An analysis of the controversial election of 2000 in the USA

by Craig Runde

Tremendous media attention has focused on vote counting in the United States’ presidential election.  In this and other aspects of the 2000 elections the U.S. populace seems evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. 

A closer view of voting patterns shows Republican strength among whites, men, conservative religious groups and economically well off.  Democrats find more support among women, minorities, union members and the poor.

More important than these points are new trends that started to emerging during this election including: the rise of the Green party, attacks on the dominance (some would say stranglehold) of the Democratic and Republican parties, and serious questioning of the campaign finance system.

The rise of the Green Party under consumer activist, Ralph Nader, was quite pronounced.  Nader captured over 2.7 million votes, almost 3% of the total.  Many commentators suggest that he will have been the deciding factor if Bush beats Gore.  While Nader did not receive much media coverage he gave a good showing, especially in more progressive parts of the country.

Nader strongly attacked both Republican and Democratic positions arguing that the current American political system is “rotten to the core” because of the influence of large contributions from the corporate sector.  Perhaps the defining moment of the 2000 race was when Nader was refused the right to participate in the presidential debates.  The commission that organized the debates that was made up of Republican and Democratic operatives skewed the rules to effectively eliminate any third party candidates from the debates.  Large numbers of people, including those who supported Bush or Gore, thought it was bad to exclude Nader.  As a consequence efforts are underway to develop debate sponsorship protocols that would take this choice away from the two major parties.

Nader was the most forceful critic of the current campaign financing systems, which leads to candidates who follow the marching orders of big business after accepting huge amounts of campaign contributions from them.  Others including Republican Senator John McCain came out strongly for campaign finance reform.  Even the average citizen knows that something is wrong with the system but isn’t sure what can be done.

Whoever wins the election will have a very difficult time running the country without a clear mandate and with a very divided Congress.  At the same time the biggest story may be the start of longer term changes that will lead to a more democratic system, one where the winner isn’t bought and paid for by big business.