By Rob Burgess
I remember Nov. 4, 2008, quite clearly.
I was covering the elections as a reporter for the Ukiah Daily Journal in Ukiah, Calif. That night I was running around the local Democrats’ soirée at the Saturday Afternoon Club in downtown Ukiah. There was a large screen plastered against one wall loudly projecting the state-by-state election returns as the polls closed across the country. I was trying to get quotes from the local office-seekers as they discovered their own electoral fates, when the announcement came over the speakers that Barack Obama had sealed the presidency. As one might expect, a raucous cheer exploded from the crowd. The assembled cried and bear-hugged one another. It took a full five minutes before I could make out the individual words coming from the television feed, but when I did, this is what I heard one of the talking heads say:
“So tonight Democrats celebrate, but tomorrow begins the race for the 2010 congressional elections!”
“No!” I said out loud. “No it’s not!”
If there is a just and loving God out there, Americans will have awakened this morning knowing whom their president is for the next four years. That is, of course, we haven’t veered off into some terrible 2000 Florida election sequel. Whether your candidate of choice won or lost last night, can we just all agree to take a breather before we ramp up for the next campaign?
Consider this: Whether Mitt Romney becomes our 45th president on Inauguration Day, he’s been effectively running for president since he originally announced his intentions 2,094 days ago, Feb. 13, 2007. That’s five years, eight months and 25 days of grinning, shaking hands and giving speeches. I think my face muscles would literally require surgery to repair the damage done by that much forced smiling.
At this point, Romney isn’t the only one who must be tired of this perpetual motion.
“What frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day,” Barack Obama declared in his January 2010 State of the Union address. “We can’t wage a perpetual campaign.”
Now, in the quote he said the words “the American people,” but I’d be willing to wager what he really meant to say instead was “I.”
It wasn’t always this way. In this country, campaign season didn’t truly begin until after each party held its respective convention and chose a candidate. And it wasn’t even that long before the conventions that candidates even announced their intentions to seek the office.
“Before 1976, extensive private preparations notwithstanding, candidates almost always waited until the actual calendar year of the election before announcing their candidacy,” wrote Larry J. Sabato in the Wall Street Journal.
But now each day is a skirmish as each side tries to win the news cycle of that 24-hour period. If tomorrow’s a new day, then it’s another battle to be won or lost.
For today, though, just today, can we just call a timeout? If your candidate won, then celebrate. If your candidate lost, suck it up and take a day to nurse your wounds.
Whatever you do, do it in private. I think we all could use a breather.
Rob Burgess, Tribune night editor, may be reached by calling 765-454-8577, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/robaburg.