Saturday, November 10, 2012

Ending and Beginning

Even though I write this without knowing the outcome of the election, hopefully I speak the truth when I quote Gerald Ford: our long national nightmare is over.

If you are a strong partisan on either side, it's tempting to disagree and say it is either continuing or just starting. But for a large swath of people, myself included, regardless of your personal preference you are happy that the fisticuffs have finally come to a close, at least for this cycle. Or as one Japanese American answered when asked whom he favored in World War II, "You don't care who wins, you just want it to be over."

Now, lest you think otherwise, I'm not naive enough to think that it doesn't make a difference as to who wins. Of course it does, in areas almost too numerous to mention. Taxes. Women's rights. Health Care. Education. The economy. And that's just the stuff above the fold. There's farm policy, gun control, immigration and more. In most of those there are indeed real differences between the sides, differences which will result in policies that will have specific effects on life in these United States.

But (and here's the qualifier) running the country is different from running for the job of running the country. Mario Cuomo famously said you campaign in poetry, govern in prose. That's a polite spin on what we've seen. From both sides, the reality has been that you campaign in distortions, misrepresentations, fear, pandering, disavowal, cowardice and subterfuge. You can argue that your side is pure of heart, that left alone they would have taken the high road, that they were reduced to those approaches just to respond in kind, the "he did it first" defense favored by eight-year olds. And you might even have a point.

However, most of us grew to nine and some even beyond. We understand that the world isn't made up of us and them, that every issue isn't black and white, that even if we disagree with someone their point may have merit, and that they aren't the devil incarnate. We're not even talking simple bipartisanship, because that implies a very binary view. The fact is that there are far more than fifty shades of gray, and many of them are legal and even accepted in places other than just Nevada.

Yes, there are certain visceral issues where you might take a this or that stand. Beyond that, however, while you may not agree with something, you can find instances where it worked a certain way and others where it didn't.  For sure you can shade the results to bolster your position, but it's hard to say with absolute certainty that taxes should be higher or lower, health care should be private or public, access to guns should be severely restricted or readily accessible. For many years, compromise in these and other areas wasn't a sin, but the way to govern. We lurched one way or another, and if it worked, based on the view of the majority, we kept going; if not, we did a course correction.

Speaking as one individual, I don't believe that Obama is a Socialist, nor Romney a Fascist. I don't think Obama agrees with the Reverend Wright, nor that Romney thinks 47% of the country are leeches. I think each leans a certain way, but leans is the key: I think both will hew relatively close to the center, shading their actions to favor their point of view. And that's OK with me. I may not always agree with them, but I don't think they act with malice. And while I have my own preferences, if 50.000001% of my fellow citizens think that one can do better than the other, I owe it to them to let him try. That's the way the system is meant to work. And if it doesn't pan out, there's always next time.

So at least for now, can we holster the knives, and give the winner a chance? Turn off Fox News and MSNBC. Let whomever wins put their plans into action; they've earned the chance. If it works, good for all of us. If it doesn't, there will be an opportunity to choose a different course. But let's wait until Labor Day of 2016 to go through this nonsense again. We owe at least that much not to them, but to ourselves.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes Red and Blue people. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at

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