Former President Donald Trump has been indicted, along with several other people, for executing what prosecutors describe as a conspiracy to overturn the election result in 2020 in the state of Georgia.
In recent weeks, Donald Trump’s defenders have made the same point repeatedly: What about Al Gore in 2000? Hillary Clinton in 2016? Stacey Abrams, in the governor’s race in Georgia in 2018? All of whom, to some degree, fought their election losses?
Donald Trump and Al Gore: Comparing Denial of Results
The latest to make this argument is prominent lawyer and law professor Alan Dershowitz, who was formerly associated with liberalism — and represented Palm Beach County voters in Florida during the 2000 recount — but has since frequently made pro-Trump arguments in the media.
Writing in The Daily Mail this week, Dershowitz argues that “Al Gore, his legal team, and I tried to find uncounted presidential votes, lobbied officials, and fought in the courts in 2000. The only difference now? The candidate’s name is Donald Trump … That’s why this prosecution is an outrage.” In the Mail’s style, that is the headline.
That is not, needless to say, “The only difference now.”
The differences between the situations are manifold, and not only because Al Gore in 2020 did not inspire a violent insurrection on the Capitol that led to multiple deaths, he did not refuse to concede defeat when the process was over and for years afterward, and he did not pressure the vice president to overrule the electoral votes. In fact, Gore was himself the vice president at the time and counted the electoral votes without incident.
Gore in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2020 both made legal challenges to the election result, both asked for recounts, and both claimed publicly that they had rightfully won. But legal challenges and public claims of victory aren’t the things that Trump was charged with in Georgia.
There are other key differences. Prior to the recount process, Gore was behind George W. Bush by fewer than 600 votes in Florida. That’s well within the recount margin in Florida, and when Gore made that challenge, he legitimately had a chance to win. Trump lost Georgia by over 12,000 votes, much too large a margin to be realistically overturned in a recount. And Gore’s dispute was confined to one state; he did not claim to have been cheated in every single swing state.
Gore continued to fight in Florida because he had legitimate reason to think that he had won. Trump kept fighting in multiple states long after it was clear he had lost. And the Georgia indictment accuses Trump and his co-conspirators of doing numerous things that Gore was never at any point accused of doing.
Al Gore did not make phone calls to try to pressure Florida’s secretary of state to “find” votes (since that secretary of state was Katherine Harris — who was the Bush campaign’s state co-chair and did not recuse herself — it probably would not have worked if he had.)
Gore’s team did not make an effort to illegally access the state’s voting system, as several of Trump’s co-conspirators are accused of doing. Gore did not make fantastical claims about massive voter fraud, or dead people voting, nor did he falsely accuse specific election workers of committing fraud. Gore did not have fake electors who submitted false claims.
One presidential candidate, Gov. Chris Christie, was asked about the Gore/Trump comparison in a Fox News appearance on Thursday and rejected it out of hand.
“Except when Al Gore lost his legal challenges, he conceded the election,” Christie said on the show, as reported by The Hill. “Al Gore took it all the way to the United States Supreme Court. He availed himself of all the legal challenges.”
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.
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