The BIG Picture: Let's take out the trash

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John O'Connor, Editorial Director
John O'Connor, Editorial Director

In the song “Red Shoes,” Elvis Costello famously sings: “I used to be disgusted, but now I try to be amused.” Although the lyrics were recorded back in 1976, they provide an appropriate framework for viewing our just-concluded election season.

We witnessed plenty of reasons to be disgusted. So maybe it's time to laugh at the folly of it all.

Let's start with the proliferation of unsavory political advertisements we were treated to. Negative ads are the weapon of choice among office seekers for a simple reason. They work. If you only have 15 or 30 seconds to play with, it's tough to talk about your qualifications, what you plan to do or how you should be held accountable when the next election cycle comes around. It's much easier and effective to simply slime the other guy (or gal).

My favorite part was when the candidate backing these dodgy screeds solemnly tells us at the end who he is, and that he “approved this message.” Really? Was that before or after the hallucinogenics kicked in? Not sure if irony is officially dead yet, but shame appears to be in short supply.

And even though the elections were a month ago, perhaps it's worth revisiting what the major themes were this year. Of course, to do that, one needs to back up to 2008, when Democrats promising change helped oust many Republicans from office.

Apparently, many people felt the change Democrats had in mind either went too far (healthcare reform, trillions of dollars in new debt) or not far enough (unemployment levels remain high while the treasury is being gutted).

This time, the races seemed to be more about finding the right blend.

So what happens now? Do the remaining Democrats keep demanding the kind of change that helped oust many of their colleagues (more healthcare reform, financial reform, more stimulus spending)? Or will reinvigorated Republicans champion the things that helped push them to the sidelines two years ago (indifference to the unemployed, tax cuts while the treasury goes broke, and paying for two wars with credit cards)?

Regardless, there is some serious work to be done. And it would be a refreshing change if our latest batch of public servants actually starts serving the public.

Our new leaders seem to have learned that talking trash is the easiest way to get elected. Let's hope they also realize that trash performance is the quickest path back to the private sector.