Three weeks after the fact, Florida’s electoral future has fallen deeper into the darkness than many imagined it ever would – the battle has dragged on long enough, and patience has worn thin. On Sunday, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified the statewide election results and handed the coveted 25 Electoral College votes to Texas Gov. George W. Bush. The ball is in the Democrat’s court, but the majority of Americans are ready and willing to call it a game. Disheartening as the outcome may be, it is time to throw in the towel.
The United States will not get off so easy, however. On Monday, Al Gore and his legal team petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for an audience. This begs the question: What is in the best interest of the nation – the chance at a more accurate tally, with the possibility of unending legal entanglement, or a Democratic concession that risks accuracy for stability and closure? Although the Gore camp is stuck between a rock and a hard place, after everything is weighed, this new legal venture threatens to launch the 2000 presidential election into an irretrievable abyss.
At this stage in the game, who will ever be able to judge the accuracy of the election? The legal vortex is a vicious, downward spiral and protracted litigation will do nothing but install a president who commands either apathy or hatred. Given the poor handling of the election and a hard fight, however, Gore’s concession would remain a bitter pill to swallow.
Katherine Harris proved to be a vindictive and partisan official, poised to sacrifice accuracy for expediency whenever she had the chance. The deadlines imposed on county canvassing boards in Florida were unnecessary and detrimental to the pursuit of an accurate tally. Electors will cast the final votes on Dec. 18; until that time, there is simply no reason to rush a delicate process. The Florida Supreme Court attempted to assuage the situation, but merely set up another arbitrary deadline. The court did provide for a Monday evening deadline should Harris’ office be closed on Sunday, as it usually is. Palm Beach asked for this time to finish the counting, but Harris was all too happy to put in a little overtime, opening her office on Sunday (when it is usually shut) just to close the deal for Bush. It is a pity that fair play was thwarted, but it is time to look ahead: A concession can gain far more than a drawn-out legal battle.
Gore’s lawsuit has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overstep its bounds. Electoral proceedings are a state’s prerogative and federal authorities must not tamper with them. Procedural contentions have gone through all the proper channels in Florida, including the highest court in the state. The outcome left much to be desired, but the electoral process is a state matter and the Supreme Court should not hear Gore’s case. Democrats hold 49 seats in the Senate, and Republicans will be careful not to jeopardize their thin majority. If Gore concedes, he will put Democrats on higher ground for the next four years, and possibly clear the way for a Democratic presidential hopeful with serious potential for winning the next election. The election fiasco is tantamount to a Pandora’s box, and if Florida is illegitimately coerced into reopening it, any shred of popular confidence will wither and fade.
Americans are tired of picking up the newspaper each day only to find the top stories indistinguishable from the week before. The Democrats fought hard, but they were beat. Florida has made up its mind, and at this point prolonged legal confrontation will only mire election results in deeper confusion. A Gore concession would bring stability to the country and give it the sure footing necessary to recoup what was lost this November.