Dear Prez, Mitt, Robert, Tom, Dick, Harry, Mike, Kathy, Kathi, Katie, Sadie, and Shady,
Today, at last, is Election Day. Four (for some of you) or two (for most) or six (for a few) long years of fundraising, hand-shaking, fundraising, speechifying, flip-flopping, backtracking, fundraising, lying, splitting hairs, fuzzying issues, fundraising, and if-it’s-Tuesday-at-two-it-must-be-Ohio-again trips are finally coming to an end.
Some of you will be in, and some of you will be out. (Thanks, Heidi.)
And we, finally, will be able to get along with our lives without being interrupted by robocalls, bombarded by campaign commercials, or dunned by fundraisers. At least for a week.
Before you go off and celebrate your victory or drown your defeat, here are two important messages for the winners and one for the losers.
First to the guys and gals euphoric over their popular thumbs-up:
In the midst of your celebrations, please bear in mind a vital fact. Your triumph is not a mandate. Whether you won by less than 1 percent or more than 20 percent, you didn’t win because people want you to implement all the bullcrap that you spewed about what you would implement. First, nobody—probably not even your mother—believed you would—or could—do that anyway. Second, nobody—probably not even you—agrees with every bit of it anyway.
Know why you won?
(Spoiler alert: This is not your Sally Field moment.)
You won because a significant number of people were more frustrated with, or leery of, the other clown than they were of you.
That wariness might be the result of all the nasty things you said about him or her. It might be because of the stupid things he or she did or said (right, Todd?). But something happened to convince enough people in the middle that you weren’t quite the threat that the other guy or gal represents.
You see, a bunch of True Believers think your ideas are spot on, your leadership impeccable, your style reassuring. But there’s a whole bunch of other True Believers who you scare the bejeezus out of.
The only reason that you won is because the people in the middle—bothered by the one-sidedness and mean-spiritedness of both extremes as well as worried about the very real and complex (note that, dudes and dudettes: complex, as in “not lending themselves to simple solutions”) problems—either felt that you had only screwed up half badly in the last two, four, or six years or that they are tired of the particular way that the incumbent did screw up and are willing to roll the dice on you.
In other words, your margin of victory is those people who were more able to hold their nose and vote for you than they were capable of stomaching the act of casting their fate with the other one.
You are but the lesser of two evils.
For instance, the cipher that is my commonwealth’s senior senator, Bob Casey, is getting a vote not because of anything he’s done—he apparently learned only the first two-thirds of the Hippocratic Oath (“do no”)—and not because of what he believes but because his opponent thinks that the solution to all this country’s multitude of problems is a balanced budget amendment (presto! all fixed now!) and because if, as likely, the GOP retains the House and if, as possible, it wins the White House, it will be best if the Jackass Party holds the Senate to act as the saucer to cool the Tea Party’s brew.
So don’t get all triumph-y about it, Bob.
Or any of the rest of you, either.
Now, what does this mean for how you should act?
If you don’t have a mandate, you can’t go rolling over the other side.
There is some sense in what both parties say. Find the common ground. Find a way to craft a compromise. (Without the lobbyists’ help.) Find some complex but workable solutions to those complex problems.
Behave like adults and not children and work together for God’s sake! For our sake.
For your sake.
Because here’s the second message: You ain’t a Supreme Court justice, baby. You ain’t being elected king or queen. You ain’t there for life.*
That office you’re going to fill is being vacated by someone else. Bear that in mind. Every day you hold it. Sic transit gloria franking privilege.
That doesn’t mean you should spend every day, starting tomorrow, fundraising for your re-election. It does mean that you should remember that holding public office means doing public service.
So serve us. All of us.
Because if you don’t, you’ll be the one people will be more frustrated with next time, and you’ll be finding yourself having to hustle for a real job.
And here’s my word for you losers: News flash. You lost. Deal with it. Accept the verdict of the people. Don’t. Litigate. It. We really don’t need that. Because if you do, whoever wins, we all lost. Believe me.
Didn’t you learn to be a good sport in kindergarten? Show some grace. Show some class. Congratulate your opponent. And shut up.
Besides, look at the bright side. Whatever office you didn’t get is a lousy job. Only a crazy person would want it. You can get nice cushy work as a pundit, or an academic. Won’t have to work much. You can even become a lobbyist. (You know you will.)
So, there you go, folks. Work together, serve us, play nice. Not too hard, is it?
Oh, one more thing—for both of you. Didn’t your mother teach you to pick up? Get rid of those damn signs.
* Corollary to the no-mandate rule, for those of you who believe that you have a right to legislate your beliefs: you ain’t the pope; you’re not empowered to impose your conscience on the rest of us.
Words © 2012 AtHome Pilgrim.
All Rights Reserved.