For years I was angry about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush V. Gore (2000). It seemed like a blatantly political decision, decided on a partisan 5-4 vote, denying the will of the American people, denying the presidency to the winner of the popular vote. It undermined the credibility and objectivity of the high court, and installed George W. Bush as president, who, to put it too simply, failed to keep America safe on 9/11 despite numerous warnings of terrorist attacks, and who launched a disastrous war in Iraq on false pretenses.
In time I have come to believe that the stability of the American system is greater than the selection of one individual as president of the United States. The 2000 election was far too close to call. If the high court had decided in favor of Al Gore, Republicans would have been as furious as Democrats were, and would have probably launched a rear-guard action to undermine his presidency.
A terrorist attack on America was probably inevitable. Even if Gore was alert enough to quietly kill Bin Laden in 2001 before 9/11, that probably would not have been enough to protect America from a devastating terrorist attack. The country was highly vulnerable, and it took a societal mobilization, and the creation of a Homeland Security Department, to set up the apparatus to protect the nation from terrorist attacks.
If Gore had prevented 9/11, it would have received little to no political credit for having done so, because the American people did not perceive terrorism as a serious threat.
I have since read some very credible scenarios on how the Gore presidency would have turned out, among them Jeff Greenfield’s “When Gore Beat Bush.” It’s likely his administration would have been deeply divided over whether to invade Iraq. His vice president, Joe Lieberman, was one of the staunchest advocates for the war in Iraq, and might have resigned if Gore had not invaded Iraq in 2003. Or it’s quite possible Lieberman would have been dropped from the ticket in 2004, hopelessly dividing the Democratic Party.
It’s extremely difficult and highly unusual in American history for one party to control the White House for more than 12 years. If Gore won in 2000, and possibly 2004, there almost certainly would not be a Barack Obama presidency in 2008.
More reflections on the “too close to call” election of 2000 and Al Gore’s imaginary presidency are here: http://jimbuie.blogs.com/slenderthreads/al-gore/