We wuz robbed

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Here it comes. If there is a sense of "how the eff did this happen," these folks have two groups to blame:

1.) Themselves. These are exactly the sort of people who forward out "Obama is a Muslim/socialist/terrorist" e-mails. They are the reason that the ugliest of smears have hung in the air for this entire campaign. The media likes to talk about the expectations game--but here is the real expectations game that they've missed. When you portray your opponent as Satan incarnate, as the herald of the invading Muslim hordes, when you inflate him into a total caricature, then you make it incredibly easy for him to dispel the cartoon. Indeed, all he need do is show up in his three-piece suit, smile, and deploys all the skills he inherited from his time at Harvard Law. If he can get people to say--"Hey, he doesn't look Satan to me"--then he wins.

On the flip-side, if you think Obama is a total wimp, who isn't strong enough to stand up to the world's dictators, all he has to do is assert his desire to kill Bin Laden, and then look you in the eye and enumerate why and how you were wrong. It doesn't help that you can't meet his gaze. Look, the "Americans are stupid" line is wrong--whether deployed by right or left. In this election, conservatives have mistaken the most rabid sections of their America, for America itself. They are wrong--again.

2.) The media--but not in the way these guys think. The bias toward "on the other hand"-ism, toward covering every little McCain or Obama ad as a potential "game-changer," distorted the picture. If you've been a dedicated viewer of cable news, you might think that Lady Lynn would have an impact on this election, you might believe that the "celeb ads" are an actual stand-in for a solid ground game, you might think that, this year Sarah Palin "exciting the base" would erase the fact that her base is smaller than the Democratic base, and thus you might be pissed at the polls.

But this is like you watching NFL-Live, with the volume off, and concluding that the reverse, or the corner blitz is somehow a substitute for the consistent five-yard off-tackle, for a solid, unyielding 4-3. But now is the fourth quarter of their era. Five minutes left. Down by ten. The enemy has the ball, and he is slowly, mercilessly grinding it out. The frustration comes from the ticking clock, from the dawning sense that you are going down, that you are all out of time-outs.





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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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