He’s black. They cheat. Nothing in life is certain. Whatever the polls say, however cozy you may feel here in this comforting nest of Blue, you know deep down there’s a chance Obama will lose tomorrow.
So whatever other kind of election-night plans you’re making, you might want to take a moment to emotionally prepare yourself for an untoward result. It won’t take but a moment, and may even make it easier to bear the suspense of poll-watching tomorrow night.
We’ve compiled a short list of mental talking points that will help you through (God forbid) an especially dark Wednesday morning.
We’ve been here before. If you’ve been around awhile, you’ll recall some elections that seemed to stomp the living guts out of the losing side. When LBJ landslid Goldwater in 1964, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. said that conservatism was through: If the GOP stuck with it, he wrote, “the Democrats would win every election and the Republicans would lose every election.” Similarly, the second Reagan victory was hailed as a “historic electoral realignment,” and the Republican victory of 1988 didn’t make it look any less epochal. After Lincoln it seemed as if the Democratic Party was finished; after FDR, it looked as if the Republicans were.
Neither party died — both changed, and are in fact now unrecognizably different from their earliest incarnations. The progress of American politics isn’t binary. With any luck, you’ll be around to see it change again, maybe to something even more to your liking. Speaking of which:
Obama wasn’t so hot anyway. He was against gay marriage and in favor of the Wall Street bailout. Sure, on most issues he was much better than McCain, but that’s not saying much. His policies were cautiously progressive, much like Clinton’s in 1992, and you saw how that turned out. You may believe he was more likely to effect real change, but like the election we just (in our speculation) lost, that was never so sure a bet as it looked.
What would have happened to President Obama’s promise to amend NAFTA, once moneyed international interests started pushing back in earnest? Or to his high-minded education program, once it came in contact with the dysfunctions of state and local education systems (not to speak of the intractable American resistance to learning anything at all)? Don’t assume it would have all been bread and roses; given our hypothetical situation, it’s better to assume it would not.
Let the GOP take the blame. There was always something unfair about dumping the mess of the past eight years in Obama’s lap. Prior to the election, Republicans were already looking forward to blaming him for being unable to turn things around.
Now that, in our scenario, they have retained possession of the White House, let’s see what they do with our tumbling markets, endless wars, crapped-out infrastructure and bitterly divided electorate. Imagine the new President explaining to the American people that, to pay for his invasion of Iran, the Bush tax cuts he once proposed to make permanent will have to be replaced by McCain tax increases. Imagine him explaining that, until those new oil reserves he despoiled ANWR to find come through — many years down the road — gas will continue to be ridiculously expensive, and that this sacrifice is nothing compared to the years he spent as a prisoner of war. By the time this cluster-fuck winds down, the nation may be ready for President Bill Ayers.
It’s not about you. Things will be bad for you under President McCain, but they’ll be worse for others. Chances are you’re reading this on a computer, either at home or on your job. Consider the millions of Americans who have neither — people who are not really part of the national political conversation, but will be the most vulnerable to its results.
You may have some difficulties in the new era. But for the poor, the Presidency of John McCain, who not only voted for the horrible Bankruptcy Bill but declined to protect veterans from it, who is committed to scuttling the health care system rather than make it universal, and who would rather cut taxes for the best-off than for the least-well-off, will be a stark and brutal disaster.
This is not meant to cheer you up, but to direct your thoughts away from self-pity — which would, in the event of a McCain victory, be a great temptation, dispiriting, and totally counterproductive. If the worst happens, don’t mourn the loss of your team as if this were some kind of electoral Super Bowl. Treat it as a disaster that goes beyond your Election Night party, requiring not hurt feelings but a greater attention to the needs of the country at large and the things you can change in the near term, through local politics, volunteerism, grassroots organizing, etc. It wouldn’t be the first time that crisis has been the crucible of opportunity. Keep hope alive.
The next four years will be hilarious. In between crises, President Dotard and Vice-President Dumbass will provide you with hours of forehead-slapping fun. You’ll probably get more out of that if you have a blog; if you don’t, start one as soon at McCain is declared the winner. It beats punching the wall, at least in terms of property damage.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 3, 2008