Bush v. Gore: Exposing the Hidden Crisis in American Democracy

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niversity Press of Kansas Kansas Hardcover 416 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Brand new book. LAW. The infamous 2000 presidential election produced hanging chads, butterfly ... ballots, endless recounts, raucous allegations, and a constitutional crisis&emdash; until a controversial Supreme Court decision allowed George W. Bush to become president despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore. Charles L. Zelden presents the definitive history of this vexing and acrimonious affair, offering the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate analysis of a remarkable episode in American politics. Zelden probes deeper than any other scholar has sought to do&emdash; showing that both the election controversy of 2000 and Bush v. Gore signaled major flaws in our electoral system that remain with us today, exposing a hidden crisis in American democracy. Zelden, who lives and teaches in Broward County (one of the key recount sites), distills the voluminous literature on Bush v. Gore in his sharply insightful and balanced acc Read more Show Less

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Overview

The infamous 2000 presidential election produced hanging chads, butterfly ballots, endless recounts, raucous allegations, and a constitutional crisis-until a controversial Supreme Court decision allowed George W. Bush to become president despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore. Charles L. Zelden presents the definitive history of this vexing and acrimonious affair, offering the most complete, up-to-date, and accurate analysis of a remarkable episode in American politics. Zelden probes deeper than any other scholar has sought to do—showing that both the election controversy of 2000 and Bush v. Gore signaled major flaws in our electoral system that remain with us today, exposing a hidden crisis in American democracy.

Zelden, who lives and teaches in Broward County (one of the key recount sites), distills the voluminous literature on Bush v. Gore in his sharply insightful and balanced account of the election crisis and the litigation that followed. Tracing the back-and-forth between concessions and retractions, Gore and Bush attorneys, and state and federal courts, he underscores the extraordinary clock-ticking tension between statutory deadlines governing the electoral process and the desire to have every vote counted and counted accurately.

Zelden offers a nonpartisan analysis of the legal opinions in the case, particularly the Supreme Court's ruling; he explores the judicial philosophy underlying the reasoning of each justice. His book invites readers to consider the case independent of their personal views of the candidates and reorients our view of the crisis to emphasize the failures of the system rather than the election of a president by apparent judicial decree. He sets all of these events, issues, and legal rulings within their proper historical context, making complex issues easy to understand and also reviewing events of the succeeding seven years in light of the decision.

As Zelden shows, the true tragedy of 2000 was the failure of every person and every institution involved—especially the Supreme Court—to take this crisis as an opportunity to diagnose the problems of our broken electoral system and to urge its repair. We may prefer to put this decision behind us, but we ignore it—and its lessons—at our peril.

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Editorial Reviews

Law and History Review
Clear, balanced, and quite engaging. . . . [written] in a way that is comprehensible even to non-legal readers. An impressive feat.
Dallas Morning News
A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of American democracy.
Law and Politics Book Review
Zelden's book reads as a journalistic account, with the drama of a novel. . . . Invaluable to scholars and students.
H-Net Reviews
A masterful synthesis that promises to be a classic work.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700615933
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 7/25/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles L. Zelden is professor of history at Nova Southeastern University in Broward County. His previous books include Battle for the Black Ballot: Smith v. Allwright and the Defeat of the Texas All-White Primary and Voting Rights on Trial. He was an on-air commentator during the 2000 election for the local NBC News affiliate in Miami and other media.

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Table of Contents

Preface: The Case That Must Be Named

Acknowledgments

1. A Vote Too Close to Call

2. Enter the Lawyers

3. Eye of the Beholder

4. The Battlefield of Litigation

5. The Ticking of the Clock

6. Ballots before the Bench

7. "A Florida Hurricane Heading to Washington"

8. Headfirst into the Political Thicket

9. A Self-Inflicted Wound?

10. The Unlearned Lessons of 2000

Afterword: The Process Matters

Appendix I: A Timeline of Events for the 2000 Presidential Election and Postelection Crisis

Appendix 2: A Note on Methodology

Notes

Index

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