While it is always dangerous to predict the outcome of elections, here is one prediction that is certain to hold up: approximately half of U.S. voters will be ecstatic on Tuesday night and the other half (or slightly less than half) will be devastated. And the winning side will see their victory as a triumph of good over evil, and the losing side will see their loss as a giant step on the road to ruin for the country they love.
Has there ever been a presidential election so polarizing? Certainly plenty of folks were outraged in 2000, when the outcome came down to a Supreme Court decision and Democrats were sure they'd been robbed. Eight years later, with the country in ruins, we are still hearing the angry rhetoric of blue state-red state division. And that worries me. Because on Wednesday, November 5th, one of these two candidates is going to have to find a way to take the devastated, bruised, outraged feelings of millions of Americans and cauterize their wounded psyches, make them believe that they still have a vital voice in this democracy. If you support Obama, you're thinking, "No problem - he has been the voice of inclusion from the get-go!" But if you support McCain, you've been led to believe that the election of Obama will lead the country into Godless Socialism, a place where terrorists will have free rein and taxes will rise and abortionists will thrive. It's important to understand that millions of people believe this. And they will be just as angry about their guy losing as Obama supporters will be if THEIR guy loses. And these are not people who are threatening to leave for Canada. Some (certainly not most) of these people are just plain threatening.
So even as I hold my breath for the election results, I find myself fast-forwarding to the day after, and the days after that, when one person will be expected to not only clean up the enormous mess -- war, recession, global warming -- he will inherit from the horrendous blunders of he past 8 years, but also to convince Americans that he truly represents all of them. Our country's strength is that we are passionate about our beliefs, including the one that allows for a peaceful transition of power every four or eight years. We don't stage a coup, no matter how tempting.
Predictions are dicey, but it's pretty safe to predict that -- win or lose -- Americans will honor the outcome of a fair race, with the emphasis on FAIR. With passions running so high, on both sides, any appearance of voter fraud will be extremely harmful to the already enormous burden facing the winner: to convince voters who have spent many months TAKING sides that they need to be on the SAME side when it comes to healing what ails us.