For people who feel strongly about politics, election outcomes can be a real kick in the balls sometimes. Yes, you win some and you lose some, and we all get used to it. On occasion, though, there's a candidate who really gets under your skin; someone who represents everything you hate about politics, everything that is wrong with America. Then he wins and you feel like punching a wall and/or telling the entire country to screw itself and/or swearing off politics forever because it's all hopeless. And then of course you get over it.
I felt that way for a few days after the 2004 election. Good lord did I hate George W. Bush. Still do. Whatever the idiotic run-up to the Iraq War didn't destroy of my sanity, that election did. I'm fairly certain that even if I live for another fifty years, 2002 and 2003 will be the worst I'll ever see from this country. Then Bush got re-elected after a campaign that never seemed to end and was truly hard to watch. It felt like the country had completely lost its mind and there was no turning back.
Then I settled down and started to think about it. Bush was just slightly over 50% approval at the time of the election, so based on history we would have expected him to win. John Kerry was the Mitt Romney of the Democratic Party, a guy who got nominated because he was rich and had decent name recognition and there really wasn't anyone else to nominate. He didn't inspire anyone except for people who really, really hated Bush and would have voted for Carrot Top if it meant getting rid of him. By the end of 2005 the nation was largely sick of BushCo's bullshit, and the next two elections were Democratic routs. You know, the world didn't end.
There are quite a few people out there who have the same viscerally negative reaction to Obama that many of us did to Bush. Just like lots of us swore and fumed and said mean things after the 2004 election, lots of people will have plenty of swearing and venting to do if Obama is re-elected in two weeks. I'm a bit nervous, though. The anti-Obama rhetoric has a flavor all its own, which is to say apocalyptic and violent and tribalist. It worries me not because I think it represents the thinking of the average Republican – it doesn't – but because there is some minority, however small, that seems primed for a major over-reaction if Obama wins.
There is some number of people out there – I have no idea if it's ten, a hundred, or a million, but they exist – who are going to, for lack of a classier term, completely and totally lose their shit if Romney does not win. It has little to do with Romney and everything to do with confirming their paranoid suspicion about what has happened to Their country. It has been stolen from them by the Muslim Usurper, who of course will have stolen the election (how could he win legitimately?) with busloads of illegal immigrants and Welfare Queens bribed with Obama Phones and the New Black Panthers and the U.N. and every other neo-Bircher boogeyman in the modern pantheon. If you thought the 1990s were bad under Clinton – Waco, Oklahoma City, the Michigan Militia, the Montana Freemen, etc. – I don't want to think about the level of anti-government insanity we might be primed to see in the next four years.
Maybe I'm wrong and the reaction to an Obama win will be pretty uneventful. They'll kick around Romney for a few weeks, piss and moan about Obama, try to float some baseless conspiracy theories about the loss, and then get over it. Hell, the right wing media will probably be thrilled on the inside; nothing drives their audience quite like having The Enemy in power. But man, some of these people seem remarkably unhinged. To hear them talk, to see what they write all over the internet, to see what their heroes say on TV and talk radio…they do not seem to be tethered to reality. If they have a relationship with sanity, it's their own special version of it. The overheated rhetoric certainly makes it plausible that "Second Amendment remedies" and homemade truck bombs in front of Federal courthouses will seem like a decent option among the angry, frustrated, and half-crazy people who want so badly to take Their Country back.