TCS Daily

Ready to Lose

By Ryan H. Sager - November 2, 2004 12:00 AM

This year's election has been compared to Oscar shoe-in "Alien vs. Predator": "No matter who wins, we lose."

That may well be true (especially as regards four more years of listening to either of these candidates speak), but the fact remains that about half of the country is going to go to bed much angrier than the other half tonight... or tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, etc.

So who's better prepared to face the anguish?

Let's look at the two main scenarios, putting aside for the moment the third possibility, that of an electoral meltdown -- God knows we'll have plenty of time to parse that should it come to pass.

The first scenario (in order of likelihood according to the most recent polls, if not by much) is a Bush victory.

Now, on the one hand, Democrats seem to have been expecting to lose this election from the beginning. An interesting number in The Washington Post's daily tracking poll shows that while the lead in the race -- in terms of who people actually intend to vote for -- has shifted back and forth a number of times, the numbers have been extremely steady on another question: "Regardless of whom you support, who do you think will win?" John Kerry has topped out at 34 percent on that question; President Bush hasn't gone below 53 percent, and he's been as high as 63 percent. So, clearly, a lot of Democrats are expecting to lose.

On the other hand, large segments of the Democratic Party -- the Michael-Moore, and it's-at-least-conceivable-that-Bush-was-behind-September-11 people -- would be virtually inconsolable. They think the president stole the election four years ago and that he has now used the War on Terror to consolidate power and march us toward a Roveian dictatorship where stem-cell researchers will be held as enemy combatants and members of Operation Rescue will be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Certainly, there's a sensible center of the Democratic Party that would see a loss to Bush as nothing more than a routine setback -- and an understandable one at that (this is, after all, a well-liked commander-in-chief during time of war). But there would also be some real screamers, and they'd scream at the top of their lungs for four years.

Which brings us to the second scenario: a Kerry victory.

While the Republicans want this election badly (what party in what election doesn't?), they tend at least to understand why their fellow citizens might vote against the president. Even among the most die-hard Republicans, there is recognition that the war in Iraq has gone quite poorly. Whether or not the Bush administration could reasonably have been expected to keep the peace better after the fall of Baghdad, there's no getting around the fact that we didn't find any weapons of mass destruction.

So, despite the decent and improving economy and despite the presence of an enemy abroad to unite Americans behind their president, it's no great mystery to most Republicans why Bush is in trouble -- he's disappointed them, too. They just think he's still better than the alternative.

Verdict: While most Republicans could take the slight disappointment of a Kerry victory, a large portion of Democrats would be driven to the brink of insanity if their candidate (Not Bush) lost.

The Republicans, thus, are better prepared to lose. At the same time, the Republican Party has much more to lose. Namely, it would lose the chance to hold all three branches of government for almost a decade.

The loss of the White House would leave the Republican Party with virtually no power-center. There's no Newt Gingrich or Trent Lott anymore, running the House and Senate. Now there's House Speaker Dennis Hastert (the odd and colorless result of the Clinton-impeachment fiasco) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (the odd result of the Trent-Lott-praising-Strom-Thurmond's-segregationist-past fiasco). The ideology of the party would be completely adrift, with the theocons, the neocons and the libertarian conservatives all just about ready to kill each other.

The Democrats, of course, would have their problems as well. But, mainly, they'd just continue their stroll through the wilderness, and the moderates and the hawks would do what they could to push the Hollywood-Naderite-conspiracy-nuts out to sea on an ice floe.

Which perhaps points to one of the only certainties of this election season: No matter who wins, Nader loses.

Ryan Sager is a member of the editorial board of The New York Post. He also edits the blog Miscellaneous Objections and can be reached at


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