Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are we past incivility?

As most of the returns are in at the time I write, I admit I am disappointed by the results. But I was long ago disappointed by the choices we’ve had all around. Nevertheless, I would like to congratulate those candidates who won, and hope that they exceed the best expectations all the electorate have of them. Knock wood.

That said, who else is glad the election campaign commercials are done? (I had considered asking for a show of hands, but by now I’m pretty sure that most folks’ hands would fly upward, causing newspapers to scatter in the breezes, upon their reading the question.) There might be a few unhappy customers -- the advertising agencies who produced the ads, the television stations garnering easy revenues, and a handful of people who got themselves involved in a campaign simply for the thrill of battle. The rest of us, as far as I can tell, made haste toward the “mute” buttons on our tvs’ remote controls every time one of those “don’t vote for the other guy” ads came on the screen.

I admit that I watched each advertisement I came across, at least once through. But then, I’m a bit of a political masochist. I took my high school civics class seriously, when I read Jefferson’s opinion that it required an educated and informed public to make for a successful democratic republic. Therefore, I have watched press conferences, listened to news coverage on their travels and their professed views. I’ve even gone to websites of candidates outside our district, and read everything they offered (not that I feel that much better-informed for my efforts). I never want to go to the polls only half-prepared. In my mind, that’s worse than showing up at a social event half-dressed or half-drunk -- or both.

Still, when the end of a campaign season arrives, it comes as an astonishingly pleasant shock, akin to winning at the one-armed bandits (or so I can imagine, so few are my attempts -- successful or not). In some ways, it’s the reverse to the end of a regular programming season on network television, when we then face a full summer of awful reruns and puffy replacement shows. Election Tuesday brings about the end of another long, miserable season of mean-spirited mini-films repeatedly run back-to-back and in seemingly endless succession. It is done. We are free, for a time, from commercials and campaign appearances where candidates or their supporters trash the other side, earned and unearned. This calls for a giddy little happy dance (here is where I paused from typing for ten minutes while my fingers waved in the air and I bobbed my head a bit. That’s the closest I will come ever again to dancing, if I have anything to say about it. And if I have nothing to say about it, we’re all in deep, deep trouble).

Naturally, some killjoy will come along soon to tell me that, just because the midterm elections are over with doesn’t mean the ads will stop. After all, there’s a presidential election to come up in just two years. And, if memory serves, those things are just about as loud and ugly and incessant as the midterms, but with better production values. Quite frankly, I don’t see that coming right away. The party’s coffers will need refilling, first. This means we could get at least a full month to kick back and enjoy the quiet resulting from a finished election before the next big noise comes along.

Therefore, at the time of my sitting down and writing this, while I care deeply about election results on a fundamental level, right now I really don’t care to hear more about them. I am done. I vote, and then, as to the follow-up, I take a Scarlett O’Hara moment to announce that “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” or maybe even the next day, or possibly sometime next week. Whether my candidates and my views on given issues come out on top or not, today I am the big winner. There are no more political ads to be run, except in the guise of public service announcements and regular programs. It’s the end of one set of truly annoying reruns. I can watch normal network television, again.

Or, isn’t that as promising as it sounds? Where’s the mute button, again?

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