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PLCY 340 - UNC-CH 2000 election paper

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PLCY 340 - UNC-CH 2000 election paper

  1. 1. 720133896 PLCY 340 Case Study Paper: Statesman or Sap? Al Gore in Florida in the 2000 election The 2000 Presidential election ended with the controversial decision of recounting the votes in the state of Florida. Such an unprecedented conclusion to the long electoral season insured that both political campaigns would carry out carefully designed courses of policy action to accomplish the objective of winning the presidency. However, a significant distinction between the two political campaign strategies emerged. While the manipulation framework was utilized in both political campaigns, Al Gore sought to incorporate multiple moralistic frameworks in his manipulative political agenda, particularly efficiency and equity, whereas George W. Bush pursed a solely manipulative political approach. To detail these different utilizations of manipulation, this paper will organize around presenting the particular issues of interest, explaining the relevant frameworks, and applying those frameworks to the case’s issue itself. Issue: The issue of interest in this case study is regarding the policy decisions taken by the Gore and Bush campaign groups during voter recounting processes in the state of Florida. This issue came into significance when Gore pursued manual recounts in only four of Florida’s total 67 counties. While this policy option lacked assertiveness, opposing this was the Bush campaign’s “willingness to play hardball” (Kiron, 2000, p. 188). The Bush campaign filed a lawsuit against Gore, asserting Gore violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection section, by favoring specific voters, from choosing a recount of only four counties. Bush’s allegations severely “undermined the public support that Gore truly wanted to count every vote” (Kiron, 2000, p. 185), when instead the Gore campaign believed its decision was doing a service to the state by not requesting a recount of all counties. This political confrontation shaped the way the Bush and Gore campaigns approached the remaining recounting process. 1
  2. 2. The recount process of absentee ballots represented the second major factor influencing the Bush and Gore campaign policy decisions. The Republican Party’s handling of absentee ballots in Florida’s Seminole and Martin counties, both favoring the Republican Party (Kiron, 2000, pg. 186) was extremely disputed. In Seminole County, the Republican Party members added missing voter identification numbers to absentee ballot applications after such numbers were not present. In Martin County, Republican Party members returned absentee ballot applications to voters to add the identification numbers, later given back in their corrected form. These added absentee ballots represented 7,500 additional votes in Bush’s favor. As Kiron notes, the Republican Party stressed ballot compliancy in counties considered as Democratic strongholds, however in counties supporting of their own party, ballots are counted as a way “to respect the intent of the voter” (Kiron, 2000, pg. 186). More noteworthy, Gore did not respond to this ballot exploitation by the Republican Party, “staying neutral” (Kiron, 2000, pg 186), feeling it was more important to respect the notion of “counting all the votes.” These ideologies persisted regarding oversee absentee ballots. Even with obvious electoral tampering that had taken place through Bush’s political campaign, Gore, while “well aware of the tactics,” ”choose to ignore advice from several quarters to challenge overseas military ballots on the grounds that Bush had benefited from unequal treatment” (Kiron, 200, pg. 187), and did not pursue action against Bush. The issue seen through these policy decisions is regarding why Gore and Bush felt the need to act out in the manner that each candidate did. What provided both candidates the impetus to take such policy options? Specific frameworks will be applied to the issue of interest above, specifically the political actions each campaign took. This will allow for a greater understanding and appreciation for this significant period in United States political discourse. 2
  3. 3. Rule: In this case study, the specific frameworks that are most applicable are manipulation, efficiency, and equity. The manipulation framework, regarding personal values and the policymaker, is most relevant amongst the three frameworks presented. Manipulation entails it is acceptable for individuals in positions of political and social importance to utilize unethical means and decisions, so long as these are justified by a positive result, and the policymaker holds a sense of guilt in carrying out the action. The foundation of the manipulation framework is established through Machiavelli’s work titled, “How a Prince Should Keep his Word.” Machiavelli argues, “princes who have accomplished great deeds are those who have cared little for keeping their promises and who have known how to manipulate the minds of men by shrewdness.”1 Manipulation is used for when the “ends to justify the means,” (Bondanella and Musa, 1979, pg. 135). Machiavelli states that “a wise ruler should not keep his word when such an observance of faith would to be to his disadvantage,” (Bondanella and Musa, 1979, pg. 134) giving rise to the idea