Margin of Litigation, cont'd

Mark asks for a clarification:

What is your actual prediction on this topic?  That the networks won't announce a winner?  That there will be enough uncertainty that a significant number of people expect the election-night results to be overturned?  Or just that some lawsuits will be filed and a few will hem and haw a bit?  Or are you talking about just non-specific further disillusionment with the electoral college?

The last two seem likely, the first two not so much.

While some networks might be more hesitant than they have in the past, I’m sure they’ll all declare a winner; there’s no ratings in agnosticism.  I’m convinced that a "significant" number of people will expect election-night results to be overturned; Bush v. Gore exposed too many previously-unexamined flaws in our election regularity, and every report since then has indicated that it’s just gotten worse.  Add this to widespread perception of both parties engaging in "dirty tricks," and you’ve got an electorate ready to (dis)believe anything.  More than a few suits will certainly be filed; I’m sure both parties targeted likely districts long ago (Any Democrats hiring paralegals/legal assistants in King/Snohomish Counties?).  Further disillusionment with the Electoral College will just be a bonus.

The systematic obstacle to litigating as many results as possible is that there is a financial cost.  And some amount of public ridicule, which will vary with perceptions of legitimacy.  I think the cost of doing so twice in a row will be high enough that it's unlikely for the Dems to do it again unless they're pretty sure they'll win.  The Patricians may try it, hoping the "turnabout's fair play" defense outweighs the hypocrisy of doing so after screaming about losers who try to l[itig]ate elections.

Of course the cost of litigation limits its employment, but I’m sure the parties have come to consider it a "cost of doing business" and will spend the money where it will have the greatest effect.  What has changed is the public perception of the propriety of post-election litigation.  I’m a bit startled by the version of events of the 2000 election implied by the characterization, "the Dems … do[ing] it again."  It takes a pretty blinkered perspective to conclude that the 2000 election would have acceptably sorted itself out had the Democrats not committed the breach of submitting it to litigation.  I’m not aware of anyone outside the Republican base who believes that, and I’m not aware of anyone inside the Republican base who would let (the perception of) hypocrisy prevent them from engaging in similar litigation where they thought they would benefit from it.  As lamentable as it may be, we have "defined [electoral] deviancy down."

I think it'll (continue to) be fairly uncommon for there to be a serious amount of uncertainty regarding the next president beyond election night.  If I were to wager, I'd go as high as 5:1 against, if we could come up with some working definition of "serious uncertainty".

Sounds like whistling past the graveyard (vote) to me.

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