After the election

Kathleen Parker | The fat lady’s aria

November 7, 2012 

Four-year-old Abigael Evans spoke for millions when she sobbed, “I’m tired of Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney.”

Her mother, who posted a video on YouTube of her crying daughter, consoled her, saying, “The election will be over soon, OK?”

There, there, Abby. Bronco and Mitt are all done now. The ads can cease. Mormons can exhale. Pinocchio can take a vacation — and the tides can do whatever the hell they want.

Call me a grouch, but I’m basically sick of everybody. One more mention of “the ground game,” and I was going to shave David Axelrod’s mustache. Give me a choice of company between the savviest political prognosticator and Jimbo at the bait shop, and I’ll take a carton of those worms, please.

The morning after the worst presidential race in memory, we now know the true meaning of the peace that passeth all understanding.

No matter which man you preferred, there is something unsatisfactory about the end of this race. Victory isn’t so much an uplifting story of hope or change but of survival. We The People weren’t so much participants in a great democratic experiment as we were spectators at a blood sport where everyone got hurt, none so much as our nation, exhausted and battered by cynicism and snark.

Rather than elevating our spirits, this election diminished the currency of our aspirations. It was a campaign of “mosts”: The most money ever spent, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion. That’s a lot of health insurance and a lot of hurricane recovery. The most negative ads and the most media coverage.

By the infusion of millions from self-promoting .01 percenters, democracy was mocked. As for statesmen, our children will have to conjure their likeness as they do monsters. Greatness is not much apparent. The respective campaigns insulted our intelligence by making false promises and telling half-truths. They manipulated us by preying on our fears, prejudices and anxieties. They made little girls cry.

And yet, both are good men. Decent, smart, gifted men. Good husbands and fathers. But our political system could suck the goodness out of a saint.

There was one brief, glimmering moment, a flicker of light in the darkest of hours, when Hurricane Sandy came ashore and showed what real tides, oblivious to man’s vanities, can do. Pushing over houses like so many sand castles, the storm reminded us that the gods care little for politics.

Neither do hurting people who need housing, food, fresh water and dry socks.

The flicker: President Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Democrat and Republican, came together in common cause to confront a common enemy. Weather.

This is when we’re at our best: When something outside of us, beyond our power and unrelated to our selfish interests, reminds us of our mortality. Memento mori: Do the right thing, the good thing, the kind and remarkable thing, for you may not get another chance.

Obviously, there are political repercussions to anything candidates do in the final days of a campaign. When one candidate happens to be the president — and his job happens to intersect with a catastrophic event — he gets the benefit of performing outside the usual fray.

But the notion that Christie should have been aloof toward Obama to score GOP points wins the limbo contest of contemporary politics.

As we begin the next leg of this journey, we might keep in the back of our minds the idea of a common enemy. For now, that enemy is our stubborn refusal to work together to solve our massive problems. If this election provided any mandate at all, it is that we set aside our special interests and work together before it’s too late.

Contact Parker, a columnist for The Washington Post, at kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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