People do get carried away. And the final days of the campaign do little to ease our spirits. On the contrary, emotions are roused to a feverish pitch as Americans are told the decision we reach at the polls will be the most important one of our times. Without a clear winner, the furor is just extended.
During the campaign, the election may be depicted by both sides as a final battle between good and evil. “We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future; unheeding of our individual fates; with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.” — Theodore Roosevelt at the convention of his new Progressive Party in 1912.
Passions get soothed
Having been enlisted in so noble a cause, how go back to politics as usual once the votes are in?
The remarkable thing about a hard-fought presidential campaign is not the depth of the passions aroused, but how readily they are soothed afterward. The best defense against allowing the emotions of a presidential campaign to extend beyond Election Day is not some theoretical reform of the electoral system but the good sense and self-restraint of the American people. There still is such a thing, isn't there?
When it comes to continuing the rancor of a presidential campaign the morning after by fighting over the election results, perhaps the fault lies not with our electoral system, but with ourselves — and how readily we are ruled by our passions.
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