Without the claim of trickery, the losing party has to admit that the other side claims a larger share of the American electorate and nominated the better candidate.
That’s not an option in an age of endless political warfare. A belief that the other side won through injustice — by giving away “gifts” to voters, as Mitt Romney claimed — gives comfort to the defeated, but also a rationale to keep the political war revving long after the votes are counted.
Perhaps the focus of news coverage on the mechanics of politics, the ads and tactics, heightens this sense that elections aren’t legitimate contests, but simply games that are decided by trivial matters. If we actually took our elections seriously as clashes of ideas, we then might be forced to actually do something as a result of them.
In Montaigne’s view, the more we trivialize the contest, the easier we make it for the defeated to deny its legitimacy. And when that happens, the war never ends.