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The contagious derangement of political losers

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus

 One of the more dangerous trends in our modern political culture has been the simple refusal from political losers to acknowledge electoral outcomes. 

Unfortunately, one doesn’t have to look very far to see how contagious the attitude has become among the politically ambitious. Republican gubernatorial candidate and Reno-area attorney Joey Gilbert’s formal challenge to his primary loss against Sheriff Joe Lombardo is a perfect example of such staunch repudiation of electoral realities. 

Gilbert’s lawsuit is replete with mathematical models, statistical predictions and geometrical formulas presented with little evidence that such models actually apply to previous real-world election results. And one thing that is glaringly absent from his 159 page lawsuit is any concrete evidence that more than 55,000 Clark County votes were “stolen” from the underdog candidate in the GOP gubernatorial primary. 

Reading through the complaint, it becomes painfully obvious that the mathematical equations and statistical predictions used to make his case fail to consider the one thing that actually matters on election day: The way real people vote in real elections. 

Ultimately, the real world rarely fits neatly onto an excel spreadsheet. 

For example, one might be able to employ the same kind of mathematical analysis used in Gilbert’s lawsuit to show that the Las Vegas Golden Knights “should have” gotten into the playoffs last season. After all, the team’s record hardly comports with its statistical potential — but that doesn’t change the fact that the team ultimately lost too many games. 

In the end, statistical potential and mathematical analysis don’t dictate post-season hockey schedules in the real world… nor do they determine the winner of democratic elections. Even when one truly believes they “should have won,” sometimes, reality simply doesn’t agree. 

Gilbert’s absurd litigious antics aside, his mathematically couched temper tantrum is hardly an isolated instance of a political loser refusing to accept that the voting populace just wasn’t that “into” them. 

The circus of lawmakers pontificating about the January 6th hearings remind us daily about the persistence of the “big lie” in Republican political corners. And Democrats also have suffered from an inability to reckon political aspirations with electoral realities. Hillary Clinton continues to cast blame for her 2016 election loss on almost everything except her own fundamental unlikability, and Stacey Abrams still hasn’t conceded the gubernatorial race she lost in Georgia in 2018. 

That’s not to say that all these instances rise to the same level of post-election derangement or outrage we saw following the 2020 election — but they are all glimpses into the growing contempt for political outcomes that don’t satisfy the preconceived notions of increasingly narrow-minded partisans. 

With a seemingly contagious skepticism of electoral results on the rise in recent years, it’s no surprise the partisan tribes in America have grown evermore contemptuous of one another. It sadly makes sense that phrases such as “not my president” have become a depressingly common refrain in popular political culture. 

It’s also one of the reasons reforms such as ranked choice voting have grown in popularity among independently minded members of the electorate. Supporters of the reform claim such an overhaul of the election process would encourage “buy in” from political losers — which certainly seems enticing to the plethora of voters exhausted by the never-ending string of outraged losers promoting conspiracies and angst.

Ranked-choice voting, however, may not be the cure-all some believe it to be. There are plenty of opponents to the reform who believe it will cause more problems than it solves. Moreover, it certainly seems doubtful that a slightly foreign and indisputably complex voting process will alleviate the ever-increasing conspiracy theories that abound post-election. 

Regardless, one thing remains certain: The current environment of political losers plundering our electoral system of legitimacy will have a long-lasting impact, reforms notwithstanding. 

And while it is tempting to put blame on the failed politicians who encourage the kind of angst, conspiracies and outrage we see running rampant in the wake of recent elections, they are only partially responsible. In the end, the reason they peddle such nonsense is because there’s a market for it among the donors, supporters and grassroots activists who lavish praise (and money) upon those who are “brave” enough to reject reality. 

As it turns out, there are plenty of Americans willing to reward political failures with adoration and even financial support, provided that the losers merely whinge loud enough about how they were robbed of a rightful victory. 

Mathematically, that creates a set of incentives that are pretty hard for unelectable partisan opportunists to ignore — regardless of how much it may rot our political culture.

Michael Schaus is a communications and branding consultant based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He is the former communications director for Nevada Policy Research Institute and has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary as a columnist, political humorist, and radio talk show host. Follow him at or on Twitter at @schausmichael.


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