An oft overlooked feature of electoral politics is the post-mortem. In every election there’s one loser, sometimes two if there’s an independent candidate. Sure you get the concession speech, but that’s scripted by some campaign flack and observes all the usual pieties. After all, they know they might run for another office – Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections – and they don’t want to antagonize the voters they may need to romance later. So you can tell that Dick Tuck (above) didn’t plan on any more runs for office. Tuck was more of a political guerrilla fighter than a candidate. He made a career out of sabotaging Richard Nixon’s campaigns. On one occasion when Nixon was on a whistle-stop tour, Tuck donned a railroad uniform and signaled the engineer to leave the station in the middle of Nixon’s speech. Nixon gave one of the more famously resentful press conferences when, after losing the election for California governor to Pat Brown in 1962, he told the press he was retiring, and finished with, ”You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.” It wasn’t, but it’s still great theatre.
We’d like to see candidates do post-election press conferences like NFL coaches do – right after the game is over, the votes are counted and emotions still run high. Imagine Al Gore reprising the Dennis Green 2006 post-game rant after the Bears cames back from a 20 point second half deficit to beat his Arizona Cardinals. He could shout, “the Bush Cheney ticket were who we thought they were! So Supreme Court, if you want to crown their . . .” and so on. You probably saw Coach Green’s performance commemorated in a beer commercial, as well as Colts coach Jim Mora’s famous “Playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs?” routine after a 2001 loss to the Forty-niners. Mora’s vocal quality is on a par with Ron Paul’s, who never got past the first few rounds of Republican primary debates, and might go something like this: “General election? You kiddin’ me? General election?” Jets coach Herm Edwards’ famous 2002 post game, “You play to win the game! Hello? You play to win the game!” rant is pretty hard to assign to any one political personality because it sounds so much like the guy three stools down at last call. Maybe Hillary, who went to work for the guy she lost the nomination to in 2008: “You play to win the game, but what difference, at this point, does it make?!”
Most of the aforementioned losers have rebounded in one way or the other. Al Gore has had an interesting career as a climate change alarmist and media mogul. Ron Paul has retired from politics but son Rand has picked up the standard as Kentucky Senator and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful. After a controversial stint as Secretary of State, Hillary seems poised to capture the Democratic party nomination for president. Of course Nixon came back to give quite a few more memorable press conferences. For a while there it was hard to swing a dead cat in Washington without hitting a Kennedy. They, or their relatives, keep turning up again and again like a bad penny. Maybe Dennis Green was right about the politicians as well as the Bears. As horrible as it might seem, maybe they really are who we think they are.
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