Volume 74, Number 28 | November 10 - 16, 2004

Talking Point

Adlai lost, too: Putting the election in perspective

By Ed Gold

“Worse than catastophic!” read an e-mail, adding: “Looks like we’re moving to Europe. When do you want to leave?”

The phone calls and e-mails came from all over the nation reflecting the malaise all of us losers felt, and in many cases indicating a sense of hopelessness about the country’s future.

“I just can’t believe it,” a caller from Washington lamented. “I can’t get a grip on myself.”

And from Maryland: “This has been a really Black Tuesday. My friends are all in mourning.”

From California, the query: “What’s wrong with all those people?’

And, sadly, a friend in Florida where the results were most disappointing: “I did the best I could. I have no idea how to bounce back.”

I’m no Pollyanna but for some of us who have been around politics for a long time this is not an unfamiliar experience — even though it does hurt for a while.

There was, for example, the Nixon-Humphrey race in 1968 during the Vietnam War. The setting was even more painful because Bobby Kennedy had come out against the war, had won the California primary and was now rolling towards Chicago with a full head of steam. And then he was assassinated.

Late in the race, Humphrey began cutting the umbilical cord that tied him to Lyndon Johnson, but it proved too late and Nixon won by six-tenths of 1 percent.

If you go back to 1956, Adlai Stevenson was the liberals’ hero, in style, intellect and substance. He had a special eloquence that no presidential candidate has had since then, but he could not beat “Ike,” a war hero. Many of us were devastated.

What happened last Tuesday is what can happen in a democracy. You can lose terribly without thinking it’s the end of the world.
In fact, some of our entertainers have used humor to take the bitter edge off. Comedian Andy Borowitz has issued a news report that says that 55 million Americans have applied for Canadian citizenship. And movie producer Michael Moore has printed a list of “17 reasons not to cut your wrists,” the first being that George Bush can’t run again.

But seriously, in terms of political philosophy there’s hardly a hair’s difference between Kerry and Clinton. Yet Clinton took the White House twice, to the consternation of the Republicans.

You can argue that Clinton was a more effective campaigner, but that really doesn’t fully explain what happened. What’s really new in the picture is 9/11, with a wartime commander in chief whom many felt had to be supported. Also, we had the brouhaha over gay marriage, which galvanized the Christian Right and other conservative Christians as well as some Orthodox Jews and Muslims. This energized coalition successfully supported constitutional amendments in 11 states limiting marriage to a man and a woman. There is of course much hypocrisy in this position since 50 percent of straight marriages end in divorce, but that’s what happened.

So what should we be doing now? We should be supporting organizations in the forefront of the effort to protect human and civil rights. A.C.L.U., the Justice Project, Planned Parenthood and the National Coalition Against Censorship come to mind.

Locally, we should strengthen ties with local groups that speak to our humanity, because they help those most in need. I’m thinking about Caring Community, Village Center for Care, Housing Works and Visiting Neighbors as examples.

It’s also a good idea to give an extra thought or an extra hug to friends and friendly relatives who may be equally upset by the election results.

We should remember that a few good things did happen. The beer salesman didn’t make it to the Senate, and the new star from Illinois did. And of course, right here at home, Tom and Deborah won easily.

You can wear yourself out when you lose an election. Usually when I get on the treadmill in gym I watch CNN for 35 minutes and then move on. But I decided to avoid the news for a few days. I turned to Bravo and found “Columbo.” It took two hours for him to collar the killer and I stayed to the end, doing almost 6 miles on the treadmill for the first time ever. I’ll go back to CNN next week.

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