Imagine an atmosphere where absolutely nothing of any consequence gets done in Washington and irrational right-wing zealots brazenly question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama considerably more than they do now.
An atmosphere so toxic and rife with political and racial acrimony that the nation’s recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression suffers as a result.
An atmosphere where civil, social discourse has gone the way of the dinosaurs and eight-track tape players.
It could happen should President Obama win a second term in office despite losing the popular vote to Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Election Day. He would become the fifth president to have claimed victory through the Electoral College that actually determines the winner of each presidential race after falling short in the popular vote.
Such a development would be prime kindling for dubious new lows in partisan bickering and added racially–charged dissension among an American electorate already as polarized now as it ever has been. The venomous atmosphere, when coupled with a divided Congress and the expected additional thinly-veiled racist questions about the president’s legitimacy, would all but assure that nothing of consequence gets done for much of any Obama second term as Washington would remain more mired in partisan gridlock than ever before.
“Whoever loses the election is going to be bitter about it,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “There’s just no love lost between the two parties at this point.”
Additionally, it’s not unreasonable to believe that a Republican Party desperate to regain power would not so easily concede the election’s results as Al Gore did in 2000 after edging George W. Bush in the popular vote, only to lose a controversial vote tally in Florida and fall short in the Electoral College. A bitter GOP legal challenge could possibly follow this time, consuming both copious amounts of money and precious time that would be better spent dealing with the array of other serious challenges currently facing our nation.
Fiery rhetoric on both sides figures to be amped up to levels higher than that seen even during the controversial 2000 presidential election because the heated issue of race will also be a key factor.
All of America loses should this happen.
Yet such a sobering reality is entirely possible, assuming the latest polls are accurate and hold up on Election Day. A Romney surge over the past few weeks could eventually land him the votes of more Americans than the incumbent on Nov. 6, but it might not be enough in the electoral math to put him in the White House.
Should the president win Ohio as many believe, there is almost no way the former Massachusetts governor will be able to generate enough electoral votes to reach the 270 needed to win.
How could this be possible?
The simplest explanation is that Romney would have carried his states by a bigger margin than Obama did in the states he claimed. Almost all of the states are winner-take-all, meaning that the president would still receive all 18 of Ohio’s electoral votes even if he were to win the popular vote by just one ballot. The margin of victory in each state doesn’t matter in the Electoral College, but does in the popular vote.
The latest Gallup Poll has Obama winning every region of the country except the South, albeit by razor-thin margins. Romney is expected to carry the traditionally conservative Southern states by a large numbers. If those poll figures stand up on Election Day, there’s a good chance that Romney will win the popular vote and still lose in the Electoral College.
Such a situation has happened in four previous presidential elections. It first happened in 1824, when John Quincy Adams became president despite having 38,000 fewer votes than Andrew Jackson; again in 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes became president despite having 264,000 fewer votes than Samuel J. Tilden; again in 1888, when Benjamin Harrison became president despite having nearly 96,000 fewer votes than incumbent Grover Cleveland; and, most recently, in 2000, when George W. Bush totaled more a half million fewer votes than Gore.
In a wackier and equally-as-unlikely scenario, the Republican-heavy House of Representatives could be left to settle the election’s presidential outcome should somehow Obama and Romney finish deadlocked in their electoral tallies. The Democratic-controlled Senate would then vote on the Vice-President, meaning there is also the bizarre possibility of a Romney presidency with Joe Biden as his vice president.
Now wouldn’t that be something?