Commentary: Elections are over and now I'm bored

The Rock Hill HeraldNovember 13, 2012 

OK, what do we do now?

Just about everyone, it seems, is happy that the election season is over. People are breathing a collective sigh of relief that a campaign that lasted nearly as long as the Crusades finally has come to a close.

Spontaneous celebrations have broken out over the end of endless campaign ads, the last of the daily revelations of meaningless new gaffes, the hollow rhetoric of stump speeches, the buildup to and the letdown of the debates, the partisan bickering and the silly photo-ops.

Finally, people say, we’re through with the myopic focus on nine battleground states to the exclusion of the rest of the country. No more robo-calls from super PACs funded by anonymous billionaires. No more October surprises from Donald Trump.

No more candidates awkwardly wearing blue jeans to campaign events. No more candidates singing. No more wondering why any candidate in his right mind would say, “I approved this message.”

We’re supposed to be grateful that this giant portable circus has ended. We’re supposed to give thanks that years will pass before we’re forced to endure something like it again. Now, we’re supposed to rush delightedly back to whatever we were doing before the campaign began.

So, why do I feel so bored and restless?

I got up the day after the election and tried to check the polls for Ohio before I realized that Barack Obama already had won Ohio (at least to the satisfaction of everyone but Karl Rove), which meant he would be serving another term as president and that the elections were over. I had to make do with reading the late results of obscure House races on the west coast and checking in to see who had won Florida.

(Florida, it seems, always can be relied upon for a little late drama. Luckily, this time there were no hanging chads.)

We are supposed to revere the democratic institution of choosing those we want to represent us but scorn the tawdry process of getting elected. We are urged to follow the elections closely so we will be well informed voters. But we’re scolded if we enjoy the horse-race aspects of politics too much.

It’s OK to be a student of political science. But you might be considered a little twisted if you get too much pleasure from observing the tactical maneuvers, the dirty tricks, goofs, sharp-edged insults, attack ads and other down-in-the-trenches aspects of retail politicking.

There are, however, enough of us twisted souls to keep an army of pundits employed to tell us about the importance and hidden meaning of daily events on the campaign trail – even when most of those events ultimately have no impact at all on the results. Still, those of us who follow the pundits have faith that even little things can have a cumulative effect on the outcome, and we want to know about those things when they happen.

The sports analogy is perfect. But it’s less like horse racing than baseball, with passionate fans agonizing about ERAs and RBIs over the course of a long season, obsessing about every little decision by the manager and living or dying on singles while hoping that our side hits a home run while the other side strikes out.

And when the World Series is over and the cheering has stopped, we’re downcast – even when our team wins.

There will, of course, be another season. And in the meantime, there will be some bloody political competition to watch when those who were elected actually try to govern. We still can cheer for the good guys and boo the bad guys.

And we might even watch actual sports instead of something that just resembles sports.

But many of us already are thinking ahead, speculating, looking forward to the next big election.

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