Shifting Sands 8 - What Might Have Been

Wednesday, November 23, 2005
"The issue was whether Florida's Supreme Court or the United States Supreme Court [would decide the election.] What did you expect us to do? Turn the case down because it wasn't important enough?"

I enjoy hearing Antonin Scalia's opinions concerning just about anything. He writes and speaks with a forceful clarity that has nothing whatsoever to do with the sophistry that passes for nuanced subtlety among "sophisticates" who lack both the talent and the backbone to say or write what they actually mean.

His remarks above as quoted in the New York Post are succinct but lead to an area open to vast speculation. Harry Turtledove writes in the genre of alternate history and has done some fascinating page turners about major historical events from a "what if" perspective.

Justice Scalia's remarks bring to mind a scenario suitable for examination by Turltledove. What if Gore had shown Nixon's graciousness (and foresight) when he conceded the '60 election? Would the political tenor of the past five years have changed? Would centrists within the Democratic party have been able to maintain the already fragile coalition of disparate interests that were disintegrating throughout the '90's? Would the party have been able to refrain from selling itself to the highest bidders with the lowest standards?

We shall never know with any certainty. What we do know is that the party's abject surrender of all standards of conduct to a noisome group that has never and will never account for more than twenty per cent of the electorate hastened the end rather than extended the life of a once great party.


ambisinistral said...

Gore was an idiot, but Conservatives bear and equal, if not greater share, of the blame for the tenor of public discourse. Whitewater, and the resulting Impeachment Circus, was perhaps the lowest I've ever seen American Politics sink.

BOTH sides are to blame and finger pointing accomplishes nothing but fanning of the flames. Tossing bricks and then wringing one's hands over broken windows gets us no where. Time for us to move on and stop playing this game.

Rick Ballard said...

"Time for us to move on"

What a wonderful idea. Someone should start an organization with that theme.

Eric Blair said...


I think a more interesting scenario is if the Supreme Court had let the recounts go forward and it turned out (as it did) that Bush actually did win in Florida.)

Would there still be the rancor?

I'd bet money that there would be.

Anonymous said...

It was a turning point for me, Rick. I watched the shennanigans and the press misreporting and was so angry that I changed party registration and never looked back. It was inappropriate and frankly, unmanly, conduct..and it substantially changed the tenor of politics in DC.

And if that wasn' t bad enough, it was followed by the Clinton refusal to allow an orderly transition and the pardons and the pilfering of the WH. PHEH.


David Thomson said...

“I'd bet money that there would be.”

I agree. The liberal elites believe that they should be in charge. The world must revolve around them because of their alleged intellectual brilliance and altruistic concerns for the unwashed masses. These folks thought that they had a lock on power. The gods of the universe were suppose to desire the election of Al Gore, Jr. How could any virtuous person disagree? If he lost---then obviously the forces of evil scammed the system.

Rick Ballard said...


Some turning points are more obvious than others. John Paul II's support of Solidarity in Poland wasn't as obvious as Reagn's "tear down this wall" but "tear down this wall" would not have been said had John Paul II not made his move. The USSR was just as chimerical in '80 as it was in '87 but no one was pointing it out.

Clinton might have restructured the Democratic party into a solid strong centrist unity had he locked Hillary in a closet rather than letting her work in public/secret on her collectivisation of health care scheme. He could have avoided the impeachment imbroglio had he chosen to just say "I screwed up and I'm not going to screw up again" - he certainly had the personal popularity to carry him through.

Gore's decision really was a turning point and accelerated a decline in party fortunes that might have been reversed. I don't believe that it is reversible today and I hope that a decent new centrist party emerges soon. It is very perilous for the Republic to have a single party accrete too much power.

ex-democrat said...

rick - Scalia's dissent in Casey is certainly a tour de force.

For example, "The Imperial Judiciary lives. It is instructive to compare this Nietzschean vision of us un-elected, life-tenured judges--leading a Volk who will be "tested by following," and whose very "be-lief in themselves" is mystically bound up in their "understanding" of a Court that "speaks before all others for their constitutional ideals"--with the somewhat more modest role envisioned for these lawyers by the Founders."


Buddy Larsen said...

The southern states were about all one-party in the post Civil War century. But they warred along the same left/right lines, just as wings of the Dems rather than two different parties. GOP was like the libertarians today--a voice without votes.

Buddy Larsen said...

Ah, wot a nation we could be again, with a few more Scalias. He put de 'majesty' in 'magistrate'.

flenser said...


"Whitewater, and the resulting Impeachment Circus, was perhaps the lowest I've ever seen American Politics sink."

Lower than Watergate?


"I don't believe that it is reversible today and I hope that a decent new centrist party emerges soon. It is very perilous for the Republic to have a single party accrete too much power. "

Well, luckily or unluckily, the GOP is almost comically incompetent. It's hard to image those people ever being a deliberate threat.

But this "centerist" idea keeps surfacing. Roger was trying to summon it into existence the other day. Can anyone describe what such a party might look like? I'm thinking of putting up a post saying the term is meaningless.

The falling poll numbers for the GOP have occurred in tandem with its seach for the (non-existant?) center.

Rick Ballard said...


Don't look to me for a definition - I used centrist to distinguish from where the fringe is trying to drag the party. The fringe isn't going anywhere.

As to Republican poll numbers - let's chat about that in July or August. Today's number are meaningless - especially in "adult" polls that include the 40% who have never and possibly will never vote.

Eric Blair said...

I agree. Polls are worthless. Maybe even worse than useless, in that they may be, (I certianly think so) outright lies.

Buddy Larsen said...

I just wonder, had the right gone easier on the dozen or so major Clinton scandals (Whitewater gets mentioned as the sign that the scandals were all oppo-cooked, but even Whitewater ended with a jailful of stonewallers who weren't ready to commit er, professional suicide--including a governer, I believe--and the clintons pointedly NOT exonerated--just lucky, and scary), would the left have paid back the forebearance? Can anyone in their right mind imagine that it would?

That said, I agree with ambis that the fight is out-of-control and needs damping. But I can't shut up. Maybe I need rid of this computer. Before I get off on Win Ho Lee again, and the decade of submarine ICBM development he saved the PRC while Janet Reno "surveilled" him.

ambisinistral said...


Well, I don't really want to thrash through Nixon's problems again. However, while I think to a certain extent Nixon was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Watergate touch upon some very serious issues -- particularily the use of Federal power to go after political opponents.

Whitewater, or the 60 Million Dollar Blow-job investigation as I prefer to call it, and the resulting impeachment nonsense was just an embarassment.

I'm just trying to point out that this level of partisan mud wrestling goes on in both directions, and I don't like it regardless of which side is instigating it at the moment. Just as Gore deserves nothing but contempt for dragging out the 2000 election and crying foul over a close race, so too the House Republicans deserve contempt for wasting so much money investigating Clinton and then topping it off with that feeble impeachment proceeding.

chuck said...


It is very perilous for the Republic to have a single party accrete too much power.

I think the Republicans are far from having that much power. The Democrats still retain plenty of influence; more than I would like, actually. It's still a fight and likely to remain so for many years to come. The boomers will be around for another 15-20 years bloviating on tv, writing in the papers, and teaching at the universities. The dieing sun of the 60's has yet to set.

Buddy Larsen said...

Chuck--I couldn't agree more, but do want to remind for the sake of filling out the 'story' of the boomers, that most of those 58,000 names on the wall are boomers. And they started the flood of the digital revolution. Unfortunately our emblem will be the pathetic and dangerous Professor N. Grate Ponytail.