The day after (the day after)

Jubilant first family after victory declared.

Phew! We managed to make it through another “silly season.” For the uninitiated, silly season is that period—one that occurs every four years—when a host of surrogates of the well-connected perform a kabuki dance called “running for president.”  

We begin with a crowded field initially, whittling it down to two front-running candidates and a host of others that are lucky to garner one percent of the total vote, combined. These would be the host of third parties, also known as a losing proposition in America without something like instant-runoff voting in place.

The “running” metaphor is an odd one really because I’ve never seen a candidate for president in a track suit, drenched in sweat, distance running. Actually, our current president, the newly-elected Barack Obama plays basketball regularly. Paul Ryan, vice presidential candidate for the second place finisher, Mitt Romney, is known for his rigorous P90X workouts and he looks like a guy who spends time on fitness pursuits. P90X creator, Tony Horton, also has worked with and supported first lady Michelle Obama in her efforts to get kids moving and more physically active. Exercise and fitness is bipartisan.

For half of voting America (because estimates indicate that only one in four eligible voters are registered to vote and even fewer cast one), Wednesday was a day of mourning. For followers of Romney, you trudged through your day in disbelief; depressed, possibly even angry, hating on those other fools at work or elsewhere, all giddy and having difficulty keeping their glee to themselves given Mr. Obama’s reelection.

I know that feeling all too well. As an Al Gore supporter in 2000, I remember going to bed in the wee hours of the morning and then, waking up sleep-deprived and learning that the election was undecided, hanging like a chad in the balance, all because of Florida. Fast forward 12 years and Florida still hasn’t gotten its voting shit together. Of course, there are those who consider Florida America’s equivalent of a banana republic.

Eventually, George Bush was declared victorious and Gore, while the winner of the popular vote, came up empty on the Electoral College side. Interestingly, the 2000 election was one of only four elections since our nation’s founding (and the first since 1888) where the winner of the popular vote wasn’t declared the victor because they didn’t carry the Electoral College count.

One strategy designed to shield yourself and remain above the ideological muck, while still participating in the electoral process is the aforementioned third party option. While I considered it again this year, I couldn’t see engaging again in the voting equivalent of buying a Megabucks ticket in that the odds of my marginal candidate winning were tantamount to impossible. I do recognize the power it holds of offering an additional refuge of allowing yourself the feeling of smugness and superiority—knowng better than all those other “idiots” voting for the Republican/Democrat stand-ins for Tweedledum or Tweedledee. I’m not making light of this position at all. Sometimes it feels like all you have left save not voting at all.

I’ve cast votes for Ralph Nader on two occasions. Both times, I was derided for “throwing my vote away,” or worse, in 2004, Nader voters were blamed for the election of George Bush for a 2nd term by dimwitted and bitter Democrats.

Interestingly, in 2004, Nader actually met with Candidate Kerry in a widely publicized meeting early in the year. Nader describes this meeting in the documentary, An Unreasonable Man. He indicates that  Kerry was interested in Nader’s support and the support of Nader’s voters. Given that he’s a wonk, Nader proffered more than 20 pages of issues that he felt were important. Unfortunately, these issues were far too broad-ranging for a mainstream candidate to dare to declare in his/her platform. Nader narrowed these down to three for Kerry to highlight during the campaign. By choosing just three of them, Kerry could have prevented Nader from running.

If you know American politics, you know that Kerry balked. Nader waited several days, then realizing he’d been snubbed, he made the decision to enter the race on February 22, 2004, running as an independent.

You can argue that there’s not a “damn bit of difference” between the Republicans and Democrats. Personally, I think it’s disingenuous. While both parties are craven to corporate contributions, there are still enough differences in their political philosophies to hazard choosing a candidate with a chance to win, foregoing picking a dark horse who ultimately garners fewer votes than the population of a rural state like Maine. If that was your choice this time, I empathize having been there before.

Winning matters in America. It’s in our cultural DNA, part of that “hustling culture” that Walter McDougle writes about, and other writers, like Morris Berman, expands upon. Since winning matters, then it makes sense that most Americans are going to line up behind one of two choices that have the best choice of coming out on top. Short of major election reform and a leveling of the political landscape, third party candidates will always be the refuge of people who want to vote, but remain “purer” than the rest.

Let me conclude with a bit of advice for the winners, and those licking their wounds as they consider what went wrong, a mere two days removed from Election Day.

  • Remain hydrated

  • Get some fresh air

  • Limit your time listening to talk radio or talking heads on tee vee

  • Refrain from being a hater

I know it’s tempting to gloat and rub your opponent’s nose in choosing the losing candidate, particularly given some of their ass-clownish Facebook posting and other ideological pandering and all the boasting that they engaged in for months, but please reconsider. It’s unbecoming and it’s only going to make Romney supporters disdain President Obama more than they already do.

And if you are predisposed to hating on others, please consider that hate’s an ugly emotion, one more apt to cause long-term damage to you. It’s also going to have no sway in changing how your co-worker feels about their political party affiliation.

At some point, events happen, natural disasters strike, and you might have to borrow something from your co-worker or that neighbor that had their lawn littered with opposition signs.

Civility is good. Hold your opinions and hold tight to your views on politics, but cultivate the ability to disagree, agreeably.