One of the more vexing things about the current election has been the fact that the now, all of a sudden, principled conservatives who are #NeverTrump are basically being given a free ride by the media to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their party nominating Trump. This didn’t just happen. This took years of effort, years of unprincipled playing to the mob, decades of subtle and not so subtle racism and otherism, years of chipping away at facts and logic, pretending tea party candidates and Sarah Palin were serious people, and to borrow a phrase from the C+ Augustus reign, years of “creating their own reality.” To borrow a more recent wingnut phrase, you built it, GOP.
At any rate, if you want a striking example of how we got to Trump, look no further than the spin from the Republicans, including the #NeverTrump frauds after Donald Trump refused to state he would accept the election results:
Tonight's takeaway: Democrats still won't admit the 2000 election was decided fairly in favor of the winner.
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) October 20, 2016
There is a fundamental difference in refusing to accept the results of the process before a vote has even been cast, de-legitimizing the election before it even happens, and contesting an election using pre-existing election law. What Donald Trump is doing is the former, what Gore did was the latter. It’s a fundamental distinction, and it is why people who know things are horrified by what Trump did last night:
Contesting an election does not de-legitimize it. Asking for a recount and pursuing your rights as LAID OUT IN ELECTION LAW does not de-legitimize elections. These polices are argued over, debated, and passed into law to make sure that we keep elections legitimate and fair and that everyone knows the rules. Individuals on twitter still being pissed about the election outcome does not de-legitimize elections. Candidates refusing to accept the outcome, before and after, de-legitimizes the election. Gore did neither.
And for the record, if anything in the 2000 election de-legitimized things, it was the Supreme Court making shit up and passing a ruling that was so obviously shite that they made sure it COULD NEVER be used as precedent:
omentous Supreme Court cases tend to move quickly into the slipstream of the Court’s history. In the first ten years after Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that ended the doctrine of separate but equal in public education, the Justices cited the case more than twenty-five times. In the ten years after Roe v. Wade, the abortion-rights decision of 1973, there were more than sixty-five references to that landmark. This month marks ten years since the Court, by a vote of five-to-four, terminated the election of 2000 and delivered the Presidency to George W. Bush. Over that decade, the Justices have provided a verdict of sorts on Bush v. Gore by the number of times they have cited it: zero.***
Even at the time, Bush v. Gore was treated as a kind of novelty item, a one-off decision that applied only to the peculiar facts then before the Justices. The majority itself seemed to want it that way. In the most famous sentence from the decision, the Justices wrote, “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.” (Unlike most weighty decisions, Bush v. Gore had no single author and was delineated “per curiam,” or by the Court, a designation the Justices usually reserve for minor cases.) In light of all these admonitions to leave the case be, might getting over it be the best advice?
Actually, no. To return briefly to the distant world of chads, hanging and otherwise, it’s worth recalling what Bush v. Gore was about. The pervasive uncertainty about the results of the election in Florida—at the time, Bush led by five hundred and thirty-seven votes out of nearly six million cast—prompted the Florida courts, interpreting Florida election law, to order a statewide recount of all undervotes and overvotes; that is, ballots that indicated no Presidential preference or more than one. (Chads were the tiny paper rectangles that voters were supposed to push through punch-card ballots.) That recount had already begun on Saturday, December 9th, when five Justices—Scalia, William H. Rehnquist, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony M. Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas—issued a stay, barring the Florida authorities from continuing their labors. Three days later, the same five issued the per-curiam decision that stopped the recount once and for all.
What made the decision in Bush v. Gore so startling was that it was the work of Justices who were considered, to greater or lesser extents, judicial conservatives. On many occasions, these Justices had said that they believed in the preëminence of states’ rights, in a narrow conception of the equal-protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and, above all, in judicial restraint. Bush v. Gore violated those principles. The Supreme Court stepped into the case even though the Florida Supreme Court had been interpreting Florida law; the majority found a violation of the rights of George W. Bush, a white man, to equal protection when these same Justices were becoming ever more stingy in finding violations of the rights of African-Americans; and the Court stopped the recount even before it was completed, and before the Florida courts had a chance to iron out any problems—a classic example of judicial activism, not judicial restraint, by the majority.
In short, this is how we got to Trump. Yes, Republican, you built this. And if you read this “DEMOCRATS ARE WORSE” gibberish from Bre Payton, graduate of the “Patrick Henry School of Political Journalism,” which I googled and is an actual place andnot a quip made up in the Free Republic comments section, they are still building it. Or demolishing it. Your call.