Twenty years ago, some folks called Al Gore a sore loser.
What do you suppose they’d say about Donald Trump?
Two months after the presidential election, the nation is still fighting over who won. Millions of the president’s supporters are convinced the election was stolen, and the president has encouraged them to march on Washington.
Just think what the president and his supporters might be saying if the election had actually been close. What if instead of losing the popular vote by millions, the president had actually won it by hundreds of thousands?
What would he and his supporters have done then?
We know what happened 20 years ago when Gore lost to George W. Bush.
Gore had actually conceded on election night only to change his mind after the major networks decided the contest in Florida was too close to call.
What followed was a seemingly endless 36 days of controversy as lawyers argued over counting and recounting the ballots.
Voters learned more than they wanted to know about hanging chads and dimpled chads and pregnant chads. They also learned about a so-called “butterfly” ballot that some thought might have led folks trying to vote for Gore to wind up casting a ballot for independent candidate Pat Buchanan instead.
In the initial tally, Bush led Florida by about 1,700 votes, but a recount trimmed that margin to 317.
Through it all, the Democrats were sure the deck had been stacked against them. Not only was Bush’s brother, Jeb, the state’s governor, the woman charged with overseeing the counting was the co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign, Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
The fight twice wound up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The first time, the justices sent it back to Florida, but the second time, they decided Florida had run out of time to sort out its issues, and they halted the recount, effectively handing the election to Bush.
The court issued its decision on Dec. 12, the same day states were required to certify a slate of electors. The vote was 5-4, with the court’s five conservatives siding with Bush and its four liberals siding with Gore.
Gore conceded the next day.
In his address to the nation, Gore recalled what Stephen Douglas had said after losing to Abraham Lincoln nearly a century and a half before.
"Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism,” Douglas told Lincoln. ”I'm with you, Mr. President, and God bless you."
Like Douglas, Gore chose to be conciliatory in defeat. He sought to bring a divided country together.
“While we yet hold and do not yield our opposing beliefs,” he told his supporters, “there is a higher duty than the one we owe to political party. This is America, and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.”
Weeks later, Congress met in joint session to certify the results. Gore, as vice president, was the presiding officer. Several members of the House rose to object, citing various concerns about the election, but Gore ruled them all out of order.
Finally, he announced that Bush had won the Electoral College by a margin of 271 to 266.
“May God bless our new president and our new vice president,” Gore said, “and may God bless the United States of America.”
Twenty years to the day after Gore spoke those words, Vice President Mike Pence will stand in the same spot. Disappointed supporters will be marching outside, and members of his own party have promised to stand and object to certification of the election result.
How do you think the vice president will respond?