Dred Scott v. Sandford


George W. Bush official photo.

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Ten years ago today, the United States Supreme Court gave the 2000 Presidential election to George W. Bush.

Hindsight, which is as useless a gift as it appears, tells us that had Florida been allowed to recount all votes cast, Gore would have won. No matter how they conducted the count. He would have been President and today would probably be a very different reality.

At the time, Justice Souter, who wrote the dissenting opinion, chose to couch his dissent in language that brings to mind the horrific 1852 Dred Scott decision. It’s the one that set the country on an irrevocable path to civil war and the capstone on the Founding Fathers pandering in the nation’s formative years.

Some people, even today, felt that Dred Scott was too important a case in the history of civil rights in the U.S. to be compared to the Gore v. Bush decision. But I don’t.

No, they are not equal in terms of moral gravitas, but they are equal in turns of historical tipping points. Dred Scott was the top of the hill the country rolled down into near self-destruction. Gore v. Bush set the stage for the end of the American Dream.

Not democracy. We have never been all that great an example of representative democracy. And not even the material and consumption dream, we were heading there anyway – though it might have taken longer than it’s going to now.

No, it’s the end of the illusion that we are all equal. That no matter where we humbly begin, the ladder is ours to climb.

It freed those who rig the game from having to hide that fact, and it has set in motion a slide that we are unlikely to rise above.

Happy Anniversary Gore v. Bush, the gift that is yet to finish giving the American people what they probably deserve anyway.