The Ribald Reign of King George the Second

The Fix is In

The Fix is, finally, in. After unsuccessful attempts by Bush Campaign Co-Chair Kathleen Harris and leaders of a state legislature (admittedly following Bush campaign orders), five Republican-appointed justices cobbled together a court majority to stop the count of valid votes (agreed to by all justices to refer to ballots for which intent can be determined) in the swing state of Florida.

The reasoning of these five Republican-appointed jurists is, at heart, simple:

  1. The count of yet-uncounted Florida votes could proceed in an equitable fashion;
  2. It is up to the Florida Supreme court to determine a standard for equity in such a count;
  3. But under the law such a count would have to be completed by December 12.
  4. Since we same five Republican-appointed jurists halted the count of votes pending our decision, and
  5. Since we issued our decision with only two hours remaining in the day of December 12,
  6. Such a count cannot be feasibly carried out.
  7. Therefore, these votes cannot be counted.

In other words:

  1. The very same jurists who halted a count of votes that was proceeding on pace to finish by December 12 waited until the waning hours of December 12 to issue an opinion.
  2. That opinion, written by the very same jurists who voted to put a temporary halt to the count, supported the permanent halt of the count.
  3. That permanent halt to the count was justified with the argument that there was no longer time for a count of votes.
  4. The reason that there was no longer time for a count of votes was that these very same jurists had decided to stop the count until they made their decision.

In any undergraduate philosophy classroom, this would be quickly identified as a fallacious justification because of its circularity. If this kind of arrangement were made in any Third World nation, we would all be clicking our tongues in dismay at the fixing of an election. Well, in or out of a classroom such a justification makes no sense. And no matter how high-and-mighty or otherwise well-regarded the body fixing an election, a fix is still a fix. The Fix for Bush is, after a long month, in.

It's not just us Internet crackpots who are calling this Fix a Fix. Other Justices on the Supreme Court, widely known for their care in choosing moderate words, chose harsh words for their colleagues in this instance. Read for yourself the dissenting comment of Justice Ginsburg:
"Time (ital.) is short in part because of the Court' s entry of a stay on December 9, several hours after an able circuit judge in Leon County had begun to superintend the recount process. More fundamentally, the Court's reluctance to let the recount go forward, despite its suggestion that 'the search for intent can be confined by specific rules designed to ensure uniform treatment' ultimately turns on its own judgment about the practical realities of implementing a recount...."

Read for yourself the dissenting comment of Justice Stevens, joined by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg:
"Indeed, in 1960, Hawaii appointed two slates of electors and Congress chose to count the one appointed on January 4, 1961, well after the Title 3 deadlines.... As the majority notes, '[a] desire for speed is not a general excuse for ignoring equal protection guarantees.'"

"It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today' s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."

The Fix Is In. With democracy tossed cavalierly aside and the highest rule of the United States decided by a court, a new appellation is in order. God Save King George the Second.

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