Can you imagine if it was the other way round, and it was Bush who'd won the popular vote but lost the electoral college after a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by Democratic appointees had voted 5-4 to stop counting votes likely to assure a Republican victory in, let us say, Illinois? We think we can safely guarantee that the Republicans would not be taking the soft path of "coming together" and reconciliation. They would be screaming about stolen elections, constitutional illegitimacy, and pledging to resist the "coup" by any means necessary. By now we would have had the Republicans in both House and Senate vowing to boycott the Inauguration. Unlike the Democrats, Republicans take losing and winning seriously.

You can tell the Republicans know this is going to look bad in the history books. Why else have they floated the notion that it might be wise, in the interests of civic tranquillity, to put all of Florida's ballots under lock and key for all eternity? It seems that Christie Todd Whitman, the governor of New Jersey, first put the idea up on MSNBC, claiming that a recount of the sort promised by the Miami Herald would somehow delegitimize the Bush presidency. Then Jennifer Dunn, the right-wing Republican from Washington state, hammered the point home by announcing on "Capitol Hill Gang" that "Those ballots are going to be sealed right after the election."

You'll note that neither Whitman nor Dunn entertain any romantic notion that a recount of Florida's ballots would propel George W. Bush into an assured and unchallengeable majority. Florida would assuredly have reflected Gore's popular victory across the rest of the country, by a margin that has now risen to 540,435 votes. A useful article in the Philadelphia Inquirer by John Duchneskie and Stephen Seplow gives us the final official national tally with all absentee ballots counted. According to The Inquirer's review, Gore has 50,977,109 votes to 50,436,674 for Bush, thus giving a margin way wider than that enjoyed by Kennedy over Nixon, which was 119,450.

After all the sonorous sermons about "closure" and "finality," it is slowly dawning on people that this really was an amazingly corrupt election, far worse than the notorious shenanigans in Cook county wrought by JFK's men in 1960. I've already met three people here in Northern California who are eager to travel to an "anti-inaugural" in Washington D.C. to coincide with the swearing in of the beneficiary of the stolen election. The phrase "Republican coup d'etat" is not overly dramatic. There's no need to labor the major episodes, from Secretary of State Harris' summary decisions to the final intervention by Bush's supporters on the Supreme Court, at least two of whom, Scalia and Thomas, should have recused themselves from the decision because of conflicts of interest involving members of their families working for the Bush campaign.

The weeks since Nov. 7 have entirely vindicated the accuracy of Nader's assault on the corruption of the two party system. We've seen Republicans toss aside their supposed dedication to states' rights, same as did Scalia, as he bent his supposed principles to elect a president he hopes will make him Chief Justice. We've seen Democrats equally eager to assert states' rights, while exhibiting absolutely no disquiet about the actual application of states' rights in Florida, meaning the racist efforts described above to stop blacks and other minorities from voting at all. Not enough words from Gore on this.

Of course the real president is someone who hasn't been elected, even by fraud: Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He'll determine, just as he did with Bush Sr. back in the early 1990s, whether George W. will preside over economic rubble for four inglorious years. Inside that framework how will "bipartisanship" work? Not much. The Democrats want to look combative so they can consolidate control of the Senate and win back the House in 2002. Tom DeLay and Dick Armey aren't too interested either, unless it involves a coalition to hurt the poor, on Medicare or social security.

As for Nader, I wish he'd stir himself more to underline the corruption of the system that permitted the fixing of the Florida vote. Now is the time for the agenda of the Greens to shape up for the next four years, and the Florida coup d'etat is a wonderful kicking-off point.

Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2000 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.