There’s little reason to think any of us are prepared to accept the results of the upcoming election, at least not unequivocally. This unwillingness has less to do with the candidates themselves or the circumstances surrounding individual elections than with the chiliastic terms upon which presidential campaigns are waged in this country. These are not quadrennial contests between two parties offering competing sets of prudential solutions to the nation’s problems: They are spiritual wars in which the righteousness of one side and the iniquity of the other are both blindingly obvious to all persons of good will.
This is why George W. Bush’s first presidential victory was dismissed by mainstream liberals as the result of either counting-related malfeasance or a plot by the Supreme Court or both, and why his re-election must have had something to do with rigged voting electronic voting machines. It is also why millions of us convinced ourselves that Barack Obama must have been born abroad and that Trump was working for the Russians.
These conclusions, absurd and conspiratorial as they are, follow effortlessly from the twin premises that every presidential election is an all-or-nothing contest between good and evil and that the sovereign will of the people is inviolable.