One of the clichés of historians and civics textbooks is that the U.S. is an “experiment” in democracy. The inconclusive November 7 election and the subsequent wrangling over the certification of Florida’s votes have verified that it’s far from an empty cliché. This really is an experiment, and a very messy one.
Faced with the prospect of unending lawsuits, and realizing there are no precedents to guide the courts or the candidates, Americans have been able to appreciate the concerns of De Tocqueville and other early observers of the American project who wondered whether the American experiment in self-rule contained the remedies for its own inevitable ills. In light of the electoral impasse in Florida, Americans couldn’t help having their own doubts. To be specific: Does the American penchant for seeking justice in the courtroom constitute the solution or the problem?