Election 2000: Still an open wound

Via Rick Hasen, who has a summary on his own blog, I found today’s NYT column by Paul Kurgman (registration required) especially interesting.

Whatever your position on the outcome of that election and its subsequent contest and Supreme Court decision, the piece (or even just Hasen’s summary) is well worth a read.

I am going to quote just from the end of it. After commenting on the urge, in late 2001, to put the story of the 2000 election behind us, given 9/11, Krugman says:

But we aren’t doing the country a favor when we present recent history in a way that makes our system look better than it is. Sometimes the public needs to hear unpleasant truths, even if those truths make them feel worse about their country.

I really regret—and strongly believe the country as a whole one day will regret—that no significant debate about how the rules by which we select our president resulted from the 2000 debacle. We had another close call in 2004–and it would have had the opposite partisan bias compared to 2000.

And, as PolySigh’s Richard Skinner noted recently in an excellent post, the last four presidential elections “have showed remarkable stability” in voting patterns, noting:

In none of them has any candidate won more than 11% or so of the other party’s identifiers.

This is the real meaning of the term “polarization” when applied to our politics, and given the close divide between the parties and the stability of regional voting patterns, the electoral college (at least with its present winner-take-all voting system) remains something of a ticking time bomb aimed right at the heart of our democracy. This is not a partisan issue, it is a small ‘d’ democratic issue.

UPDATE: A little over a week after I posted the above, Scott Lemieux made the pointed observation that an assessment of Rehnquist’s legacy should start with this open wound of election 2000 and Bush v. Gore. And, of O’Connor, too.

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