Monday, October 29, 2012


Steve Kornacki thinks Republicans would have a hard time selling the idea of overturning an Electoral College victory by Barack Obama if Obama loses the popular vote. Kornacki thinks Americans are now acclimated to the possibility of a split electoral outcome, in the aftermath of 2000:
... it's important to remember that 12 years ago there was no modern precedent for a split verdict. It hadn't happened since 1888. How the public would react to the idea of a president taking office even though he received fewer votes than his opponent was unknown. It at least seemed possible there'd be such an outcry that it would make sense for the losing side to try to flip electors.

But there was no revolt.... the post-election drama focused on Florida, and once that was resolved the popular vote issue was treated as an afterthought by both parties....

[This year] I don't believe there would be any serious talk from GOP leaders about contesting the Electoral College vote, mostly because I don't believe there would be a broad public outcry. 2000 set a modern precedent for this situation, training the media and political world to grant legitimacy to the Electoral College winner.
I have strong doubts about that. Americans tend to have a Memento level of amnesia whenever amnesia suits the GOP: voters nearly elected Gerald Ford two years after Nixon resigned, gave Republicans the White House and the Senate four years after that, let George W. Bush get into the White House with an all-GOP Congress two years after Newt Gingrich crashed and burned, and gave the teabaggers a landslide two years after Bush left office. Oh, and a fair number of voters seem to be forgetting that the Mitt Romney they're warming to now is the same effete, empathy-challenged plutocrat they loathed a month ago.

So why wouldn't voters forget the arguments Republicans made about Bush's election being legitimate despite Florida and the popular vote count? Why wouldn't voters be susceptible to GOP talking points like the ones Republicans intended to use in 2000 if Bush won the Electoral College popular vote and lost the popular vote Electoral College, rather than the other way around?
In league with the campaign -- which is preparing talking points about the Electoral College's essential unfairness -- a massive talk-radio operation would be encouraged. "We'd have ads, too," says a Bush aide, "and I think you can count on the media to fuel the thing big-time. Even papers that supported Gore might turn against him because the will of the people will have been thwarted."

Local business leaders will be urged to lobby their customers, the clergy will be asked to speak up for the popular will and Team Bush will enlist as many Democrats as possible to scream as loud as they can. "You think 'Democrats for Democracy' would be a catchy term for them?" asks a Bush adviser.
It can be stopped, obviously -- Republicans have to compel actual electors to vote against their candidates, and that's an uphill battle -- but I think Republicans will try, if only for the partial victory of delegitimizing Obama's second term. I think it's naive to assume that because most Americans shrugged and moved on without challenging the 2000 results, they'd naturally do the same again. The squeaky wheel got the grease that year -- Republicans shouted louder that they were in the right, they fought harder, and they got the win. I see no evidence that Americans accepted an abstract principle about elections of this kind; Americans accepted a triumph of the strongest, as they often do.

Who'd be the strongest this time? Who'd fight harder? Who'd make a more confident-sounding assertion of rightness? The Obama campaign knows how to fight. But I'm always afraid to count on Democrats in a brawl like this.


Victor said...

I don't think Conservatives will accept being told, like we Liberals were by SC Justice Scalia, to just "get over it!"

They will fight like the rabid cornered rats that they are.

And there will be blood, if that darkie ends up in the Whitey's House.

BH said...

I dunno. The Dems these days aren't quite the doormats they were in the early '00s, I don't think - if nothing else, because the R's now are much more openly, rabidly irrational. They've also developed an ability to somewhat counter the usual MSM Repub/"bipartisan" meme-xeroxing, as witness the at least partial deflation of the "Mittmentum" myth. My prediction is that if the Dems win the EC without serious doubt, O will not stir an inch from 1600 Pa Ave, popular vote be damned, & the Dems will exert at least as much pressure on electors as the R's will. Which is exactly what he & we should do.

However, I don't think it'll play out that way anyway. O takes the legally meaningless nat'l popular vote by 1.5 or more percent, & gets a minimum of 290 EV's. So sayeth my Lipton leaves.

Kathy said...

You're right about the short memories. Most of the Tea Party crowd wasn't paying a bit of attention to politics before 2009, no matter how many of them try to tell me they objected to W's policies too. Every "scandal", every "gaffe" is all new to them because they have no historical perspective. Obama is the "worst ever" because they never noticed the much worse that came before.

Danp said...

The media plays a large role here. After 2000, "who got the most votes?" was a trivia question that most people couldn't answer. That won't be true if Obama wins the EV, but Romney gets more popular votes. Guaranteed!

Ten Bears said...

It's not short memory, it's stupidity.

Bush did not "win" the popular vote.

Even the damned lefties have drank the kool-aid.

Rand Careaga said...

Yeah, Steve, you need to fix the sixth paragraph, where you have transposed "popular vote" and "Electoral College."

Steve M. said...

Thanks -- fixed now.