The Ribald Reign of King George the Second

Confession of a Sore Loser

Over the past two months, I've gotten a lot of mail from supporters of George W. Bush. Here are a few of their crafty retorts:

"He lost. Get over it!"

"You lost, get over it."

"A sore loser by any other name is still a sore loser."

"Sore Losers (or is that SoreLoserman?). I can't wait to watch the inauguration."

"Sore Loserman! Haw Haw!"

"Don't cry too hard, losers, it may drowned out our hysterical laughter. WE Won, nanny, nanny, boo, boo."

In short, we who complain about the Bush presidency are Sore Losers. This is supposed to be something bad. Although none of these folks followed up their comments with any actual arguments, one might imagine that their line of thought goes something like this:

We saw this line of argument across the editorial pages and web pages of America long before Al Gore conceded the election, with pundit after pundit arguing that Al Gore should "gracefully" step aside and concede the election before any outcome was completely determined, in the name of good sportsmanship, good taste and propriety. These same pundits evoked a bipartisan spirit by summoning up the ghost of Richard Nixon, who conceded the 1960 election to JFK rather than challenge the results in Illinois (Those pundits ignore that Nixon would have lost the election even with Illinois in his pocket, and also ignore the flood of Republican-directed Illinois lawsuits that continued for weeks after Nixon's statement).

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it mistakes politics for something else. Some mistake politics for an elite Gentleman's Club in which the most important thing, above all, is to remain polite, "civil" or "bipartisan" in one's demeanor. These are the folks who are asking Democrats to gracefully submit to the policy whims of Bush and his GOP allies now that the election's over. Others adopt the image of a sporting match, in which teams "score points" against each other, are penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, and either win or lose the game as a result. Bush himself adopted this metaphor in his campaign literature, proposing that "Running For President Is A Lot Like Playing Baseball," comparing the Presidential contest to the World Series, and interestingly proposing that "the candidate with the most votes on Election Day wins." Bush would not have won a game set by those standards were it not for a set of suspiciously sympathetic umpires.

But politics is not about "social grace" or "civility" or "manners" or "nobility". These are outdated and feudal words we rejected two centuries ago along with the notion that a man's son inherits his father's nation. Politics is not about being nice enough to paper over differences. And while politics may feel like a sporting game to some, it is no game to those who are affected by its outcome. Politics is a process by which the rules that run the country are crafted. Who gets the say in whether a woman can have an abortion? Who has the right to vote? Should recipients of government relief be forced to attend religious services? What are the standards for criminal prosecution and punishment? Will tax cuts be distributed to the wealthy or the poor? These are important questions whose answers may even speak to citizens' life and death. Differences on these matters are too important to be smoothed over by politeness, and they certainly are more important than some unwritten rules of a game that some snob dreamed up to protect him or herself from undue scrutiny. Seen from this vantage point, the cries of "Sore Loser!" and "Get Over It!" are worse than silly.

But there is a meaning to the words "win" and "lose" that runs deeper than sport and is older than the Bush dynasty. In the Old English, "winnan" implied toil and endurance through difficulty; the Old English "losian" referred to something that had perished or been destroyed. To "win" used to imply the gain of something tangible and important; to "lose" implied that something precious had been taken away. Taken in that sense, I fully accept the label "Loser." When the Republican bloc of the Supreme Court ruled that it did not have time to bother with counting all votes the court itself considered valid, I lost faith in the twin bedrock principles of our nation - that one person has one vote and that every vote counts. When George W. Bush was declared President-select, the American people lost a democracy as a man who trailed by more than 1/2 million votes and illegitimately prevailed in his search for electoral votes ascended to national leadership. We are all Losers, and the conservative coalition that throws that word in the majority's face is right to craft it as an insult. It is a national insult. We should all be shamed to see our democracy hobbled in such a manner.

The conservative coalition is right to further label the American majority "Sore Losers." We are Sore. We feel the hurt when our democracy suffers a blow. We are chapped by the stinging and snide rebukes of Republican Royalists who relish the illegitimate restoration of their blood line. We chafe under the proclamations and edicts of a Pretender playing King in his throne room. Our eyes sting with tears to see the return of the Old King's well-funded regents to pull the strings behind the Pretender's throne to their own benefit and to our detriment. We Hurt. We are Sore.

Like Sore Losers everywhere, we do not easily forget the insults we have suffered. We are motivated by our anger, energized by fury, driven by our loss. In the Old English sense, we will toil and endure through difficulty. In the truest sense of the word, the American majority will Win this nation back. Thanks to the egregious insults of our opponents, we have newfound direction and motivation. Sore Losers are dangerous opponents.

Perhaps the cries of "Sore Loser!" that I and others in the majority have suffered over the past two months are not cries of derision, but cries of fear. The conservative coalition knows now that it is in the minority and can only win its spoils through unlikely coincidence and unfair conduct. Such victories are brittle and temporary; the resurgent will of the people is resounding and lasting. The Sore Losers will win again. All we need to do is gather our fury and wait.

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