Friday, November 10, 2006

Full Circle

Back when I was a student at Montreat College, shortly after I had become student body president, we had a congressional candidate speak in one of our convocations. This person was asked to come because she was an alumni of the college, but she was asked not to do any "campaigning." This is not, I expect, because the candidate was a Democrat, although it's tempting to suggest such, given the somewhat-conservative leanings of the college. Instead, I expect that the college did not want someone to require them to bring the other candidate to speak in accordance with "equal time" laws. I expect that if this kind of thing had happened more recently, the "equal time" laws would have kicked in no matter what the candidate was intended to say, simply because she was making an appearance.

I have to confess that I did not actually hear this candidate speak. I don't actually recall why not, and given that students were required to attend a certain number of these events each quarter, and given the fact that I was student body president at the time, I assume that I must have had some reason. In any event, I heard later in the day that the event did, in point of fact, turn out to be far more of a "campaign appearance" than was intended, much to the chagrin of pretty much everybody involved. Even worse, the candidate apparently became rather hostile toward her captive (and admittedly probably hostile themselves) audience, telling them that she had better things to do than to talk to a bunch of unappreciative college students.

This happened to be the year of the last major political switchover from one party to another: 1994. Not surprisingly, the Democratic candidate that spoke to my fellow students did not win. As I recall, she wasn't especially gracious in defeat, either.

Fast forward to this year, when it seems that Democratic victories in both houses of Congress will somewhat reverse the trend of 12 years ago. The candidate that won that 1994 election (who was actually the incumbent in 1994, and who has continued to serve ever since) has now himself been ousted by a new congressman. We seem to have come full circle.

One thing I've been pleased to see so far is that pretty much everybody has been gracious in both victory and defeat. President Bush's lunch with Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has been all over the news. Defeated California gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides gave a very classy concession speech that congratulated his victorious opponent (if you don't know who the governor of California is, you're not paying attention) while remaining true to his own values. Although there were several very close races, we've not yet heard the tales of losing candidates raising vitriolic legal battles to contest the results, such as we had in 2000. I can only hope that this spirit lasts into the actual work that our politicians must perform in the coming year.

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