Will Fox Bolster Trump as "Winner," as Fox's John Ellis Bush Called Florida for His Cousin in 2000?
The 2000 election sheds light on how controlling the narrative of who is winning can create a context in which stealing an election is legitimatized.
In the case of the chaos of the 2000 battle over Florida, it was the first cousin of George W. Bush and Jeb Bush who played a crucial role in advancing the aggressive assertion that Bush won Florida, even though he didn’t, and providing grounds to activate Bush supporters to shut down recounting in the state — and a media and political meme that Gore was trying to steal the election when a full manual recount conducted by the media later showed that he did indeed had won it. Eventually, Bush ended up being “certified” by the Republican Secretary of State Kathryn Harris — and Jeb Bush the governor of Florida that year — as winning by 537 votes and then anointed by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 right-wing vote.
Unless Biden wins outright in a landslide today, Trump plans to create the narrative that he is the winner and Biden is trying to steal the election from him.
What he intends to do, unless Biden wins outright in a landslide today, November 3, is, as I have noted, to create the narrative that he is the winner and Biden is trying to steal the election from him.
However, first let me provide some context to the initial vote we will see tonight on November 3, even though a large number of deciding states will not have their full vote counts, due to mail-in ballots, for days or even weeks. In 2000, there were relatively few mail-in ballots, so almost all states were called on election eve. (It is also important to note that Florida was the last and deciding state in 2000, because Gore and Bush both had around 245 Electoral votes, so Florida was the state that would tip the election.)
On August 20, BuzzFlash wrote a commentary, “Trump Will Claim He Won the Election on Night of November 3, and Biden Is Trying to Steal It: Bush 2000 Tactic.” It was clear even earlier this year that Trump knew he couldn’t win the election fairly, so he vowed to steal it by voter suppression and getting the Federalist Society-packed courts to declare countless Democratic ballots as invalid. What he intends to do, unless Biden wins outright in a landslide today, November 3, is, as I have noted, to create the narrative that he is the winner and Biden is trying to steal the election from him. This is, of course, a clear and present danger to our democracy and could lead to armed violence, let alone another Supreme Court and Federalist bench corrupt denial of the election to Biden.
Returning to Florida in 2000, PBS noted that at first on the election night of November 7 that year that Gore was declared the winner based on exit polling,
Al Gore wins the state of Florida and its 25 electoral votes," announced Peter Jennings of ABC News. "It gives him the first big-state momentum of the evening. This is the biggest state where the race has been close and the fourth biggest electoral prize."
However, it wasn’t for long. A short time later as the PBS article qualifies, major networks reversed themselves:
"Bulletin: Florida pulled back into the undecided column," CBS's Dan Rather said. "Computer and data problem. One of the CBS election night headlines of the hour. This knockdown, drag-out battle drags on into the night, and turn the lights down, this party just got wilder."
And that’s where the Bush brother first cousin, John Ellis, comes in. He headed the Fox election desk that was responsible for declaring outcomes in states.
According to a November 17, 2000, article in the World Socialist Web Site:
What happened several hours later was even more suspicious. Newsweek reports that in the hours after midnight Bush's margin in Florida began to dwindle. A lead of 200,000 shrank to 100,000 and then to only 60,000. But remarkably, despite this diminishing lead, at 2:16 a.m. [on November 8] Fox News made the call—on the direction of John Ellis—for Bush….
In his interview with the New Yorker magazine, Ellis recounted his 2 a.m. conversation with George W and Jeb Bush: “It was just the three of us guys handing the phone back and forth—me with the numbers, one of them a governor, the other the [possible] president-elect. Now that was cool.” In other words, the Republican candidate, and the governor of the state where the outcome of the race would be determined, had a direct line—through their cousin—to a media outlet that would broadcast their “victory” nationwide.
The extraordinary sequence of events that followed is by now well known. In response to the call by the networks [who followed Fox’s lead] Al Gore telephoned Bush to concede the election. But as Gore was on his way to deliver his concession speech, the vice president's advisors urged him to turn back, telling him Bush's lead had dropped to only several thousand votes [and then to just hundreds of votes]. Gore phoned Bush rescinding his concession.
That set the precedent that, from then on in, that the Bush campaign kept up a drum beat that Gore was trying to steal the election. Media coverage in 2000 echoed the charges of the Bush campaign, and supporters turned the tide of the recount with the infamous “Brooks Brother Riot” in Miami-Dade County. Bush supporters started to troll the Gore as “Loserman,” playing off of his running-mate’s name, Lieberman.
Even though, the networks pulled-back from Fox’s John Ellis Bush call that Florida was won by Bush in the weeks that followed, the narrative was set that Gore was robbing Bush of his “rightful” win, which Scalia would echo in his highly dubious legal opinion handing the election to Bush in a ruling issued in the dead of night.
As Trump hounds the Supreme Court and Federal Courts to help him disqualify Democratic votes, he is heavily relying on being able to assert that his rightful election is being “stolen from him.” This will fire up his supporters, armed and unarmed, and capture headlines and, he hopes, momentum. He is counting on Fox, which has been his propaganda megaphone for his cultists, should he declare victory if there are many uncalled states.
Even though Brett Kavanaugh, who is among three attorneys on SCOTUS who worked on Bush v. Gore (including John Roberts and Amy Coney Barret), may refer to Bush v. Gore as a precedent for possibly suppressing votes, it is important to note that Scalia included the precedent-disqualifying sentence: “Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection in election processes generally presents many complexities.”