Turn out the lights. This party ended a long time ago

Thank God. Another election campaign is almost over.


The endless glut of cookie-cutter campaign ads will no longer clog the TV and radio airwaves. True mass marketing professionals will take over those spots, motivating us to buy cars, prescription drugs and vaginal spray.


The sea of campaign signs at every intersection in America stop being promotion for their cookie cutter candidates and become what they really are – eyesores and litter.


The telephone will stop ringing with recorded messages from Laura Bush, Sen. Ted Kennedy and God knows who else, only to be replaced by the usual telemarketers pushing low-interest credit cards and great deals on cable TV.


And as in most American elections, a minority of those qualified to vote by virtue of age and citizenship will have made the decisions on who runs this country for the next couple years.


Whatever the outcome after the polls close Tuesday night, several things will happen:


  • Both sides will declare victory, no matter what the voters say;
  • Pundits who made bold predictions before the election and missed the mark entirely will not admit they were wrong but will talk on and on about how they got the nuances right;
  • If Republicans win key races, they will call it a mandate for President George W. Bush. If Democrats win, they will say it is a public rejection of his policies;
  • No matter who wins in Florida, the other side will claim fraud at the polls;
  • Campaign consultants and hired guns will bank their huge fees and start work immediately on the 2004 elections.


But once the counting has stopped, the winners declared, the recounts demanded and the hangovers have set in, one question will remain:


What the hell happened?


Election 2002 could be called the campaign that wasn’t. It didn’t dominate the news. Election news lost out most nights to endless replays of the DC sniper case, bin Laden speculation and the Winona Ryder shoplifting trial.


Those who think courts, not voters, should decide elections started crying voter fraud 10 days before the polls opened but nobody paid much attention. After round-the-clock coverage of hanging chads, it takes a lot to motivate news directors.


Voters, for the most part, let their answering machines take the calls from Laura and Ted, ignored the sea of signs on their way to work in the morning and missed the TV ads because they channel surfed during commercials.


Paul Wellstone had to die in a plane crash to spur interest in the Minnesota Senate race (and some nutcases actually claim the Democrats killed him because he was trailing in the polls and they needed a stronger candidate).


A record number of incumbents in House, Senate and state elections ran unopposed this time because their opponents just couldn’t find anyone either qualified or crazy enough to run against them.


Perhaps it is appropriate that most politicians are lawyers because politics has replaced law as the butt of jokes. Late night comics discuss the elections not out of any sense of civic responsibility but because those running for office are such great subjects for ridicule and laughter.


In a few hours, it will be over.


For now.


Winners will be declared. Losers will go home and try to find a way to pay off their campaign debts.


In the sad, harsh face of reality, however, nobody wins. The American political system is nothing more than a sideshow, an orchestrated display of freaks offered up for questionable entertainment value and mind-numbing boredom.


The messages are the same, tired promises that no one expects to be kept, offered up in the same, prepackaged way in forgettable ads which feature the same, solemn-voiced announcers reading the same words and backed by the same Musak.


Change the channel.


The show’s almost over.


If there were any mercy in the world, it would have been cancelled for bad ratings several weeks ago.