Especially with Mitt Romney on the ticket, we're seeing some Utah political junkies caught up in this election with such religious fervor that we worry about their mental health after the ballots are counted. The election's end in little more than a week will be like a death in the family. So here's some fatherly advice for everyone obsessed with polls, candidates and the latest election news.
After Nov. 6, will anything be left to live for?
Pignanelli: "Beware the politically obsessed. They are often bright and interesting, but they have something missing in their natures; there is a hole, an empty place, and they use politics to fill it up. It leaves them somehow misshapen." — Peggy Noonan. I am a sick, demented creature who is a living example of the Webster Dictionary definition of an addict: to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively. Every hour, I check the polls and political commentaries to satisfy my craving for all things campaign-related. Sinking into the depths of nerddom, I play with interactive maps late into the night while listening to the blowhards on cable television.
This all ends in 10 days. But my illness is so deep that a part of me is hoping for a tie in the Electoral College — which guarantees months of intrigue. More realistically, November and December will offer books and programs as to why Barack Obama or Mitt Romney lost, with loads of blame assessed everywhere. The strategies to repeal and protect the controversial programs (i.e., Obamacare, Dodd Frank, etc.) will offer unbelievable entertainment value. Of course, I look forward to Dec. 22 (assuming the Mayans are wrong and the world did not end the day before), which will be the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign — I cannot wait.
Webb: On Nov. 7, we might as well all just shrivel up and die. Without nasty ads, tense debates and unending groveling for money, all joy will evaporate.
Actually, the fun will never really end. If Obama wins, we'll watch Cabinet shakeups and more brinkmanship with Congress over the "fiscal cliff." We'll see if he can try a little bipartisanship to get things done. If Romney wins, the excitement will continue as he puts together a government, making key appointments and perhaps making some dramatic changes in the direction of the country. We'll also watch Congress reorganize.
There will be plenty of breathless headlines on CNN, Huffington Post, Fox News and Drudge. No need to sink into chronic depression.
If my candidate loses, will the sun still come up in the morning and will the birds still sing?
Webb: Frank has lots of practice losing, and he still manages to smile periodically, though there is constant anguish in his heart. So you can put on a happy face even if it hurts.
To some extent, we have to look at politics as a game. It's really a lot more than a game. At some level (war, for example), it is life and death, taxes and a good or bad economy. That's serious stuff. But if you take it too seriously, you really can get depressed when things don't turn out as you wish. So you have to figure you win some and you lose some. There's always another round coming up. You can't get too caught up or it can be debilitating.
Pignanelli: All my life I have endured proclamations from chest-thumpers proclaiming, "If so-and-so wins, I'm cashing out all my investments and moving to Canada." The suggestion that a small group can bring down our republic is completely unfounded. Even the evil puppets of Richard Nixon were burdened with such incompetence they could not complete their plans of shredding the Constitution. Life will go on.
If my candidate wins, will the rest of eternity be nothing but light and happiness?
Webb: Don't we wish. The problem is winners at all levels will have to govern. Campaigning is the easy part. Governing is the hard part. The federal government, in particular, has taken on so many responsibilities, far beyond its proper role, that it's a mess. Out-of-control deficit spending, enormous entitlement liabilities, broad dependence on government programs and high expectations all mean the next president faces nearly insurmountable challenges.
The harsh reality of the office will quickly become apparent. Unpopular decisions and angry constituencies await whoever wins. The 2014 elections could mean another rout for the party in power.
Pignanelli: Ha! Just ask the strident disciples of Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama, etc., what they thought of their hero several years into office. Moreover, our culture presupposes a triumphant political campaign will magically transform supporters into a joyful lot. This suggests Utah Republicans are fun and joyful — they are not. Many of them are like LaVarr, never happy with success and always grumbling about some imagined Democratic plot.
Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. Email: email@example.com.