Polls apart and glad for it

Published 11:05 pm Thursday, November 8, 2012

The people have spoken, but what they said is up for debate. And let’s hope that debate never stops.

In politics, as in life, there will always be winners and losers, and deciding which is which can be a dicey undertaking.

Visiting four Suffolk polling locations Tuesday, there was a stark contrast between the peacefulness and orderliness of folks waiting in line to exercise their democratic right and, well, the six months that led up to it — attack ad after attack ad and the 24-hour news cycle jammed in election mode.

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A lot has been said already about what lies in store for the Republican Party now, and to rehash, with the nation’s demographic landscape changing, it will have to depart from its current course and retool for the future, or fade away.

If the wheels spectacularly fall off President Barack Obama’s second term, Republicans could stick to their ideological guns and still win the 2016 election. But in the long run, the GOP has to start representing more of the views of the 52.28 percent of voters who in this election supported either Obama — even during an economic recovery that’s taking too long — one of the three third-party candidates or a write-in.

Republicans may also have to start disowning the odd crackpot, such as anybody who holds that a woman’s body will shut down a pregnancy if it resulted from “legitimate” rape — anybody capable of believing such a thing shouldn’t be anywhere near the reins of power.

Progressive renewal would leave the party open to charges of “neglecting the base,” not to mention the perception that it’s just poll-driven political calculation.

But the fact is, we live in a nation with a democratic system of representative government where people decide what kind of society they want and vote for the party they think will best help provide it.

Democracy is messy and it sometimes ends in failure, but since moving here I have learned that Americans, the same as citizens in my native Australia and apparently many other thriving democracies, will continue to make it work.

Ancient Greece may no longer be with us and Rome might have fallen, but we carry the political flame they passed to us, continually refining its basic truth.

Yes, it was an acrimonious election, and no, they’re not going to put aside their differences and start agreeing on everything just because it’s over. Neither will politically minded members of their electorates. Would we want them to? There’s a name for a political system in which there’s no dissent or argument, both glorious things, to my mind.

In China right now, a once-in-a-decade leadership transition is taking place behind closed doors. Faceless men are deciding who will lead the most populous country on earth, while access to foreign websites has been blocked and Beijing taxis have been ordered to lock their windows lest passengers send political leaflets fluttering.

Give me attack ads and open disagreement between pundits any day.