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We Wuz Robbed!

One of the most important indicators of the health of a political party or movement is its ability to accept adverse results and learn from them. By that standard, Democrats faced the supreme challenge in 2000, when it took an unprecedented (and almost self-consciously political) intervention by the U.S. Supreme Court to finally deny the presidency to the winner of the popular vote.

Sure, some Democrats never got over what many just referred to, without need of explanation, as "Florida," but most moved on, and it's often said that the 2000 experience was--along with technology, and then later, the Iraq War--the prime mover in the creation of the entire netroots phenomenon.

Well, yesterday Republicans experienced a far less momentous and far less controversial setback in a close contest, when Norm Coleman finally conceded to Al Franken. And it's significant that so many are not at all taking it well.

As Eric Kleefeld explained at TPM, the reaction to Franken's elevation at Fox was very, very grouchy, perhaps reflecting bad blood going back to News Corp's lawsuit against Franken in 2003.

Harder to explain on personal terms was the Wall Street Journal editorial that accused Franken of stealing the election, basically on grounds that Coleman had a whopping lead of 725 votes on Election Night and everything that happened subsequently was the devilish work of lawyers.

Such acts of denial are of a piece with the more general determination of conservatives to rationalize every recent political setback as "about" something other than their own leaders, policy positions, and ideological shibboleths. It is by this mental magic that George W. Bush, the hand-picked candidate of the conservative movement in 2000, and a president most conservatives were hailing as a world-historical colossus as late as 2005, becomes some sort of alien presence whose failures have no bearing on the future of "true" conservatism.

Without question, political defeats can make you crazy. But it's very important to keep that insanity temporary. If I were a Republican, I'd be getting pretty worried by now about the ability of my comrades to perceive political reality without wild distortions.