Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Don't Get Bent Out of Shape if Your Candidate Lost

A little humility can go a long way on election night.

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    The year was 1966. I was in the third grade. The Democratic party candidate for Congress was a Carmel Valley attorney named Gerald Barron.

    I sent him 16 cents for his campaign. Not sure why 16 -- I assume it was all I could muster.

    He was kind enough to stop by my school before the election and give me a campaign hat, sort of like those old-timey convention straw hats. I was thrilled.

    And on election night I remember going to my room in tears. He lost by over 100,000 votes.

    Losing for Democrats in my hometown was a common thing.

    My father had sought state office when I was even younger and also was unsuccessful (but not by the margin of that Congressional candidate). Republicans ruled the day in San Luis Obispo county. The Farm Bureau was big.

    But despite the fact my candidates normally lost, I still enjoyed walking precincts, licking envelopes and organizing rallies for the losers. . Elections were important.

    I stopped being a partisan Democrat a little while after my first Secret Service press credential (1976 for a Reagan campaign event in Paso Robles).

    It was a gradual process. Over time I discovered some of the candidates I thought would be great, weren't so good once in office.

    Some of those I thought would be awful turned out to be admirable public servants. Policies I thought wise corkscrewed from the law of unintended consequences while many of those I thought absurd solved problems I didn't appreciate in ways i never thought possible.

    My batting average was never that good. It was all kind of humiliating.

    So years later I find myself amazed at how many people, particularly those in my industry, seem to be so convinced in their private political righteousness.

    I also find it amusing how many people can't understand why everyone doesn't agree with them.

    Facebook this time of year is sort of toxic for those of use who understand our democracy depends on us not agreeing.

    It's called the "competition of ideas". The administration of justice would not exist if there wasn't an adversarial procedure in court. Democracy requires the same engagement.

    It is a system that is noisy and contentious. This year particularly.

    So here's a thought for an election that millions will celebrate and millions more will find bitter: Be prepared for the guy who won to be not to be as good a leader as his supporters hoped -- or as bad as his opponents feared.

    And remember what Jerry Brown properly predicted when he was first elected Governor in 1974.

    "Keep in mind" he said, "there will be just as many problems when I leave office as there are when I arrive. They may be different problems...but they'll be there. That's life."

    Candor from a former Jesuit seminarian... and easily worth a 16 cent political contribution.

    Conan Nolan is a general assignment reporter for NBC4 Los Angeles and the host of "News Conference."

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