never taken up the case, or had let the Florida Supreme Court ruing stand, we would have had a statewide recount of all undervotes — and Bush would have won, according to the media recounts.

If Gore had gotten what he was asking for, a hand recount in four counties, Bush still would have won, according to the media recounts.

Some liberals hang their hat on a third, imaginary recount of all ballots, including overvotes. About that imaginary recount (1) it would have been illegal, (2) Gore probably would have opposed it, and (3) which no court had ordered. And even so, only maybe would it have given the election to Gore.

I discussed this in more detail back in the summer. If you’re unconvinced — or if you’re going to have a chance to talk to Dana Milbank soon — read that post.

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