Government exists in our form because we consent to it - that's part of what makes a federal democracy work. Even a tyranny has to put a lot of effort into keeping its citizens from rising up. We don't because we agree to accept the results of our elections. But will we this time?
We all know that political discourse has become more and more heated. The 24 hour news cycle requires constant "feeding of the beast." The beast likes conflict, innuendo, anger. Political advertisements are angrier and angrier, with more vituperative and poisonous pronouncements in each and every cycle. Ideology tests are pervasive. Nobody had heard of a RINO 30 years ago - indeed, except for parts of New England, the liberal business republican is dead. So is the old-time Dixiecrat.
The final piece of the puzzle - polls. We've gotten so used to the constant stream of horserace data that we accept it as gospel. But pollsters are not always right. Sometimes, the results are disastrously wrong (cliche alert! Dewey v. Truman?). If the results don't mirror expectations, and one side loses more than they thought, or wins less than they expect, the resulting tantrum might not be so nice.
Yes. It is both sides that might prove a sore loser to be, to not accept what happens. Right now pundits are guessing that the Republicans will swing 54-55 seats from the Democrats. What if it's 70 or 80? Blame goes to the Corporate money, to Diebold voting machines that are fixed, to crooked media reporting. What if it's only 20-30 seats? Blame goes to the Beltway establishment, to Unions stuffing the boxes, to the Trilateral Commission...
What truly matters is what happens next. More discourse? Or something worse? I don't trust either wing to remain peaceful or to do what is necessary to stay completely within the system. Will it be rioting? Demonstrations? Or militia time? And then how do we respond as a society? Can the center hold? SHOULD the center hold? Lots to think about here.
One coda: we HAVE seen worse rhetoric in our history. The yellow journalism of the 1890s, the run-up to the Civil War in the 1850s, and the early broadsheets of the 1800s (aughts) were all in their own ways even more venomous than what we see today. Nor were those citizen bodies any better informed than ours is. On two of the three occasions, our society came out much stronger at the end of the period. In the third, (let's pray we don't end up there.)
So what do you think? Will the results be accepted? And if not, what next?