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New Left Review 12, November-December 2001


Tom Mertes on Richard Posner, Breaking the Deadlock. The first lucid analysis of the upshot of the US Presidential election, and its setting in the West’s most backward democracy.

TOM MERTES

LIGHT FROM FLORIDA

Standard liberal laments about the outcome of last year’s US presidential election represent it as an outrage to the democratic law of the land. Thanks to vicious manipulation of recorded ballots by Republican functionaries in Florida, brazenly backed by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, Bush stole an election rightfully won by Gore. Such has been the refrain of Democratic loyalists and journalists up and down the country. At the higher reaches of this band of opinion, however, sheer denunciations of electoral robbery are sublimated into a loftier case. Among constitutional theorists, Bush’s victory is pictured not so much as straightforwardly illegal but rather as morally and historically improper—a violation not of the letter, but of the spirit of the Constitution. Here a mystical ideal of ‘true’ American democracy serves to blur the boundaries between this imaginary construct and the actually existing system.

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