How often have you heard a variation on this story? You’re sitting in the bar car of the train back from Washington to New York and bits of a conversation among some beautiful people waft their way across your double bourbon. Obama, they assure one another gleefully, has it “in the bag.” The campaign, they tell another another, is essentially over: it’s just a matter of hopping on the Hope & Change express and riding it — Forward! — to victory in November. It’s a nuisance that we even have to bother with the formality of voting, their conversation seems to suggest: the polls, the emotional weather of the country, God himself (except of course that there is no God) have ordained that Obama must win, has already really won, can you believe what a terrible campaign Mitt Romney is running? What a loser! Alienating 47 percent of the population by reminding them that they pay no income tax and are beneficiaries of government largess: what a moron! Imagine, telling people the truth about the Entitlement State! The man is a gaffe machine. Boy are we going to town on these losers when Obama starts his second term. . . .
Et very much cetera. I ran into an old Yale friend the other night who told me about a party he attended among what he called the bien pensant elite of New Haven. The conversation drifted to the election, and that febrile sense of grateful certainty asserted itself into the proceedings. My friend quietly demurred, breaking the mood of self-congratulation. Could it be that he had a different opinion? He didn’t really think, did he, that anything other than an overwhelming victory for Obama was possible? He simply smiled and suggested that they ask President Dukakis what he thought. I think the party dispersed soon thereafter.