Vice President Al Gore gave a generous and gracious concession speech one day after a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court stopped the counting of ballots in the state of Florida. There will be a peaceful transition of power in accordance with the decisions of our democratic institutions. As Americans, we are grateful for the privilege of living in a country where even our most heated conflicts can be resolved peacefully. And we must work together to address the country’s pressing needs. But we cannot and must not forget that our democratic principles were gravely violated in this election.
Vice President Gore did the nation a great service in the weeks since Election Day by insisting that the outcome of the election should rest on the principle that every person has the right to cast a vote that counts. That must continue to be the guiding principle as we uncover the facts about the election in Florida and move to ensure that future elections there and in other states are conducted with greater fairness. Justice demands it.
There is no question that a tremendous injustice has been done to the citizens of Florida and the nation, especially all those who worked hard to convince their fellow citizens to participate in the process and vote. It is nothing short of disgraceful that the Supreme Court majority used the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause to halt the counting of votes and validate an election whose outcome relied on the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters.
The Bush campaign appealed to federal authority to overrule the state Supreme Court’s attempts to determine the will of the voters. We and our allies will insist that the new administration aggressively support federal investigations of the Voting Rights Act and hold accountable election officials responsible for denying thousands of Floridians, disproportionately African Americans, the right to vote. Acknowledging that thousands of voters were disenfranchised, and moving to prevent future elections from being tainted by such disenfranchisement, is a necessary step for the national healing for which President-elect George W. Bush has called.
Of course, we will work with the new Congress and President to advance the good of the nation. We welcome Governor Bush’s recognition that his obligation is to serve all the people, and we will work to ensure that all Americans’ rights are respected. We welcome Governor Bush’s call for a national commitment to strengthening public education so that no child is left behind. We urge him to consider the overwhelming rejection of school vouchers by voters in Michigan and California last month, and to abandon plans to divert tax dollars from public schools into private and religious schools. There is a broad consensus that a powerful nation in prosperous times has a moral obligation to make needed investments in our schools and address the undeniable fact that huge numbers of our children are denied opportunity because their families are living in poverty.
Our nation has enormous strengths, but we also have vast needs. At a time when our wealthiest citizens enjoy unprecedented prosperity, an administration that makes massive tax cuts for the most fortunate its top priority will squander an opportunity for moral leadership.
It is a sobering reality that we move into the 21st century with right-wing forces controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress. And, most importantly, they will likely have an opportunity to appoint additional right-wing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. We face the prospect that a Scalia-Thomas controlled Supreme Court could roll back the clock on many social justice gains of the past half century, and place an ideological blockade around efforts to seek justice through Congress or the federal courts.
In the weeks and months ahead, Americans who cherish freedom, fairness, and justice will be called on to stand up and fight for those values.
People For the American Way will be there.