It’s never been easier to hate the press. The night of the Supreme Court decision, the major media reported the news of Bush’s victory as though it was a natural disaster. Their hearts were visibly breaking. And, of course, they continue to distort the facts, failing to point out that the Gore campaign was demanding not a plain recount (that had been done twice already) but a reinterpretation of spoiled ballots in hopes of ginning up a victory through electoral manipulation.
We are told that the Supreme Court that ruled for Bush was “badly splintered.” Funny, they never said that about the Florida Supreme Court that ruled by the same margin for Gore. We’re also told that a “bare partisan majority” prevailed, a phrase never used to describe the Florida court. And never has a Supreme Court dissent made more news, with reporters providing viewers with long passages read with great drama. To think that just one week earlier, the Florida chief justice wrote a dissent and was treated as a crabby crank.
Now we come to the silliest claim of all: that Bush’s claim on the presidency is seriously weakened by the manner in which it was finally given to him. We are told that he now must bow and scrape to the Democrats to have any legitimacy. He must work to “earn” his narrow victory by doing the things in office that Gore would have done. He must “heal the wounds” by “reaching out” in a bipartisan way to “disenfranchised voters” who believe he gained the presidency by not “counting every vote.”
Nonsense! If Gore hadn’t pulled every lever on the US legal machinery to manufacture a victory, Supreme Court intervention would have never taken place. Gore’s presidential prospects lived and died by the lawsuits that he filed after the votes were in.
As for bipartisanship, the bulk of Gore’s support came from the outposts of American society. As Robert Bartley emphasized, and before him Thomas DiLorenzo, Gore voters were mostly on the take from government, as bureaucrats, receivers of handouts, trial lawyers, unions, and the like. These people will never support Bush no matter what he does. Indeed, the last month has shown us just how vicious, hateful, and ruthless these characters are.
Long before the controversy in Florida, the left-liberal establishment was blasting Bush for every infraction against political correctness. For reasons that are still not entirely clear, they have been dead-set against him from the outset, swearing to smash his prospects with any weapon they could find. Recall the brief John McCain flareup? It was trumped up by the press and its friends for just this purpose.
Meanwhile, the Republican grassroots haven’t been this united since Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Millions and millions of people dropped everything to write and phone every elected representative in their orbit to object to Gore’s coup d’tort. The military, outraged at the attempt to disqualify their ballots, have rallied to Bush as never before. Groups of religious and property-rights activists, alienated during the pathetic Republican convention, have forgiven all to herald the luminous name of George W.
Also, the conventional media analysis doesn’t take into consideration how much support Gore has lost during this period of court challenge after court challenge. The people who voted for Gore because they thought he represented the middle class now know the truth about the underside of the Democratic party. Perhaps that’s why pollsters show that if the election were held today, Bush would easily win the popular vote by 10 to 15 points.
Are we really supposed to believe that average Americans are siding with the hysterical rants and calumnies of Jesse Jackson and Paul Begala against the cool and logical statements of the Bush campaign? Does the media think that the American people are so blind that they have no idea what the Gore campaign was plotting when it wanted to include the “undervotes” from counties controlled by Democrats?
Try this little experiment in your head. Imagine that the candidates were switched. Let’s say Bush had won the popular vote and Gore had won the electoral vote with a narrow lead in Florida. And then imagine Bush calling for recount after recount, filing suit after suit, calling on judges and lawyers who owe his party favors to reverse the election. Let’s just say that, despite all this, an independent-minded Florida secretary of state finally certified the count, and yet Bush kept it up, pestering, suing, divining chads, and dispatching his minions everywhere to discredit the Gore victory.
Can you imagine what the press would say about Bush? He would have been denounced as a bad sport. More, the press would say that his behavior reveals the Republicans’ contempt for democracy and the Constitution, with the inevitable comparisons to Hitler. Some people would backhandedly excuse his invidious behavior on grounds that his hand is being forced by extreme elements in the Republican party. Everyone having anything to do with such a spoilsport would be investigated and denounced to the hilt. The press would do everything in its power to make the Republicans pay big time for any challenge to a Gore victory. The drumbeat for Bush to concede would have been earsplitting.
Instead, the press treated Gore’s malign attacks on the electoral college and the Florida results as legitimate and normal because they don’t want Bush as president. They wanted four more years of the Clinton regime, and were willing to go along with even the most outrageous attempts to skew the election in order to get it.
As it is, Bush will arrive in Washington to the jeers of people most Americans can’t stand: pestering press hounds, disgruntled government employees, maniacal ethnic activists, hysterical feminists, and all the rest. The cheers will be coming from average folks who weren’t too excited about Bush during the campaign, but now regard him as their folk hero.
No, he probably doesn’t deserve such accolades. But the history of American political organizing shows us that the grassroots are always more principled than the leadership. It was true in 1800 and it is true today. Besides, he has all the right enemies. Bush will probably disappoint his followers by giving up far too much, too often, to those enemies. But the rest of us will not forget who they are.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. edits LewRockwell.com.