Woster: Comparing what's immediate and what's important
We’ve been doing day care for a three-month-old girl for the past week, so the day after the election around our house was more about diapers and bottles than it was about absentee ballots and threats of lawsuits.
Don’t get me wrong. We care about the election, Nancy and I do. We voted — early, to be sure, but as officially as if we’d walked into the Brule County auditor’s office on Tuesday and marked our choices in person. We each did vote in person, in our own way. Nancy received a ballot in the mail and hand-delivered it to the courthouse a couple of weeks ago. I walked in to get an absentee ballot the last Thursday of October, saw that nobody was voting in the room across the hall, made my choices and handed the sealed envelope to the auditor herself.
We followed some of the returns on election evening. Old folks like us tend to drift off pretty early, though. Not much had been decided nationally by the time we turned in. The next morning we glanced at some social media posts and caught a bit of the early news before Cedar’s dad dropped her off for the day. After that, the little miracle became the focus of our lives until her parents showed up to take her home.
It’s amazing how an infant can focus your attention. It’s been a while since we’ve had one around. Our kids are nearing what used to be middle age, and our youngest granddaughter is in seventh grade. A guy forgets what a total commitment it is to agree to have an infant around. At three months, babies are totally dependent on the adults in the room for their wants and needs They can be remarkably happy one minute and unbelievably crabby the next. In some ways they’re a lot like our country these days.
Finding out who becomes the next leader of the free world is incredibly important. Finding out why a tiny girl is fussing is incredibly immediate. As I thought about that difference on the morning after the election, I found myself rather happy to have the immediacy of an infant’s needs to occupy my mind rather than the minute-by-minute crush of news about elections.
Which is odd. Most of my adult life I fussed as earnestly as a baby over political polls and exit interviews and precinct tallies. For news people, elections are the Super Bowl and Summer Olympics combined. I truly loved everything about elections. The late afternoon calm before returns started to be made public. The adrenaline rush of writing a new lede to a front-page story with five minutes before deadline of the last edition. The morning-after visit to the newsroom to scrounge through the break room for stale pizza in the fridge, to search the window sill for a few left-over nachos with congealed cheese sauce and to microwave a bottom-of-the-pot cup of coffee with the consistency of crude oil. To paraphrase Billy Beane from “Moneyball,” “How can you not be romantic about reporting elections?”
What I’ve gathered from a couple of quick reads of the Secretary of State’s website is that Republicans gained seats in the state Legislature. Gained seats? Another election like this and they’ll run out of seats to gain. It’s going to be something like 95 Republicans to 10 Democrats next session. I’m old enough to remember the early 70s when the Legislature split 53 Democrats and 52 Republicans. Very divisive, but they accomplished much by working together trading ideas, listening to each other.
I’m also old enough to remember the mind-1970s, when a revision of the state’s legal code decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. The next Legislature reversed that, but it almost happened. Now voters have legalized marijuana, both medical and recreational. They placed the recreational piece in the state constitution, as I understand it. The thoughtful scholars of the old Constitutional Revision Commission would be aghast. Things like that don’t belong in the constitution. Still, how do you protect something passed by the people from being changed by legislators?
I’d ramble longer, but Cedar’s bottle isn’t going to warm itself.