Forgive the personal indulgence, but as my dozens of readers perhaps will recall, I just wrote about the lessons we might learn from this year’s election, particularly the race for governor in Virginia. Now that the results are in, it’s time to dwell on the lessons we should NOT learn.
We certainly cannot conclude that Democrats can take any great comfort from the fact that their guy, Terry McAuliffe, beat the Republican, Ken Cuccinelli. McAuliffe should have whomped Cuccinelli, one of those far-right hard-liners on social issues who need to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the 16th century. You’d think his party would have learned that intolerance doesn’t cut it in the 21st century, but they just refuse to budge. Look at the GOP-controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner insists that he won’t even allow a vote on legislation that would prohibit employment discrimination against gays and transgenders. His contrived excuse is that it would cause “frivolous litigation.” By that reasoning, we should do away with all bias laws, because any one of them can lead to lawsuits.
In spite of that thoroughly discredited rigidity, his opponent, McAuliffe almost didn’t win in Virginia. Cuccinelli was closing in on him. The Democrat almost blew it because his party couldn’t find anyone better to put forth. McAuliffe, who has a questionable business and political background, was perceived to be the sleazy but better alternative to the Neanderthal. To prevail in the 2016 sweepstakes, the Democratic party will have to do better than that. And it might want to look for plan B choices other than Hillary Clinton, who is the odds-on favorite if she decides to run. She carries a lot of baggage, starting with her last name.
Let us also note the lesson we should not learn from another state’s gubernatorial election, the one in New Jersey. Chris Christie suddenly has become the pundits’ flavor-of-the-month now as the relatively moderate Republican who easily won re-election in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. In near unison, we’re touting him as a formidable presidential candidate. Not so fast, folks. The man has serious flaws. This is not because of his girth problem; in fact, Christie deserves a lot of credit for his weight loss. That’s a tough battle, and he’s fighting it. But he has another serious issue: He can be a nasty bully. We’ve seen him belittle and yell at those who would dare be persistent with their questions about his policies. That kind of personality doesn’t cut it in politics, at least not outside New Jersey. Let’s talk about Christie after he’s had some intensive anger-management therapy.
The real lesson to learn about Election Day 2013 is the same one we should never forget about all things political, which is that there is very little anyone ever learns. Right now, the GOP is pinning its hope on the collapse of Obamacare, and certainly, the way things have started out, they have reason to rejoice. But what happens if the Affordable Care Act is able to overcome its inexcusable technical problems and actually lets people sign up, and what if millions realize that with all its flaws, it’s a step in right direction, away from the insurance companies’ right to deny coverage to anyone who might interfere with profits? Then what?
On the other side, what if we continue to be bombarded with new disclosures showing President Barack Obama presiding over a national-security apparatus that is making a mockery of our constitutional rights? What effect could that have three years hence, or even one year, when the next congressional vote is scheduled?
Actually, there is one lesson we can learn now that this year’s campaigns are over and done with, and it’s an obvious one: In politics, campaigns are never over.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.