- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008




Political junkies, beware. The euphoria of an election cycle - up and down highs and lows of the primaries, poll-pumping adrenaline, sense of urgency over who’s saying what about whom, rush of anxiety as the state-by-state numbers pour in - all comes to a crashing halt tonight.

Granted, many Americans will feel a sense of relief that enough is enough, it can’t be over soon enough - having tired of all the campaign e-mails, talking points, onslaught of television ads, robo-calls and political pundit blatherings.

But for political junkies, it’s been our elixir. It has kept us transfixed on a purpose for the past two years. It has lulled us into visions of hope, reform, renewal and reaffirmation. Like that jolt of caffeine in the morning - it has propelled us day-by-day to believe in something, hope in a cause, defend a position or stand for the sake of principle. It’s spurred discussion, debate, even downright mutiny among family members. Sure, it can be said that there is nothing “new” under the sun and the more things change, the more they stay the same, but that’s for the jaded.

After tonight, how will we fill those months of flipping through the national rags and pouring through Web sites - like Politico, Real Clear Politics, Rasmussen and Gallup, clicking through C-SPAN, CNN, FOX or MSNBC - just to get a quick hit of that political junk? What about all the fodder and pontificating about racism, sexism and ageism? History made, history undone, redoing history and just throwing history out the door? Sideshows that included baby-mamas to Buckeye Joe’s … from one racist reverend to another with a bit of Obama envy … liberal feminists gone wild over one Sarah Palin and a media drinking more Kool-aid than it wanted to let on. Then there were the candidate monikers - from the comeback geezer, to the chosen one, a gaffe-a-minute-Joe and a barracuda mom - all made comic relief come easy for the late-night crowd. Who knew politics could be funny?

What was missing from Election ‘08? Scandal. Like gossip, we all love to hate it. Yet we didn’t get enough of it. Aside from the Rezko, Ayers and ACORN news stories, a revisiting of the Keating Five and what the press dubbed “Trooper-gate” (give me a break), there was no real scandal. For that we’d have to hit replay on the Clinton years and reminisce about Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky.

It has certainly been a much more sobering campaign season with all the economic woes, financial bailouts, job losses, industry shut downs and a housing bubble that burst. It will make for a darker holiday season and a challenging first term for tonight’s winner.

Republicans feel they have the most to lose if McCain-Palin doesn’t miraculously pull it off. Not only will the party be faced with re-evaluating its brand and redefining conservatism, but despair and depression may well set in at the thought of one-party control of Congress and the White House. As conservative columnist Thomas Sowell so eloquently put it over the weekend: “Add to Obama and Biden House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and you have all the ingredients for a historic meltdown.” And the New York Times’ David Brooks: “What we’re going to see, in short, is the Gingrich revolution in reverse and on steroids.”

In 2004, liberals - particularly the Hollywood crowd - swore they would move to Canada should George W. Bush win a second term (not quite sure what happened with that). But this election, where will conservatives go? Maybe we could all move to Alaska - after all liberals don’t really consider it part of the U.S. and we know Mrs. Palin would be glad to have us.

Most assuredly, withdrawal symptoms may appear immediately. The climax culminates once the ballots are counted no matter who wins and who’s celebrating. Something that was there, won’t be anymore. The high drama, over. One reader e-mailed me with an official name for what is surely a disorder: “Presidential Talk Stress Disorder (PTSD).” He could be on to something. George Mason University professor and author of “Spinner-in-Chief,” Steve Farnsworth, told me “it takes a little time to detox.” Like going from three cups of coffee a day to decaf. But the junkies will find something else to focus on, at least until the next race.

Actor David Alan Grier, who has been “too stressed” and consumed “too much information” over the course of this election, told a CNN anchor that he didn’t know what he would do with his pre-election stress, post-election.

Have no fear, my fellow junkies, there is a “what’s next.” For one, there will be lots to critique with the new commander-in-chief. Newness brings adjustment and that will suck up at least the first 12 months. In addition, there will be a full plate - with the economy, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a real Iranian threat and energy - just to start.

And while this election may have raised the enthusiasm on both sides, for us junkies it’s never too soon to start on the next one. Or - we can take up knitting.

Tara Wall is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Times. [email protected] times.com.

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