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Beginning of the 21st Century, The Bush Administration

education bill, Al Gore, Republican candidate, presidential election, education reform

As President Clinton’s second term came to an end, the country geared up for the 2000 presidential election. The main candidates were Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, and Texas governor George W. Bush, the son of former president George Herbert Walker Bush. A Democrat, Gore stressed protecting the environment and improving education. Bush, the Republican candidate, campaigned as a “compassionate conservative,” advocating a tax cut and conservative social policies.

The resulting vote was like no other in U.S. history. For five weeks after the election, the outcome of the race between Bush and Gore remained undecided. The critical state was Florida, where Bush led by just a few hundred votes. A bitter legal dispute arose over the recounting of some ballots in that state. After a tangled series of court hearings and recounts in some areas of the state, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the counting should end. The decision effectively awarded Florida’s electoral votes and the election to Bush. Although Gore won the nation’s overall popular vote by more than 500,000 votes out of 105 million cast, Bush captured 271 electoral votes to Gore’s 266, and thus the presidency. The extraordinary closeness of the election reflected, at least to some extent, the public’s doubts about whether either man was prepared to be president. It also showed that the country remained deeply divided over which political party was best able to address its problems.

Once in office Bush focused on tax cuts, education reform, and an expanded role for church-based charities in running social programs. In June 2001 Congress approved Bush’s $1.35 trillion dollar tax cut, which took effect over a ten-year period, lowered income tax rates for all taxpayers, and included a small refund to many taxpayers. In January 2002 Bush signed into law an education bill that established, among other things, performance standards for public schools.

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