It's not that I'm afraid the right is going to outsmart us. It's that I'm afraid we're going to out-stupid ourselves. The problem isn't so much the narcissism of a Nader or a Bloomberg. The problem is the unworldly people who would vote for such a spoiler because the Democratic nominee doesn't serve up 100% of the exact, complete agenda they want (ignoring the fact that the nominee would be unelectable if he or she did do that). People who insist that nothing short of perfect is good enough, usually end up with much worse than they could have gotten if they'd been more realistic. Unfortunately, the rest of us get stuck with it too. A few thousand deluded people letting a few close states go red instead of blue is all it would take.
An even greater concern is the rancor between the supporters of the two major Democratic candidates. People who support Clinton or Obama at least clearly understand that politics is the art of the possible. But I worry that by the time one of them emerges as the nominee, some large fraction of the partisans of the other will be disappointed and angry enough to sit out the election. There are already signs of something similar happening among the various factions of Republicans, and I'd be delighted to see them torpedo their own eventual nominee in just such a fashion. But we can't count on it. Whether the other side is divided or not, we need to be united. There's too much at stake.
As it happens, I personally would probably not suffer too much from another Republican administration. I'm only 47 and in good health, so I'm unlikely to die or suffer some hideous debilitation because another four years obstruction of stem-cell research delayed a cure for something. Being a man, I'll never need an abortion; having had a vasectomy, I'm not worried about a future partner needing one. I live in the least religious state in the whole country, so I'm unlikely to be ostracized for being non-Christian even if that becomes commonplace elsewhere. I don't have any children to be brainwashed with creationist idiocy in school. I'm not gay, so I won't suffer legal discrimination or the psychological burden of being scapegoated by the powerful as the symbol of everything that's wrong with America in the eyes of God. Further neglect of global warming won't bring tornadoes or hurricanes or rising waters here to Portland. My job would be very difficult to outsource overseas.
But no man is an island, as the cliché has it. I'm an American and I am concerned about what happens to America. I don't want to see other Americans suffer those things even if I myself am safe from them. Even though I'm not gay, I cheered for the victory of gay marriage in Massachusetts because it was one of the few areas where we seemed to be moving forward instead of just struggling to avoid moving backward. Let the rightists get a majority on the Supreme Court -- something which is practically inevitable if any Republican wins the White House this year -- and we can forget about any more progress. And the struggle to avoid the erosion of what was won in previous decades will become much harder.
No matter how good the polls look or how much the Republicans squabble with each other, we can't afford to be complacent or take risks. Not until the night the electoral map lights up in blue and either Clinton or Obama is able to give a victory speech and tell us that, yes, it's really over at last.