What happens next?

As I write on Tuesday afternoon, no one knows who will win the Presidential election--that is to say, almost everyone except me thinks he knows that it will be a slam-dunk for Obama.

Maybe they're right. Maybe in the future we should dispense with elections and just have an aggressive polling operation. It could easily be organized in such a way as to preserve the drama of the thing. You'd start with a long run-up in which a large handful of candidates rise and fall and a process of triage takes place. This would be followed by an intense few weeks in which various polls are issued daily, hourly even, showing the vacillating fortunes of the remaining candidates as they battle it out for the prize. Finally in the last few days, the polls would narrow excitingly, but the media's favorite candidate would pull inexorably ahead--stumbling maybe one or twice in the final lap just to give spectators their money's worth--and then, late at night on the appointed day, the darling of the media gets the nod. Wild cheers at campaign headquarters! The other chap makes his concession speech, and everybody knocks off and wends his weary way home feeling that they'd just been through a great game.

Among the advantages of this system, which I hereby offer the public free and for nothing, is that it would free up 100 million Americans from having to go through the tedious process of actually voting. We wouldn't have to worry about hanging chads, or all those illiterate slobs--I mean, newly enfranchised voters--who cannot figure out how to fill out the ballot. We could give that small army of elderly election volunteers the day off, and of course we could dispense entirely with all the placards and banners and partisans at polling places around the country. Just think how much we could save by getting rid of the polling machines themselves!

Since the psephological gurus who run the polls already know who is going to win, why bother with the pedestrian process of trudging down to your local school when you can just ask Mr. Gallup [oops, I had "Gallop"] who you were going to vote for and have done with it?

Still, I cling to the romance of the old way of doing elections (as so much else) and that is why I, unlike just about every other person on the island of Manhattan, confess that I still do not know who will win tonight, Barack Obama or John McCain. Messrs. Gallup, Zogby, Rasmussen, et al. may be right, but I am not going to let them spoil it for me.

Over the last couple of months, I've had occasion to say why I prefer McCain to Obama, and what it is about Obama that alarms me. I won't reiterate all that now. Rather, I'd like to say a word about what I hope will happen next. First, I hope that whoever wins wins "cleanly," without the widespread suspicion (or the reality) of voter fraud. I also hope that partisans on the other side--whatever side that happens to be--lose gracefully. Not that I expect them to give up on their principles: on the contrary, I hope that they cling to those principles tenaciously, but that conspicuous among those principles is a commitment to democratic government, which means, inter alia , a commitment to recognizing the legitimacy of democratically elected politicians. If, to take one possible eventuality, Obama wins, I hope Republicans gird up their loins and figure out how to do better next time. I also hope that they forgo the destructive, anti-democratic tactics perfected by groups like moveon.org.

A week or two ago, I quoted from a piece by Andrew McCarthy wherein he noted that "If he wins, Obama will be my president," notwithstanding the many things Obama espouses with which Andy  disagrees. Andy separated himself, as I would wish to separate myself, from those who would "rather tear down my country than see a president I opposed succeed." That does not mean I would be happy if--and note the conditional, please--Obama wins. Nor does it mean that I wouldn't begin on November 5th looking around for someone who might be a compelling opponent in 2012. It only means that there is a lot to be said for what the British call the "loyal opposition"--vigorously opposed on the issues, but stalwartly loyal when it comes to the the prosperity and commonweal of  this great country.