It featured a voting machine glitch, a bogus voter purge, narrative warfare, Karl Rove, and a manufactured “riot” orchestrated by Roger Stone.
By Jennifer Cohn
December 23, 2021
The 2000 presidential election was a “watershed moment” for U.S. elections and “harbinger of things to come,” as Jonathan Simon, a seasoned election-security advocate and author, remarked when I interviewed him last year. The election, he explained, was marred by “counting issues with [voting machine] memory cards,” a thwarted manual recount, and “ massive purging of voters who were absolutely entitled to vote.” All of these issues favored the GOP, but unscrupulous Republican “fixers,” including Roger Stone, deflected by falsely accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election. In the years since, these same fixers have emerged again and again to deceive voters with faulty narratives that have helped empower right wing extremists, including the Religious Right.
During the 2000 general election, then Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat and environmentalist, ran against former Texas Governor George W. Bush, an oilman and self-proclaimed evangelical Christian. Bush had won the Republican presidential nomination after an unusually brutal primary against Arizona Senator John McCain, a decorated war hero. During the primary, as reported in the Atlantic, fliers, emails, and push polls had falsely claimed that McCain was the father of an “illegitimate” African-American child (a defamatory reference to his adopted daughter from Bangladesh) and that he was mentally unstable due to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. McCain’s staffers and daughter accused Bush’s campaign manager, Karl Rove, of orchestrating the smears.
Rove denied having done so, but this was the sort of tactic for which he was already infamous. In 1994, a Republican judicial candidate from Alabama named Harold See had hired Rove to run his campaign against an incumbent Democratic judge named Mark Kennedy. A former Rove staffer later acknowledged that Rove’s team had spread a false rumor that Kennedy was a gay pedophile. “It was our standard practice to use the University of Alabama Law School to disseminate whisper-campaign information,” the staffer told journalist…