Let me deal with the least likely (but not, I stress, impossible) outcome first: John McCain wins, defying the polls and the odds. I can’t imagine a plausible scenario under which Obama supporters would readily regard such a result as legitimate. A margin large enough under other circumstances to confer legitimacy and perhaps even a mandate would be explained in terms of reprehensible voter racism. (Having consistently lied to the pollsters, we’re actually unworthy of Obama and probably don’t deserve the right to vote.) A narrow margin--or, heaven forfend, a mere Electoral College victory--would produce some combination of charges of Republican vote fraud and a constitutional crisis. One would hope that cooler heads would prevail, but the last two mornings after don’t offer much hope that a McCain victory would be greeted with equanimity on the Left.
I don’t think that those last two days (or in 2000, weeks) after provide much of a clue to the conservative and Republican response. Republicans and conservatives (they’re not the same) with whom I’ve spoken are dispirited, but they’re not threatening to move to Canada. (More likely, of course, is that the U.S. would become "Canada," with Barack Obama as our very own Pierre Trudeau, convincing us of our moral and intellectual superiority--we voted for him, after all--even as we diminished in economic and political stature vis-a-vis the rest of the world.)
Some might check out in other ways, disengaging from politics and/or (as my dad has threatened to do) voting (gasp!) Libertarian in future elections.
But I would have us remember a few things. First, while John McCain’s defeat would certainly reflect the tarnished character of the Republican brand, it would not be a repudiation of any particular "brand" or wing of Republicanism (McCain isn’t that consistent), nor would it be a repudiation of conservatism. Though surely more "conservative" than Obama, McCain isn’t "really" a conservative. The character of Republicanism will (and ought to be) up for grabs after the election, and the playing field ought to be pretty level, having been flattened by the Nukebama. This is a conversation in which conservatives and their Republican friends ought eagerly to participate. But if they check out, so to speak, they can’t.
Second, an Obama Administration, combined with large Democratic majorities in Congress, is surely going to produce lots of stuff (a technical term, I realize) to which conservatives of all stripes (and their Republican friends) can object. We should not indulge in Obama hatred (look what Clinton hatred got us), but we should join the argument on the level of ideas. If we can do so seriously, but not bitterly, with clarity rather than anger and dyspepsia, it will be good for us and for the country. We might actually find our ground again.
Third, we have lots to learn from and about the Obama campaign. I’ve already suggested that Obama’s fund-raising successes have forever destroyed the public financing regime (an unintendedly "conservative" consequence of his campaign). There are some lessons there. But certainly there’s also a story there. How did he--well, they--do it? How did he raise over $500 million in increments of no more than $2,300? How much of it came on the internet via relatively untraceable giftcards? Did the Obama campaign exercise the kind of diligence about the identities of its donors that’s consistent with reasonable expectations regarding transparency in a private funding regime? Will it give an investigative reporter or research team access to its donor lists so that they can examine a sample of giftcard donors to see whether they in fact exist or in fact gave what they’re said to have given? Or will that take a subpoena from a prosecutor? (I assume that no Congressional committee will examine the collapse of the McCain-Feingold regime in a way that might embarrass the Obama Administration.)
And then there’s the Obama campaign’s ground game, which looks like it’s going to be even better than Karl Rove’s 2004 effort. Republicans will have to figure out how to run a campaign in which 30% or more of the voters go to the polls early.
There’s a lot to think about and a lot to discuss. But not if you’re just crying in your beer with Joe Sixpack.