Walsh’s Wonderings — Election hangover
I suffer an election hangover every November. This isn’t the result of my candidates winning or losing, but rather the countless hours spent trying to follow the polls leading up to Election Day. I scour the newspapers and newscasts for policy positions and track records before settling on a candidate, then watch helplessly as the lines are redrawn after the primaries. Candidates usually pivot again as the convention platform takes shape, leaving me wondering whether I’m backing the right horse. By the time the West Coast results roll in on that first Tuesday night in November, I’m desperate to get to sleep as the talking heads take over. It never happens.
I’m not proud to admit I’m a political junkie. I study down-ballot candidates and the successful prognostication percentages of the various polls the way seasoned bettors handicap NFL games. I study the electoral map as if I were Christopher Columbus navigating a new path to India … and often with similar success. Like any junkie, no amount of my drug is ever enough; I end each election season swearing I’ll never put myself through that again.
Until I do.
Fortunately, this year we didn’t have to stay up late to see who won. Unfortunately, this was because we’re still counting votes. The unprecedented popularity of mail-in and early voting made declaring a clear winner irresponsible. The key swing states like Florida, Arizona and North Carolina released the vast majority of their ballots quickly on Tuesday, giving us a good idea where their electoral votes were headed. Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin should clear things up by today, but the winner in Michigan and Pennsylvania will probably have to wait until the end of the week.
I haunted Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight prediction models the way Patrick Swayze haunted Demi Moore in Ghost (without all the pottery-making), but this presidential election defied all logic. It was hard enough to get my arms around the inflated importance of the electoral college in recent years; this year’s election touched on so many third-rail policies it should have had a conductor punching tickets.
Like most of America, I just want the ugliness to end. The fabric of our country has been torn asunder in the rush to demonize the other side. Both parties have been pulled so far toward the extremes that nothing has been accomplished other than the decimation of decency and bipartisanship. Centrists are considered complicit in this destruction even as they are pilloried for refusing to “pick a side.” Last time I looked, the American flag had two sides, both of which were to be afforded the same respect.
What worries me most is not who wins or loses this election, but rather the precedent we’ve set for future elections. We deserve the leaders we elect. If we continue to choose representatives that prey upon the worst in us, we ensure the worst for our country. When that happens, the repercussions will not only leave us with a hangover but haunt us for generations to come.