Some friends of mine made an argument I hadn’t considered as to why liberals should vote to re-elect President Obama, even if they live in states certain to go for either Obama or Governor Romney. They fear a crisis of legitimacy, due to Barack Obama winning the electoral vote and Mitt Romney possibly winning the popular vote. That is a real danger.
Prior to the 2000 election, it looked as if Al Gore might win the electoral vote and George W. Bush the popular vote (you’ll recall the actual result was the reverse). The Republican Party was geared up to challenge the legitimacy of a Gore victory. I think the same thing can be expected in the event Obama loses the popular vote, or even wins by an extremely narrow margin. There will be lawsuits, bogus charges of voting fraud and endless protests.
This danger, arguably, could be lessened by Green Party supporters holding our noses and voting for Obama.
This is a strong argument, but for me a crisis of legitimacy would be a lesser evil than acquiescing in the legitimacy of (1) creation of a secret paramilitary force (described in a recent Washington Post article) with a mission to executive an ever-expanding list of death warrants based on secret criteria, (2) an open-ended policy of expanding undeclared war based on flying killer robots, (3) impunity for torturers, continuation of secret CIA interrogation centers and condition of a policy of rendition, (4) protection of Wall Street bankers from financial failure and prosecution for financial fraud, and (5) the undermining of Social Security, Medicare and other basic safety net programs.
These are all things on which Obama and Romney agree. The worst thing that President Obama has done is to convince so many American liberals to accept these conditions as normal and as a framework for debating the issues.
In 2008, I voted for a candidate who ran on a slogan of hope and change. Now, in 2012, I am being asked to re-elect that candidate on the grounds that there is no hope and that change is impossible.
I’m not sure that a Romney administration would be greatly different from a second Obama administration. Under a Romney administration, liberal Democrats might remember that they are liberals, and would be able to oppose abuses of power without being constrained by party loyalty.
Many Democrats are bitter about Green Party supporters in Florida in 2000, saying that if they had voted for Al Gore instead of Ralph Nader, Gore would have won. But that was only one factor in Gore’s defeat, and not the major one. The most important reasons for Gore’s defeat were the blatant bias against him of the Washington press corps, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Florida for bogus reasons, the “white collar riot” of Republican activists to block a recount, and a partisan Supreme Court decision. Al Gore himself, acting (as he thought) for the greater good of the country, accepted defeat and told the country to move. I don’t think that Mitt Romney and his supporters will accept defeat so gracefully.
But if President Obama loses the popular vote, or the popular vote is close, it will be his own fault, not my fault. He would be more popular if he had not gone against public opinion in pro-actively protecting the Wall Street banks against financial failure and criminal prosecution, and in expanding rather than winding down U.S. wars.
Click on President Obama Could Lose The Popular Vote, Win in the Electoral College for an explanation of what could happen.
Click on FiveThirtyEight Blog for Nate Silver’s continuing expert analysis of poll results.