[Note: Read this tomorrow if the results of today's election leave you feeling down in the dumps.]
Most readers of this blog have above-average intelligence. Surely you're one of our above-average readers. Am I right? Being above-average means, by definition, that the majority isn't up to your level. Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised when the majority or a plurality votes for the other candidate in an election. It's probably too much to expect the bottom half to always see things your way. Living in such a rarified intellectual stratosphere, you'll often zig when the crowd zags. I suggest you either learn to accept this, or come down off your high horse, join the mob and go with the flow. You can't have it both ways.
Anyways, how are you so sure your candidate was the right candidate? If you think about it, political discourse revolves around a gigantic attribution error, as candidates take credit for all the good stuff that's happened during their term, promise to make sure good stuff like that happens in the future, and blame all the bad stuff on their opponents. Needless to say, at best this is extremely simplistic and at worst it's completely wrong. The world moves in accordance with deep fundamental principles that resist tinkering; there's very little one politician can do that has any effect on those principles. At the same time, the world is an incredibly complicated organism, a daily concert of trillions of decisions by billions of independent actors. Some actions end up being more important than others, to be sure, but the chances that your candidate's actions would have made a meaningful difference in the grand scheme of things are slim to none.
Even in the rare instance when a particular politican can make a difference, that politician, even with the best of intentions, can screw it up royally. Just like you and me, you see, politicians are fallible. Just like us, they're also more likely to mess up as the situations becomes more difficult. So when push comes to shove, who's to say your candidate would even do the right thing? How do you know his mistakes wouldn't be worse than the other guy's? If you think you know this now, you're just guessing.
It's not the candidate, it's the issues, you're thinking. Well, consider that your issues are derived from your experience. Your experience is exclusively backwards-looking. Who knows what tomorrow's issues will be? No one. Chances are the issues that were important to you today won't be important to you tomorrow. How many people who voted for Nixon expected an Arab oil embargo? Ditto for Carter and the Iran hostage crisis, Bush I and the invasion of Kuwait, Clinton and the dot com bubble and Bush II and 9/11. All we know is that yesterday's winning candidate will end up being known for something we didn't expect him to be known for.
And while we're on the topic, let's not buy into the extremist rhetoric we've been hearing for the past few months. The candidates have a vested interest in separating themselves from their opponents, emphasizing their differences, making you think they're polar opposites. The reality is, of course, much different. Our politicians, like most Americans, tend to cluster around the middle, more alike than different. Few, if any, seriously contemplate the sort of radical epoch-making changes to the system that are so distressingly common in other countries. Even if they did, our representative democracy, our federalist system, our Constitution, our checks and balances, our Article III life tenure judges, our entrenched representatives hailing from safely gerrymandered districts and, perhaps most of all, our sclerotic bureaucracy, make extreme change very difficult to impossible to implement. So what if most of our elections are between Tweedledum and Tweedledee? Truly exciting and decisive elections, the kind that offer real choices, are the sort that usually end up in something like the Spanish Civil War. So give thanks you live in a country in which it matters so little which politician wins.
If you're still disconsolate over yesterday's results, look deep inside yourself and ask whether it's healthy to allow your happiness and well-being to depend to such an extent on the outcome of a political contest. Do you really believe that your candidate would have been your knight in shining armor, ready, willing and able to slay your dragons and protect and provide for you and your loved ones? Are you really that gullible and passive? Have you considered the hundreds of concrete self-help actions you could take that would have a far more predictable, direct and beneficial effect on the happiness and well-being of you and your loved ones? It all starts with you, not some sound-biting, hand-shaking, baby-kissing, influence-peddling, money-sucking, pork-doling, power-mad, blow-dried, stuffed-shirted, empty-headed popinjay.
This all may be hard for you to absorb, especially after you've immersed yourself in wall-to-wall campaign coverage these past few months. Consider, however, that every single person involved in our political discourse -- the candidates, the political classes, the ideologues, the think tanks, the commentators, the polibloggers, the pollsters, the news reporters and the televised talking heads -- has every incentive to make you believe that the sun rises and sets because of them. They live in a self-referential bubble inflated by your slavish devotion. They want to be your reality. Don't let them. Look outside. Did the sun rise today? Will it set tonight? Did your candidate's loss, or the other candidate's win, have anything to do with that?
In the end, it’s probably a good thing your candidate lost yesterday. Today’s disappointment and disillusionment may be just the catalyst you needed to shift your thinking away from the pursuit of political illusions and back towards the real world. Imagine the suckers whose candidates won yesterday -- they’re in for quite a let-down when their candidates prove incapable of changing the weather with a wave of their wands. Or, sadder still, those voters may never face the futility of their faith in the political flim-flam, spending their lives blindly following leaders to the Promised Land, never realizing their leaders only walk in circles.