Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2000 / 25 Kislev, 5761
(Actually the '20s vintage Knute Rockne quote is, "Show me a good and gracious loser and I'll show you a failure." Time and use are the best editors.)
No wonder the idea of gracious loss and magnanimous winning is foreign to our political life. "We won. Deal with it," as Newt Gingrich famously crowed in 1994, is more the norm.
Even though President-elect George W. Bush talks about outreach, bipartisanship and being a uniter, not a divider, don't expect the same from the cable-news punditariat and congressional leaders.
So in the interests of domestic peace, what follows is a handy post-election etiquette guide. So the rest of us won't descend to the level of congressmen.
BUMPER STICKERS -- The rule in all elections and at all levels of government is bumper stickers may linger on a car for one week after balloting. This year is different. I suspect more presidential bumper stickers were applied after Election Day than before. Most of them look remarkably fresh. This time, the one-week rule should be invoked as of Al Gore's concession speech. After a full week, people with winning candidates on their bumpers seem to be rubbing it in and people with losers on their cars seem bitter and unwilling to move on.
Another rule for bumper stickers is that more than three stickers on the same issue can signify a temperament that is moving toward that borderline where political enthusiasm becomes political crankery. Two bumper stickers, if the issue is abortion, gun control or your belief that the entire world media is a liberal conspiracy.
Democrats are forbidden from displaying "Don't blame me, I voted Gore or someone near him on the ballot" stickers until after Bush is president and does something overtly dumb.
Impeachment bumper stickers are not to be displayed for at least two years.
YARD SIGNS -- Yard signs have a three-day grace period. After that, your neighbors have the constitutional right to take them down in the dead of night. Or to walk their dogs next to them.
Neighbors who have opposing signs, however, may keep them up if the other guy doesn't return to normal yard decoration. Should such a standoff last more than a month, the situation should be subject to neighborhood arbitration or dead-of-night sign removal by those sick of looking at them. If this fails, neighbors with really big dogs are to take action for as long as it takes.
DINNER CONVERSATION -- Razzing the loser is OK -- indeed, it is a proud American political tradition -- for one week after the concession speech. During that time, I suggest throwing any confident prediction of the election's outcome back at aggressors, since nobody had it right this year.
Still, after a week, it gets old. Overt signs of partisanship are forbidden at Christmas dinner. Any declaration that might reasonably be followed by the words "neener, neener, neener" should be avoided until an even-numbered year. Violators will have to argue with teen-agers unaided or sit at the kids' table.
An alert hostess will refrain from serving cream pies for the next month.
Partisans of both major parties might come together in harmony by asking known Ralph Nader voters to eat outside.
E-MAIL -- Don't send anything that can't be said at the dinner table. (See above.) The circulation of partisan jokes and artfully altered photographs should be limited to people known to have views similar to your own. Keep it up and you'll be amazed at the junk mail lists you'll wind up on.
INAUGURATION DAY -- A 24-hour moratorium on ridicule is obeyed. Even if there's a column