A New President for a New Century
President Clinton's two
terms in office left the country divided. Many Americans were pleased with the
economy, but were disappointed with the president's personal behavior. As the
2000 election approached, the major parties looked for candidates who appealed
to a broad cross section of voters.
The Democrats nominated
Vice President Al Gore for president, hoping that the popularity of Clinton's
policies would mean votes for Gore. The large Republican field eventually came
down to two men: Governor George W. Bush of Texas and Senator John McCain of
Arizona. Ultimately, the Republicans chose Bush, the son of former President
George H.W. Bush, as their nominee.
Gore made history by
naming Senator Joseph Lieberman, from Connecticut, as his running mate. This
marked the first time in U.S. history that a Jewish American ran on a national
ticket. George W. Bush chose Richard Cheney as his running mate. Cheney had
served as chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and defense secretary to
former President Bush in 1989.
During the campaign, Gore
stressed protecting the environment and improving education. Bush also
supported educational reform. Calling himself a "compassionate conservative,"
Bush favored local "grassroots" efforts to help the disadvantaged without
large and costly government programs. A major campaign issue was what to do with
the budget surplus. Gore and Bush agreed that Social Security and Medicare
needed reform, but they disagreed on the details. Both also supported tax cuts
and plans to help seniors pay for prescription drugs.
Claiming that there was
little difference between Bush and Gore, activist Ralph Nader entered the race.
Noting that "too much power in the hands of the few has further weakened our
democracy," Nader ran as the nominee of the Green Party, which was known for its
strong environmental views.
Election of 2000
The 2000 election was
extraordinarily close between Bush and Gore. For five weeks after the race, the
outcome remained undecided. The key state was Florida, where Bush had a slim
lead. Without Florida's 25 electoral votes, neither Bush nor Gore had the 270
electoral votes needed to win.
Because the results in
Florida were so close, state law required a recount of the ballots using
vote-counting machines. Gore also asked for hand recounts in several counties,
and a battle began over whether and how to conduct them. Lawsuits were filed in
state and federal courts. The issue ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
On December 12, in Bush v. Gore, the Court ruled that the hand recounts of selected votes in Florida ordered by the Florida Supreme Court violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. It further held that there was not enough time to conduct a recount that would pass constitutional standards. This ruling left Bush the winner in Florida. The next day, Gore conceded the election.
The Task: Part 4