Avoiding the din of national politics

Published 1:18 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

“The newspaper is a jealous mistress,” Mae Streit told me once.

She was a retired editor with a voice made deep and raspy by her love of cigarettes, and one wouldn’t have been surprised if there had once been bourbon in the bottom drawer of her desk. She coached me most Mondays at lunch during my first stint as a newspaper editor oh, so many years ago,

I was young and single and didn’t really understand what she meant. I’ve long since figured out, and sometimes I really don’t mind.

Take, for instance, this week. Some weeks require late-night work just because it’s when things happen. Halloween, football, something extra in the day that pushes work into the night. You might think that’s a drag. Sometimes it is. But I really am glad to have mostly missed this week’s national news.

Because like most of you, I just want the national election to be over already.

I get more than I need of breathless interviews from the swing states and constant coverage of candidates’ speeches in the hour I listen to CNN each morning. I really don’t want to hear any more of it at night.

The only poll that counts is the one on Tuesday that will determine the electoral college process. If we are spared a repeat of the hanging chad debacle, we should know the outcome of the election by breakfast Wednesday at the very latest.

Here in Alabama, there’s a huge sense of “my vote doesn’t count.” The comments refer generally to the Electoral College process and the fact that we live in a winner-take-all state. That means that all nine of our Electoral College votes will go to Tuesday’s winner of the popular vote in Alabama. It is a foregone conclusion that Romney can count those.

But even people who support the former governor feel their vote doesn’t count. They fear that Romney will win the popular vote nationally, but the Obama will win in the Electoral College.

As weary as we are of the campaign, the state elections upset me more. National, state and local elections boil down to a few talking points these days. And we’ve come to accept that many of the talking points will be deliberately misleading because false information works.

In Alabama, the man who would be chief justice again is running on federal issues he’ll never be asked to address if he is returned to the bench. The deficit and same-sex marriage are not issues he’ll have to decide. But he will be tasked with managing a budget-strapped court system in a state in which legislators keep talking about turning prisoners out of jail to balance budgets. Has anyone heard him weigh in on that?

A candidate for chairman of the Public Service Commission is campaigning on jobs. Jobs? Obviously, she doesn’t understand the one for which she’s campaigning, or at least she’s counting on voters not to. Members of the PSC regulate utilities, telecommunications companies, and some transportation issues. They don’t recruit industry, and shouldn’t. What will she do to help keep energy prices low in Alabama? That’s what we should be asking.

Elsewhere on this page is a guest column by a former Congressman who suggests that we need to return to a practice of civilized public discourse. That I’d love to hear.

‘Til then, I’m happy to be hiding here in the office. Except for that loud printing press in the back of The Star-News, it’s mostly quiet here after dark.