The British press has taken to referring to the passing decade as “the Noughties” has made quite a big deal of trying to identify the political, economic and cultural trends of period from 2000 to 2009.
It is an amusing pastime that has some value, but only if we’re focused on identifying the root cause of what made the Noughties such a miserable decade for the republic.
If we are serious about the task, there is not much mystery.
The original sin of the good-riddance decade came in December of 2000, when the United States Supreme Court intervened to stop a complete recount of the votes in Florida and then declared George Bush to be the president.
This extreme judicial activism was not merely a devastating assault on American democracy. It set in motion the Bush presidency, and with it the pathologies that the Bush-Cheney administration imposed on the country in the form of unnecessary wars, failed economic policies, assaults on civil liberties and crudely divisive and hyper-partisan governance.
Bush, Dick Cheney and aides are surely to blame for much of what ailed America during the 2000s, and for what will ail America for decades to come.
But it was the U.S. Supreme Court’s unprecedented meddling in the presidential election process – an intervention that would have horrified the founders of a republic that was supposed to enjoy a separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers – made the Bush-Cheney interregnum possible.
Bush, it must be remembered, did not win the popular vote nationally.
In fact, the American electorate favored Democrat Al Gore over Republican Bush by more than 540,000 votes.
Of course, because the United States has a convoluted electoral system that does not award the presidency to the candidate who wins the most votes, the contest came down to a fight between the Bush and Gore camps for Florida’s decisive 25 Electoral College votes.
Florida ran a confusing and disorderly election on November 7, 2000, and then conducted a ridiculous review of the close result that followed no standards except those imposed by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Bush campaign co-chair.
When the Florida Supreme Court finally ordered a full and consistent recount of all 6.1 million ballots cast by the state’s voters, the U.S. Supreme Court halted the process and then declared Bush the winner of Florida’s electoral votes and the presidency.