that individuals of power should not be held to the same ethical standard as normal individuals. Building upon this idea, Walzer, through his work “Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands,” argues that the manipulation framework is commonplace in the realm of political action2 . Manipulation for Walzer is in all political life, because the actions required by public officials are much different to those in everyday settings. Walzer states that using manipulation in politics “is a central feature of political life that it arises not merely as an occasional crisis…but systematically” (Cohen, Nagel, Scanlon, 1974, pg. 66). Walzer notes that “no one succeeds in politics without getting his hands dirty,” (Cohen, Nagel, & Scanlon, 1974, pg. 66) giving credence to the belief that manipulation is an absolute necessary if an individual is going to be successful as a politician. Getting hands dirty, through means of manipulation for 1 Bondanella, P., & Musa, M. (Eds.). (1979). The Portable Machiavelli. New York, NY: Penguin Books. 2 Cohen, M., & Nagel, T., & Scanlon, T. (Eds.). (1974). War and Moral Responsibility: A Philosophy and Public Affairs reader. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 3
  4. 4. example, is easy based on the nature of politics – because “politicians claim to act for others but also themselves and they rule over others as well” (Cohen, Nagel, Scanlon, 1974, pg. 76). Essentially, the manipulation framework involves the political actor going against his or her private morality for the goal of achieving a greater public good. The second relevant framework, efficiency, evaluates the policy option from the potential, associated benefits and costs. This calculation is achieved through a cost-benefit analysis, whereby alternative projects, identifying relevant stakeholders, listing and operationalizing impacts, have to occur for the efficiency framework to be achieved. Efficiency involves utilizing the utilitarianism rights framework, and imposes assumptions to make the policy identifiable, namely through monetizing the benefits and cost of a proposed policy. As Rhoads notes, the efficiency framework is useful especially in governmental and political scenarios, particularly because costs are simple to calculate, and the cost benefit analysis allows policymakers to consider all relevant constituents.3 However, the ability to calculate benefits is more difficult, as it involves making estimates based on future expectations. In addition, using the efficiency framework can lead to subjective or preferential estimates regarding the potential benefit or cost of a policy option as well (Rhoads, S.E., 1985, pg. 130). Along with potential bias, and difficulty in calculating specific policy benefits, efficiency often leaves out discussions of equity and does a poor job at explaining certain costs or benefits, such as time, reduced illness, improved environmental conditions (Rhoads, 1985, pg. 131), known as ultimate goods. Overall, the efficiency framework utilizes the most quantifiable assessment of a policy option through the utilitarian lens of using potential costs and benefits. 3 Rhoads, S. E. (1985). The Economist’s View of the World: Government, Markets, and Public Policy. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. 4
  5. 5. The final relevant framework is equity, specifically John Rawls’s first principle regarding the theory of justice as fairness. Equity deals with the distribution of primary goods through governmental sources. To achieve this distribution one must enter the original position, which involves individuals in the position “of free and equal persons who jointly agree upon and commit themselves to principles of social and political justice.” 4 To reach the original position, individuals must act having no knowledge of their personal characteristics or social position, known as the veil of ignorance. Once the veil of ignorance is established, then Rawls’s first principle of justice as fairness is achieved. This first principle framework of equity states, “each person is the have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others” (Rawls, 1999, pg. 53). By basic liberties, Rawls is referring to political liberty, such as the right to vote, and freedom of speech and assembly (Rawls, 1999, pg. 53). Individuals should have access to these basic liberties and primary goods. Overall, Rawls’s first principle framework of justice as fairness ensures that all individuals have an equally protected and respected right, obligated to be recognized by both society at large and the government, to the most basic set of social liberties and avenues of self autonomy. These three detailed frameworks, manipulation, efficiency, and equity, will now explain the policy decisions made by both Bush and Gore presidential campaigns during the Florida vote recounting process. Analysis: The political actions taken by the Bush and Gore campaigns provide an interesting pattern that remained through the recounting process. Bush viewed this process as “an extension of pre-election political campaign” whereas Gore took a more “high-minded approach” towards the entire procedure (Kiron, 200, pg. 188). This difference in political ideology allowed the Bush 4 Rawls, J. (1999). A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 5
