The Popular Vote
The question is coming up: what if Obama wins the electoral vote but loses the popular vote? In particular, how would conservatives react?
It’s easy to predict of course. Remember, they had no problem at all with Bush being elected despite losing the popular vote and winning Florida by just a few hundred votes despite the illicit felon’s list and the botched-ballot voting in Miami-Dade, both of which leave zero doubt that Florida intended to elect Gore, that Gore would have been the winner had actual intention of voting, not the bungled outcome, been respected. Not only were they OK with that, they were adamantly, even aggressively resolved to make sure it stuck, and suggested that anyone who disputed it was a whining partisan crybaby.
So, naturally, they would, if grudgingly, accept Obama, right?
Of course, you know the answer to that.
They would either completely forget about 2000, or else would use it as a reason to claim Obama didn’t win the election—on the basis of liberals protesting Bush’s election legitimacy. They would equate the Florida scandal with imagined widespread voter fraud, having primed right-wing America into believing that there must be millions of stolen Democratic votes, imagining the current “fraud” to be far worse than anything in Florida—thus erasing any doubts about Bush’s election while assuring themselves that Obama cheated and stole the vote.
Despite, of course, the fact that such theft is virtually non-existent. No matter that the fraud went completely the other way, with who knows how many Democrats discouraged, intimidated, suppressed, or outright blocked from voting this year. No matter that Republicans, controlling more state houses in key areas, gerrymandered the crap out of their states. No matter that early voting has been curtailed or shut down wherever possible to depress Democratic turnout, even while attempts were made to expand early voting for Republican counties. No matter than non-English ballots were distributed with the wrong election date. No matter that even states ordered to cease Voter ID suppression tactics still put up billboards using taxpayer money, in particular in Spanish, telling voters that IDs were still required, while other billboards threaten low-income and minority voters with jail should they dare to vote. Even non-partisan evaluations of how Hurricane Sandy depressed votes in the solidly left-leaning Northeast will be explained away or dismissed.
Above and beyond all of that, many will simply cry foul over the simple fact that he didn’t get enough votes. Despite the fact that back in 2000, many claimed Bush even had a mandate (including, most prominently, Bush himself), and the right wing went along with that—none of that will matter, none of it will register.
If Obama gets elected while losing the popular vote, the vast majority on the conservative side will instantly begin railing about illegitimacy and how he’s not the “real” president. The myth of “voter fraud” will become a legend, a rallying cry. I would not be too surprised if calls for impeachment were to arise and be picked up by some sitting Republicans in Congress, or if there were major surges in calls for more “voter fraud prevention” laws, amid a host of conspiracy theories and renewed calls for secession of the South.
The same people who admonished protesters in 2000 on the principle of maintaining the legitimacy of the process and unifying the country would easily tear that process to shreds and the country asunder—if it’s not their guy who gets rallied around.