During the discussion here and elsewhere about Trump’s debate remarks in which he refused to pledge to accept the election results, various people brought up the case of the 2000 election and Gore’s concession and then un-concession. They seemed to consider that to be some sort of analogy. I needed to refresh my memory on the details, and it’s pretty clear to me that a lot of people are in need of a little refreshment, too.
So I suggest you read that link I just gave you. The situation was complex, of course, and probably far more complex than you remember. It was actually a perfect storm of strange and unlikely events, although I suppose Murphy’s Law was operating rather heavily.
As I said, I suggest you read up. But here’s an excerpt that barely scratches the surface, to get you started:
The controversy began on election night, when the national television networks, using information provided to them by the Voter News Service, an organization formed by the Associated Press to help determine the outcome of the election through early result tallies and exit polling, first called Florida for Gore in the hour after polls closed in the eastern peninsula (which is in the Eastern time zone) but before they had closed in the heavily Republican counties of the western panhandle (which is in the Central time zone). Once the polls had closed in the panhandle, the networks reversed their call, giving it to Bush; then they retracted that call as well, finally indicating the state was “too close to call”.
So Gore wasn’t just being a sore loser when he rescinded the concession he had given to Bush privately in an earlier phone call based on the error the news outlets had made. In fact, the vote was a virtual tie, so close and so iffy that an automatic recount mandated by Florida law was triggered. Recounts are mandated for a reason, and that reason is not capricious—once a vote is that close, it is really pretty much of a statistical tie and a recount could reverse it.
So, even if Gore hadn’t phoned Bush to undo his concession, the recount would have rescinded it for him, at least temporarily [emphasis mine]:
Bush won the election-night vote count in Florida by 1,784 votes. The small margin produced an automatic recount under Florida state law. Once it became clear that Florida would decide the presidential election, the nation’s attention focused on the recount…
…charges were raised that some irregularities favored Bush. Among these was the Palm Beach “butterfly ballot,” which some pundits claimed produced an “unexpectedly” large number of votes for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan…
…there was a purge from the Florida voting rolls of over 54,000 citizens identified as felons, of whom 54% were African-American, and that the majority of these were not felons and should have been eligible to vote under Florida law. (It was widely presumed that had they been able to express themselves at the polls, most would have chosen the Democratic candidate). Additionally, there were charges that there were many more “overvotes” than usual, especially in predominantly African-American precincts in Duval county (Jacksonville), where some 27,000 ballots showed two or more choices for President. Unlike the much-discussed Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, the Duval County ballot spread choices for President over two pages with instructions to “vote on every page” on the bottom of each page…
Due to the narrow margin of the original vote count, Florida Election Code 102.141 mandated a statewide machine recount. In addition, the Gore campaign requested that the votes in three counties be recounted by hand. Florida state law at the time allowed the candidate to request a manual recount by protesting the results of at least three precincts. The county canvassing board would then decide whether to recount as well as the method of the recount in those three precincts. If the board discovered an error, they were then authorized to recount the ballots.
Once the closeness of the election in Florida was clear, both the Bush and Gore campaigns organized themselves for the ensuing legal process.
So, to recap: it was that mandated, automatic, legal process that ended up triggering the suit that decided the winner, via SCOTUS. It was not some renegade act of Gore’s, some petulance in not accepting an election because of Gore’s own idiosyncratic take on it.
[NOTE: Trump could easily have said in that debate that of course he will abide by all the legalities when reacting to the results of the election, and that would have covered it. In fact, he later did say something of the sort in a speech:
Of course, I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result,” Trump said. “And always, I will follow and abide by all of the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who have come before me.
Trump said that after he was widely excoriated for his previous remarks during the debate, and after he had repeated the problem of the debate by saying (in that same speech; not in the debate) that he’d abide by the election results—if he wins. The corrective, sober, thoughtful paragraph of Trump’s that I quoted above was almost certainly not an ad-lib, and my guess is that it was written by others, although I cannot be sure.]