In today’s Washington Post, E.J. Dionne provides a revealing look at the obsession that will not die in the left wing of the Democratic Party, namely the Unbearable Unbearableness of Bush v. Gore. His occasion for placing another bouquet of flowers on the grave of this dead issue is the Mexican presidential election, in which Calderon has won narrowly and Lopez Obrador is demanding a recount, going to court, and holding rallies in which the threat of violent uprising is just below the surface.
Dionne doesn’t really care about what happens in Mexico—not on the evidence of this column anyway. Events south of the border are just an excuse to whine again about Bush v. Gore. (Not that there isn’t anything to complain about in that Supreme Court ruling—but everything really wrong with it can be charged to the account of the media’s favorite “centrists,” Justices O’Connor and Kennedy.) What the column really helps explain is one of the root causes of the Left’s anti-Bush dementia, as it affects practically every issue from the war to taxes to stem cells to judicial nominations. None of this was supposed to happen! Gore was supposed to be president! Outside a very small crowd of the Professionally Angry—journalists, professors, bloggers, the Janeane Garofalo fan club—most Americans in both parties accepted the legitimacy of Bush v. Gore within days of the decision, so much so that media recount post-mortems were greeted with shrugs.
But here’s the funniest part of Dionne’s take on it. He slams not only the Supreme Court’s decision in 2000 but the electoral college itself, which “permitted the loser of the popular vote to become president.” This was easily the least controversial thing about our 2000 election, as Americans in general showed no upset at all with that outcome. And Dionne completely misses the signal virtue of our electoral college that Mexicans may soon begin to envy. That is that our recount travails were confined to a single state. Dionne notes that “under Mexican law . . . the winner of the [nationwide] popular vote will be the winner of the election.” That may turn out to necessitate a nationwide recount, a debacle that we were spared six years ago by . . . the electoral college.
If you want an electoral crisis that may result in real institutional explosion, violent protests, and a further weakening of a nation that’s already a mess, feel free to visit Mexico. Our electoral college would do that country a lot of good about now.