When I resigned from WVOX, I committed to cover the election cycle before I actually walked out the door. It was the right thing to do.
After all, with the exception of floods and storms, which bookended my six years as the host of Good Morning Westchester, the running up to president Obama’s first victory and his subsequent 2012 triumph somewhat defined the tone of my tenure. As well, my employers had every right to expect that I would not leave them in a lurch before the job was done.
My second presidential campaign as a newman was fun, if not as exciting as the first. The end, however, was merciful.
Now, two months later, I am slowly beginning to get the feeling back that I might—still—like national politics. My time away from the microphone has been therapeutic in this respect. While it is true that I loved the overall three-hour experience and the people I talked with everyday, the election and the issues attendant to it had begun to depress me.
Rarely did anyone’s opinion change, on the either side of the men or the issues of the day, as the result of new information. Rarer still was the integrity of the candidates. Slaves to pollsters, handlers, focus groups and marketing gurus, both the president and governor Romney told us what they believed would garner them the most independent votes in swing states, while at the same time holding on to enough of their base to ensure winning the states that were no longer in play.
Because of what I do for a living—wherever I went and whatever I did—it was the same thing. No discussion, no contemplation; just exhortations about why their guy was better and condemnations. Obama hated America and Romney hated poor people, said their detractors.
Several months before I left I taped a quote on the bottom of my PC dealing with tribes and how we humans choose sides in disputes. I cannot find it now that I need it—of course—but I will share with you its essence: Since men first gathered in groups they tended to form fierce loyalties to things, gods, flags, places and—well—just about anything they coalesced around. Perhaps, more importantly, the more they were challenged, the more hardened became their positions culminating in the conviction that the thing they were so sure about was “sacred.”
Anyway, lots of wars later, it finally occurs to me that we have not changed very much over the millennia. I am enough of a science geek to understand that such blind loyalty probably led to the survival of our species. If you want to be in on the hunt, no sense “dissing” the alpha dog; and it feels safer to be in lock step with whomever and whatever one is rallying around. But, I believe, such unreasonable loyalty is also killing us.
Did people vote for Obama because they defended him for four years and now the only goal is to win? Did Romney voters choose their guy because they were too invested in the Tea Party movement to do anything but? Like our ancestors, did we get so caught up in winning that we lost sight of what was best for our country?
I don’t know the answer to any of this. What I do know is that when the election was over—yes, I supported Obama—I had no feelings left. Moreover, I no longer knew what or who to believe. Now that the fight is over, I am more worried than I was disillusioned during it. Yes, it’s true that Obama inherited a mess. It is also true that he was treated horribly and that, I believe, race played a part. It is also true that taxes on some needed to be raised. No serious economist could believe that spending cuts alone would fix our economy.
But it is also true that we have to fix entitlements in some way, even as we preserve the social safety net, along with the new health care component. We also need to pay more attention to the entrepreneur who risks everything to make a living while he or she sees others live off the government when they really may not have to. The government should have more respect than it does for how it spends the money of hard working people.
I don’t know the answers any more than anyone else. But I do know that no one side, or one party, has all the answers either. The Democrats need to reach across the aisle, graciously, and look to collaborate for the good of the country. Republicans must drop their policy of trying to block everything the president does, even when they agree with it, just to deny him achievements. They, too, must remember that the success of this great country has been earned through compromise.
I am not quite back to where I was. The op-ed pages are beginning to interest me again. I am healing. I just hope our leaders will start healing, as well.