Albert O'Gore and the little people

Posted: Nov 24, 2000 12:00 AM
So, some of you are still buying into Al Gore's claim that he is fighting for the little people? Remember his speech following the Florida Supreme Court's decision trying to hand him the election by judicial fiat? Here is part of what Mr. Gore told us: "I want to thank the citizen volunteers. ... They are doing their jobs diligently and seriously under difficult conditions ... they are rising to the occasion." That was Tuesday night, when it appeared things were going Gore's way. On Wednesday, the Miami-Dade Canvassing Board unanimously decided that they couldn't complete a full manual recount before the Supreme Court's Sunday deadline, so they voted to discontinue the count and revert to the vote totals they certified on Nov. 8. The board's reasoning was simple and direct. Neither state law nor fairness would countenance a partial recount because that would necessarily result in the disenfranchisement of all other voters whose votes could not be counted in time. Gore responded almost immediately through his recount quarterback, Bill "Bugsy" Daley, who said that they would immediately seek a court order compelling Miami-Dade to resume its manual recount. Missing from Daley's statement was a reaffirmation of Gore's confidence and trust in the "little people" on the canvassing board. He made no mention of their "diligence," the "difficult conditions" under which they are operating, or their "rising to the occasion." No. On the turn of a dime, the "little people" are no longer Gore's allies, but his enemies, who he has taken to court because they did not agree to proceed with an inherently unfair process designed to secure his victory. To Gore, this is not about the "little people," but the craven pursuit of political power. Otherwise, he wouldn't be willing to sacrifice the rule of law in his relentless quest for the presidency. Indeed, the most profound lesson to emerge from the Florida follies is the indispensability of the rule of law to the stability of our system and the preservation of our liberties. A corollary principle to the rule of law is that governmental bodies, including courts, must not change rules in the middle of a process, such as the election tabulation process. Due process and fundamental fairness dictate that people have a right to rely on currently existing laws and rules. Those rules may not be administered arbitrarily or retrospectively. But this post-election process has revealed nothing, if not the willingness of the Gore team to subvert any rules or laws necessary to achieve an election victory. When the automatically mandated machine recount didn't go his way, Gore requested a manual recount in four of the most Gore-favoring counties. Contrary to popular opinion, the Florida statutes do not permit a manual recount in the absence of evidence of voter fraud or machine error. When one of those counties determined that the statutory standard for a full recount had not been met, Gore bullied its canvassing board with the threat of litigation into reversing itself. When the votes weren't going sufficiently to suit him, Gore pressured the boards to change the rules to give him more votes. When the secretary of state acted according to her statutory duty to enforce the deadline for vote certification, he sued to compel her to ignore the deadline. When the trial court ruled that the secretary of state properly exercised her authority under the statute, he appealed to the Florida Supreme Court. Gore's essential argument to the court was that it should ignore the laws duly enacted by the legislature, and manufacture its own laws to suspend the mandatory filing deadline and permit a manual recount on a whim. The court's decision demonstrated the danger in courts usurping the constitutional authority of the legislature. Ostensibly to safeguard the rights of the "little people," the court delivered Gore exactly what he wanted and, in the process, betrayed its sacred trust to those very people to adhere to its constitutionally assigned role and the rule of law. With all of its creative juices the court could not devise a way to keep the counting going long enough to complete the process in time for the Florida electors to be selected and participate in the presidential election process. Ironically, it was the "little people" who finally said no.