The Ghosts of Elections (Recently) Past

I've spent the last couple of weeks gently tweaking my panicky, paranoid liberal friends who just can't help fretting that Obama's seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls will be undone on election day. But now that the day itself has arrived, I know what they mean: Even though I don't really see any way that McCain can win this thing, I've been conditioned - by the stalemate in 2000, by the exit-polling disaster in '04, even by New Hampshire flipping for Hillary this year - to assume that some sort of bizarre election-night twist will keep us up till three AM, half-drunk and reeling. The notion of an election where the anchors know who's won by mid-afternoon, and where the suspense for television viewers ends early (when Virginia and Pennsylvania both go Obama's way, perhaps), seems like something old-fashioned, something retro, something out of my childhood that couldn't possibly happen in the crazy world of twenty-first century America. So while my rational mind expects an easy Obama win, as of this morning my irrational mind is suddenly convinced that come nine PM tonight, some furrow-browed announcer will be remarking on his this is much, much closer than anyone expected ...

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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