It’s ironic and instructive that, when we had such a huge turnout in last week’s election, we still have several close contests to resolve.
Could it be that the electorate has become somewhat bipolar?
Obviously, the contest of the most interest in Escondido is the dead heat between incumbent Mayor Sam Abed, trying for a third term, and his challenger, Paul McNamara. The last time we looked, they were separated by less than 30 votes.
Let no one ever say that the individual vote does not matter. This election it has had more than its share of close contests all over the U.S., in Florida, Arizona, Mississippi and two House races here in California.
One might say that the closer an election is, the better it is for general governance. Lopsided election results tend to produce in the beneficiary of the voters’ generosity an unfortunate hubris, the delusion of a mandate. Often what victorious candidates mistakenly perceive to be a mandate from the electorate is actually an aversion for the other candidate.
To use a national example, people who voted for Trump often did it not because they loved Trump, but because they despised Hillary Clinton. People who marked an X next to Clinton didn’t necessarily go into raptures over her so much as stomach pains over him.
Usually when Republicans win big, it’s not because all those independents slapped themselves on the forehead and exclaimed, “Boy they are smart!” More often they have looked at the Democrats in horror and said, “My God, what an awful choice I have!”
Then two years later you see the exercise repeated, with independents watching aghast as Republicans gleefully jump the shark, causing the independents or moderates to move to the other side of the ship, nearly capsizing it. For the last forty years or so, Americans have comfortably embraced divided government.
I personally understand the sentiment for divided government. Although my philosophy is generally small government and strong defense, my default position when Congress is in session comes from the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm.” Can’t do much harm if you can’t pass anything, can you?
Let us consider that the same dynamic could be at work in Escondido. Whomever wins the mayor’s mantle, it might be wise to take the position that if half of the electorate didn’t want you, perhaps the path of humility would be to assume the necessity of compromise, mutual respect and probity.
Do I think that’s likely? Nah.