A relative has a friend who stated categorically that she was voting for McCain because of his character. My relative asked her friend what she thought about McCain’s treatment of his first wife. The friend had no idea McCain had been married before Cindy. Unsurprisingly, she gets all her news from FOX.
I have a prediction to make. If Obama wins — and that is very, very far from a foregone conclusion, given the Bradley effect and the McCain campaign’s strenuous efforts to exploit that — many, many conservatives simply won’t accept it. Even if he manages a landslide of Reaganic proportions, those voters will feel cheated. Certainly the GOP has already been setting up the case, with all the ACORN nonsense, for example.
Two years ago as of this writing, the Permanent Majority was still a going thing. The GOP had convinced themselves, and millions of voters like my relative’s friend, that both liberals and Democrats were at best irrelevant to the future of the country, and more likely traitors. The sense of triumphal entitlement generated by twelve years of political dominance and six years of absolute control of national politics was palpable. Hence, for example, the Senate majority’s efforts to get rid of the filibuster — an action that only made sense if you assumed the Republican party would dominate the Senate for the indefinite future.
If this election goes as the current trends seem to indicate, there will be a lot of very angry, frustrated people out there. Their fires are being stoked daily by the McCain campaign and its surrogates. And I will bet any amount of money that those same commentators who tut-tutted the “Sore Losermen” of the 2000 election will suddenly discover a very different view on the legitimacy of election outcomes. People like my relative’s friend will only be able to understand the election outcome in terms of theft and cheating, because that’s the only narrative they’ll be exposed to. The traitors will be in charge, so far as she and millions of other voters are concerned.
Republicans haven’t been graceful winners these past fourteen years. There’s no reason to expect them to become graceful losers.