Are Republicans Prepared to Lose in November?
A few weeks ago, I mentioned the psychological barriers that many liberal bloggers have put before them to avoid dealing with the fact that we might actually win in November. Thus, I think it's important to discuss the flipside: namely, will Republicans be able to accept defeat in November? I don't want this to sound like overconfident crowing. Certainly, GWB is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent since, er, his father, and both Kerry and Edwards are extremely strong candidates. However, Bush Inc. still has a number of powerful tools at its disposal, and the election is by no means in the bag.
Having said that, it is important to remember that Republicans have not won a presidential election outright since 1988. What's disturbing is their utter inability to accept this. In both 1992 and 1996, Republicans consoled themselves with the fact that Clinton had only won a plurality of the votes. If I recall, Bob Dole belligerently declared in 1993 that, because Clinton had only received 43% of the vote, he had a duty to speak for the 57% of Americans who hadn't voted for Clinton (I don't remember the exact quote). And of course, our good friend R. Limbaugh had the "America held hostage" tagline on his radio show throughout the Clinton years. In the weeks leading up to the 2000 election, Republican strategists were increasingly worried that Gore would lose the popular vote, but win the electoral vote. Thus, Tom DeLay circulated a memo to House Republicans explaining that, if this were to occur, the Republican leadership would do everything it could to undermine the legitimacy of a Gore presidency. And I haven't even mentioned Clinton's impeachment or the Texas redistricting farce.
Thus, it's disturbingly obvious that, in the minds of many Republican leaders, the task of governing is too important to be left in the hands of those feckless Democrats. Assuming the Democrats win the presidential election without any Florida-style hijinks, will DeLay and Co. be able to accept this? For you history buffs, recall the circumstances of the 1800 election, which many consider the "Second American Revolution."
The more significant event was not that the Electoral College produced a tie or that the House of Representatives settled the election. It was that the loser, President John Adams, did not call out the army or arrest the winner but instead peacefully gave up his office and turned power over to an opponent from a different political party. Most educated Americans knew that history was littered with examples of republics which had collapsed when one group refused to give up power to another. Indeed, in a letter written years later, Jefferson defined this first transfer of political power from one party to another as the "revolution" of 1800.
Now, one would think that, in the 200 years since, we've grown accustomed to the whole "peaceful transition of power" thing, unlike many Third World banana republics. If the Democrats do indeed emerge victorious in November, I guess we'll find out, one way or another, how far we've really come.