  6. 6. and Gore campaigns to “carry out a distinctive strategies of manipulation” (Kiron, 2000, pg. 189). The use of the manipulation in the Bush campaign was much more influential compared to the political campaign run by Gore. Bush’s aggressive campaign strategies were prime examples of Walzer’s theory of manipulation, as his campaign acted in its own interests and agenda. The manipulation framework states that political agents use manipulation in order to achieve a greater overall good – in this case, winning the presidency. The Bush campaign filled legal cases against the Gore campaign, objecting the four country manual recount, yet decided against a statewide recount of Florida, completely aware that Gore would be the electorate winner if such a recount were to take place – a prime example of being unethical for political success. Moreover, through the federal cases filed, Bush’s campaign illustrated Gore as refusing to count every vote, manipulating public opinion of Gore, when Gore really was pursing an efficient political solution. In addition, the Bush campaign’s manipulative practice of adding voter identification numbers to absentee ballot applications that supported the Republican Party, and then claiming that these ballots were completely valid was questionable. These votes helped Bush carried the state of Florida, but their legitimacy was without any doubt lacking. Regarding the counting of absentee ballots, the Bush campaign advocated for lenient standards for processing military oversea ballots while also demanding that regular absentee ballots, especially those to favor Gore, be held to much higher standards of scrutiny. This was done through claiming military oversea ballots were marked in the United States, which was clearly false, and then producing a 52-page document focusing on detecting invalid civilian ballots. Bush explicitly manipulated the entire Florida electorate process with the goal of using manipulation to attack, as Kiron notes, “to induce others to do your bidding” (Kiron, 2000, pg. 160). 6
  7. 7. Unlike the Bush campaign, Gore took a multi-framework approach to manipulation, utilizing the efficiency and equity frameworks, while also basing manipulation on deception. It becomes clear that the Gore campaign was not nearly as manipulative as Bush’s political actions. Manipulation in Gore’s campaign strategy was not used as an offensive means, rather through the defensive means of deception, as Gore intended to deflect from others from interfering with his plans (Kiron, 2000, pg, 160). Gore realized that he needed to take action, based on his responsibilities to his close political allies, the Democratic Party, and the country in general. His manipulative act of requesting that four counties be recounted, out of a possible 67 counties, was a politically influenced decision, in part because the four counties selected were in Democratic favoring territories, however; deception was involved in that Gore actually used the ethical framework of efficiency in making his decision. Gore’s supporters likely thought the campaign was making a sound strategic decision to count democratic favoring areas, when in reality the framework of efficiency was the essential framework explaining the decision. Gore wanted “to expedite a resolution to the election process and protect the country from a protracted battle over the presidency” while feeling “reluctant to file 67 different lawsuits and appear litigious.” Gore weighted out the potential benefits and costs of the various policy options available, and found that unnecessarily prolonging the election was going to do more harm to his political future than good. In addition, the inactivity that Gore showed in contesting the dubious absentee ballot practices of the Bush campaign, seemed as a manipulative act based on the premise public opinion would share Gore’s sentiment of the recounting process as merely a “adjudicative procedure” (Kiron, 2000, pg. 188). Much of this decision was based on the equity framework, through Gore’s campaign wanting to “focus on the message – count all the votes” (Kiron, 2000, pg. 184). Gore wanted to maintain this framework of equity. However, the equity framework that 7
  8. 8. Gore employed in his manipulation did not extend to the point where he was perceived litigious or controversial – he still wanted to maintain the efficiency framework at the same time, for example by only requesting a manual recount in four counties. Gore’s campaign can be seen as relying on various ethical views, particularly efficiency and equity, shaping his distinct strategy of manipulation compared to that of the Bush campaign. Conclusion: The 2000 vote recounting process in the state of Florida detailed two distinct campaign strategies aimed towards the ultimate political goal – winning the presidency. Manipulation determined how each candidate’s campaign planned approach developed throughout the recounting process. However, as the policy actions indicated, both the Bush and Gore campaigns sought to use their own version of manipulation. Gore’s campaign utilized multiple ethical frameworks, namely efficiency and equity, as a means of achieving a manipulative and deceptive political discourse. Bush’s campaign relied strictly on manipulation to achieve the campaign’s policy goal. These differing approaches to manipulation show how such a common phenomenon in politics can be much more distinct and unusual than expected. 8

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