None Dare Call It Treason
In the December 12 ruling by the US Supreme Court handing the election to George Bush, the Court committed the unpardonable sin of being a knowing surrogate for the Republican Party instead of being an impartial arbiter of the law. If you doubt this, try to imagine Al Gore's and George Bush's roles being reversed and ask yourself if you can conceive of Justice Antonin Scalia and his four conservative brethren issuing an emergency order on December 9 stopping the counting of ballots (at a time when Gore's lead had shrunk to 154 votes) on the grounds that if it continued, Gore could suffer "irreparable harm," and then subsequently, on December 12, bequeathing the election to Gore on equal protection grounds. If you can, then I suppose you can also imagine seeing a man jumping away from his own shadow, Frenchmen no longer drinking wine.
From the beginning, Bush desperately sought, as it were, to prevent the opening of the door, the looking into the box--unmistakable signs that he feared the truth. In a nation that prides itself on openness, instead of the Supreme Court doing everything within its power to find a legal way to open the door and box, they did the precise opposite in grasping, stretching and searching mightily for a way, any way at all, to aid their choice for President, Bush, in the suppression of the truth, finally settling, in their judicial coup d'état, on the untenable argument that there was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause--the Court asserting that because of the various standards of determining the voter's intent in the Florida counties, voters were treated unequally, since a vote disqualified in one county (the so-called undervotes, which the voting machines did not pick up) may have been counted in another county, and vice versa. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court's order that the undervotes be counted, effectively delivering the presidency to Bush.
Now, in the equal protection cases I've seen, the aggrieved party, the one who is being harmed and discriminated against, almost invariably brings the action. But no Florida voter I'm aware of brought any action under the equal protection clause claiming he was disfranchised because of the different standards being employed. What happened here is that Bush leaped in and tried to profit from a hypothetical wrong inflicted on someone else. Even assuming Bush had this right, the very core of his petition to the Court was that he himself would be harmed by these different standards. But would he have? If we're to be governed by common sense, the answer is no. The reason is that just as with flipping a coin you end up in rather short order with as many heads as tails, there would be a "wash" here for both sides, i.e., there would be just as many Bush as Gore votes that would be counted in one county yet disqualified in the next. (Even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that the wash wouldn't end up exactly, 100 percent even, we'd still be dealing with the rule of de minimis non curat lex--the law does not concern itself with trifling matters.) So what harm to Bush was the Court so passionately trying to prevent by its ruling other than the real one: that he would be harmed by the truth as elicited from a full counting of the undervotes?
And if the Court's five-member majority was concerned not about Bush but the voters themselves, as they fervently claimed to be, then under what conceivable theory would they, in effect, tell these voters, "We're so concerned that some of you undervoters may lose your vote under the different Florida county standards that we're going to solve the problem by making sure that none of you undervoters have your votes counted"? Isn't this exactly what the Court did?
Gore's lawyer, David Boies, never argued either of the above points to the Court. Also, since Boies already knew (from language in the December 9 emergency order of the Court) that Justice Scalia, the Court's right-wing ideologue; his Pavlovian puppet, Clarence Thomas, who doesn't even try to create the impression that he's thinking; and three other conservatives on the Court (William Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy) intended to deodorize their foul intent by hanging their hat on the anemic equal protection argument, wouldn't you think that he and his people would have come up with at least three or four strong arguments to expose it for what it was--a legal gimmick that the brazen, shameless majority intended to invoke to perpetrate a judicial hijacking in broad daylight? And made sure that he got into the record of his oral argument all of these points? Yet, remarkably, Boies only managed to make one good equal protection argument, and that one near the very end of his presentation, and then only because Justice Rehnquist (not at Boies's request, I might add) granted him an extra two minutes. If Rehnquist hadn't given him the additional two minutes, Boies would have sat down without getting even one good equal protection argument into the record.
This was Boies's belated argument: "Any differences as to how this standard [to determine voter intent] is interpreted have a lot less significance in terms of what votes are counted or not counted than simply the differences in machines that exist throughout the counties of Florida." A more powerful way to make Boies's argument would have been to point out to the Court the reductio ad absurdum of the equal protection argument. If none of the undervotes were counted because of the various standards to count them, then to be completely consistent the Court would have had no choice but to invalidate the entire Florida election, since there is no question that votes lost in some counties because of the method of voting would have been recorded in others utilizing a different method.1 [Footnotes on page 7] How would the conservative majority have gotten around that argument without buckling on the counting of the undervotes? Of course, advice after a mistake is like medicine after death. And as we shall see, no matter what Boies argued, the five conservative Justices had already made up their minds. But it would have been delightful to see how these Justices, forced to stare into the noonday sun, would have attempted to avoid a confrontation with the truth.