The kiss

Now that both the hype and the hoopla of the Presidential election are over, it’s time for the Democrats and Republicans to kiss and make up, intent on solving the problems this seemingly interminable campaign occasionally brought into focus. Now that both the hype and the hoopla of the Presidential election are over, it’s time for Keene to become Keene again.

Discarded campaign signs

I’ve lived in New Hampshire for three Presidential elections: two in Keene and one in Hillsborough. In 2000, when my then-husband and I were newly arrived in Hillsborough, an acquaintance explained the basics of the political process here in the Granite State: “Every four years, the circus comes to town.” The “circus” this acquaintance referred to includes the candidates themselves, the necessary media entourage, and campaigners of every sort and stripe. Hillsborough was a small enough town, we didn’t get many door-to-door canvassers, houses being spread out and driveways being long. But we heard about the inevitable local photo-ops where visiting candidates posed over pie at the local diner, stopping long enough to eat some food, shake some hands, and kiss some babies. For independent and write-in candidates, the best way to get attention (or at least inspire a political conversation) was to stage elaborate or silly publicity stunts. During our first election season in New Hampshire, for instance, my then-husband and I were invited to one political house party where an otherwise unknown Presidential candidate staged a unique kind of photo-op, cleaning our hostess’ toilet while explaining the tenets of his political platform. What do you expect from a candidate whose campaign slogan was “Because everything is crappy”?

Obama and McCain

I’ve not been to any toilet-cleaning political parties since moving from Hillsborough, but Keene is thickly settled enough to attract lots of door-to-door canvassers leaving literature and looking to talk to undecided voters. Because I’m in Massachusetts on weekends and often on campus during my weekdays in Keene, I’m typically spared the worst of the unsolicited solicitors. Four years ago, when droves of Massachusetts Kerry-ites descended upon Keene, my upstairs neighbor was so besieged by Election-Day door-knockers–a half-dozen before noon–she taped a sign to our door saying “WE’VE VOTED: GO AWAY.” Although I understand the political zeal and sincerity of out-of-state canvassers, those of us who live in New Hampshire have typically had plenty of opportunities to meet the candidates themselves, so there’s a touch of arrogance (the political equivalent of white man’s burden?) to the out-of-state assumption that the citizens of New Hampshire need to be “educated” or even “enlightened” about the campaign that’s been raging in our own backyard.

Now that we’re settling into the routine of the mornings after the election, the political circus has pulled out of town right as the real work remains to be done. This year more than ever, politicians and American citizens alike have a “crappy” situation to deal with, and now we’re left with our own toilets to clean. Neither Barack Obama nor any other member of the Newly Elected has a magic toilet-brush with which to clean up the mess we current find ourselves sitting in. After the circus rolls out of town, it’s up to us regular folks–the folks who live here, wherever “here” happens to be–to do the dirty work this seemingly interminable campaign occasionally brought into focus. All any President can do is outline a plan, elicit action, inspire, and cajole.