As I take keyboard in hand, there is still great dispute as to which candidate for president emerged victorious on Tuesday. Even if every state simultaneously declares their results as official, I have no doubt a campaign attorney or two might object to whatever the purported tally turns out to be.
What is not in doubt is the fact that millions upon millions (maybe even billions) of dollars were spent on national, state and local races. Having been involved in several U.S. House and Senate campaigns as part of my misspent youth, I truly find it unbelievable how much cash is thrown into the political ring today. One of the races in which I was closely involved had a budget of $100,000. That’s for everything, from staffing to media buys and travel for the candidate. We found out we couldn’t spend it all. We actually had some left over the day after the election.
Now, granted, that wasn’t yesterday, but still, in today’s campaigns it’s $100 million here, $100 million there in just about every Congressional and Senate race. And spending on the presidential campaigns is in the stratosphere. To borrow from the late, great Sen. Everett Dirksen (a Republican from Illinois, if you can believe it) who, when speaking about how the billions of dollars of federal spending were adding up swiftly, said, “Pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”
Just thinking out loud here, but do you suppose at least a portion of that money could have gone somewhere besides ads in newspapers and spots on TV and radio? Especially when most of them say the same thing: “My opponent is a no-count liar whose own mother wouldn’t even vote for him/her.” It’s amazing we support anyone after the opposition research teams get done digging up dirt.
As I was staying up late watching the returns, it struck me that there were going to be a whole lot of weary zombies walking around the next day. I kind of felt sorry for anyone who decided to hang in there much past midnight in the East. The election officials in the key states all seemed to stop counting ballots around then for some reason.
But you know what group of people were really inconvenienced? That has to be the would-be rioters and looters. Put yourselves in their shoes. You’ve known when the election was going to be held for a long, long time. You’ve made extensive plans, mapping out in which section of your city to hold your “spur-of-the-moment-peaceful protest,” created two sets of homemade-looking signs (so you’re prepared for any ballot box eventuality), rallied your troops, maybe even got a babysitter for the kids, and for what? Nada. Because nothing was set in stone election night. There was nothing to harangue about, no clever slogans to shout. No real or imagined anger to vent.
It had to be frustrating. During Election Day itself, the anticipation was upbeat and exciting. I can just imagine a phone call early Tuesday between one of the “peaceful protest” leaders and a follower early on Tuesday.
LEADER: OK, so here’s the plan. We spontaneously meet at the corner of 1st and Elm Streets right after (NAME) is declared the winner.
FOLLOWER: But what if the other guy wins.
LEADER: Let’s focus on the positive.
LEADER: Wear something nondescript. No writing or logos on your clothes.
FOLLOWER: Got it.
LEADER: And you know it’s BYOB, right?
LEADER: Bring Your Own Brick. We went over this in the briefing.
FOLLOWER: Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ve got some nice red ones in my backpack already. And I added a couple of hefty rocks too.
LEADER: Good choice. Did you call five friends to join you?
FOLLOWER: I did. But I have to admit I felt a little funny saying, “Hey, you want to go downtown and throw things through some store windows tonight?”
LEADER: They’ll get over it. Besides, it’s supposed to be a pleasant temperature.
Imagine the letdown and defeat in the voices of those same “peaceful protestors” later that same evening when calls had to be made to shut the whole operation down when final results weren’t in. Or at least postpone the event. There’s no denying that taking the spontaneity out of a good riot and looting spree just kills the whole buzz.
It’s much like waiting and waiting and waiting for results to be announced on election night only to be told nothing’s happening until at least tomorrow, and possibly even into next week. And perhaps beyond that. Alas, the old adage about “It ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings” may be true. But I’m afraid she’s not even warming up yet.