And the winner is… 

Our resident poet reacts to the presidential election outcome.

Sitting with friends on Election Night, the tension is fortunately driving some of us to drink. But it’s clear I’m going to crash before the undecided voters decide everything and the winner jumps out of the box, so I’ve decided to write two statements to cover either contingency.

If Romney had won

Help us to save free conscience from the paw

Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw.

Well, ugh! But for most of us, Romney’s victory will be painless in the way that Iraq was painless: except for its hidden costs, it’s not going to affect us very much. Those with jobs or pensions, and health insurance, will sail into a reasonably comfortable future, ignoring the huge number of miserables weeping in emergency rooms, and sweating the hard work for us — if they have any work at all. We in the top 53 percent will live out our allotted years, smiling and shaking our heads at the chance we lost. Like the Rays who missed the playoffs, we’ll look back and think, If we had only run a little faster, or given a little more, it could have ended differently. Why did we think choosing Obama would be so obvious?

Oddly enough, this sad result could temporarily straighten out the economy. In the annals of Undeserved Rewards, it would rank up there with the Prodigal Son getting the fatted calf (this might titillate the Tea Party, if not the vegetarians); but with Romney as president, leaders in Congress and business may stop playing their roles of blind obstructionists, and push for bills that would make their Republican president look good. And the economy’s getting better anyway.

For the next four years, though, it looks like the poor, and perhaps a small nation or two, are going to get kicked around pretty hard. We hope not, and we wish them, President Romney, and the entire country, an educated future and lots of luck. In the meantime, Jeanne and I are already excited about the new season of Downton Abbey starting Jan. 6.

But since Obama won…

…Peace hath her victories

No less renowned than war…

When Andy Murray, after years of losing, finally won the U.S. Tennis Open — the first Brit to win a Grand Slam in 36 years — he didn’t jump up and down with frenzied glee. He took deep breaths, he rubbed his eyes. Asked how he felt, he said, “I guess I just feel relieved.” (I imagine he partied later that night.)

As an American, watching Barack Obama’s victory, I feel many things but, like Andy, mainly relieved. I’d like to think a country gets what it deserves; the Tea Party, I hope, will think it’s God’s will, and embrace the results. I’d also like to think it proves America can’t be bought or stolen: never has one party worked so hard to suppress the vote, never have the rich tried so fiercely to buy the country, and never have so many lies been so blatantly blared.

Once, while I was teaching at the University of Neuchâtel, we were driving along one of the narrow winding roads in the Swiss Alps, and I pulled over to get a better view. Looking out the window of our VW van, Jeanne cried out in alarm, “We’re on a precipice!” The children enjoyed this enormously, and kept screaming “We’re on a precipice!” for the rest of the trip; and the sentence remains in our family’s lexicon.

America still has big problems, but we’re no longer on a precipice.

So, like Andy Murray, we’re primarily relieved. Still, we might party tomorrow tonight.

Both quotes from “To the Lord General Cromwell” by John Milton (1608-1674).

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