Saturday, October 27, 2012

Democalypse 2012: Expect GOP to Challenge Electoral College If They Lose

A split between the popular vote and the electoral vote has come to seem like a real possibility.

Consequently, I think it's worth thinking back on the defining political event of my lifetime, the election of 2000. Gore won the popular vote but seemed to have lost in the electoral college in virtue of--apparently--having lost Florida. The vote was close, and there were massive irregularities, so, as was his right, Gore requested recounts in some counties. The Bush campaign howled that counting the votes constituted a "coup," and began pouring massive resources into stopping the recounts, using the courts, but also pouring money into a propaganda campaign that included an "electronic command post," and Young Republican thugs flown in from other states. They were aided in their efforts by a vapid and sensationalist media that fabricated an on-going  background story about a public craving/demanding a fast resolution. When the half-hearted recount efforts indicated that Gore had lost, he conceded graciously, and made a powerful statement about his commitment to the system. When the result was repeatedly challenged in the Senate, but on technically insufficient grounds, Gore, acting in his capacity as President of the Senate, immediately and forcefully rejected each challenge. Sad and tragic though the result was for the nation, Gore's performance remains one of the most inspiring things I've ever seen.

It is important to note that that is not what would have happened had the roles of the campaigns been reversed. The Bush campaign apparently planned to fight a loss in the Electoral College by, in effect, fomenting revolution, albeit a nonviolent one. The Democrats did their duty and did it with nobility and even a certain amount of relish--as evidenced by Gore's concession speech. Republicans would have taken the Presidency by hook or by crook. They sought to push for a kind of popular uprising that would demand that Bush be illegally installed as "President."

Since we have an extremely recent precedent for a popular vote-electoral vote split that came out the other way, it has become much more difficult for the GOP to challenge such an outcome. IOKIYAR...but the more patently asymmetrical the double standard, the harder it is to defend.

Still, we are dealing with a party that is more strongly committed to political victory than it is to democracy--this is evident, inter alia, in their attempts to disenfranchise Democratic voters. If Romney wins the popular vote but loses in the EC, do not expect him to go gentle into the good political night.

My view, FWIW, is that the odds of November 7th being very interesting are much higher than any of us should be comfortable with.


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