Time is of the essence, and moving past the day-after giddiness and facing up to the reality of our situation has become the only sane reaction to any election. I think the words "narrowly averted disaster" are appropriate ones in this case, given the numbers that some high-profile liberals won by and the way our system is rigged to get as little done as possible.
Before anyone pronounces Massachusetts a "sane" state, I want to point out that well over a million people voted for Scott Brown and Mitt Romney. Obama's victory qualifies as a landslide in our state, but Elizabeth Warren's less so. Even in the so-called liberal state of Massachusetts, there are a million people who very possibly oppose rights for the gay community, for women, for immigrants, oppose science and oppose the right to health care, or at least don't see any of that as important as their tax rate.
With chatter about John Kerry ascending to secretary of state, thus creating a Senate opening for Scott Brown to attempt to seize -- as his loss in this election proves, he actually does have the support to come back against an opponent who is not Warren -- there's never been a better time to remind people that we're just going to have face this again and soon. It's a never-ending, perpetual cycle of nail-biting that wears us down.
It begins to dawn on me why nothing seems to ever happen. We expend so much energy on the fights for power -- which a good portion of our citizens choose not to take part in for whatever reason -- because we bunch these intense moments together so closely, the time spent butting heads over the solutions is more than enough to make sure that time is skillfully wasted, and if ideas are propelled into governance, they are watered-down.
As such, each issue is part of a slow build and it is impossible for any elected person on either side to ever complete their work, and so everyone has the campaign tactic of claiming there is still more work to do. Well, of course there is, because you're so damn slow at doing your work you can never finish a job.
Challengers always seem to challenge by saying that the elected person isn't getting the job done and they, by contrast, can get it done better and fast. If we're all honest with each other, though, we know that's not true. No one gets anything done fast. That's the nature of our system.
And so when you have an obstructionist par ty like the Republicans, whose stated goal is to not work to build the nation up but instead to tear the president down, the works get gummed up even more and they just sit and collect their paycheck that few of them actually need anyhow.
Oh, no, I'm starting to sound like a libertarian here, aren't I?
Well, we're not going to dismantle the system anytime soon, so the best choice is probably to stop the hoodwinking. Now that Obama is in for another four years, that gives four more years for the Affordable Care Act to become ingrained in people's lives, perhaps just enough time for many current opponents to find evidence of how it actually benefits them. That can be the first step to changing the narrative.
The other is to stop selling Obama as a progressive -- he is not -- and start redefining him as a Democrat that Republicans of the old school can like and maybe even love. This Slate article (slate.me/PXqFMp) raises many good points to that end and could function as a good primer.
Why worry about selling Obama when he's already won? Because you need to sell his unknown successor now, and the Republicans are already learning the lessons of Romney to figure out what to do next (nyr.kr/VDJfu6) and it's likely to involve reining in the crazy. As Romney showed in the debates, they are not above fabricating a "reasonable" moderate type as a way to seize the White House.
I guess we all have to accept that the next election starts the day after the previous one ends. It's a cycle, a process, and ground work needs to be laid starting now. No time to breathe a sigh of relief and mop our brow until we deal with the next time -- it's already the next time.
John Seven is the Transcript's arts and entertainment editor.