VIEW FROM THE HILL- How about a kinder, gentler election?

One can always tell when the fall season is here. Aside from the usual observances such as Halloween and the first hint of winter’s frosty breath, the non-stop airing of political ads on television, not to mention the usual crop of campaign signs dotting the landscape, indicates fall has arrived in full force.

If only we could have elections where each candidate would only speak about himself or herself and let the voter decide who is most qualified.

Just once, I would like to experience a kinder, gentler adventure at the ballot box before the polls close.

Now that elections are over, the mudslinging will subside for a while. The Republican Party lost its majority in both houses on the national level, not to mention a number of state offices.

“All politics is local,” observed former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Before the election, conservative political pundits and the Bush Administration believed local politics would carry the day.

The Republican leadership should have known there were exceptions to that rule. After all, O’Neill was a shrewd politician in his own right, and a Democrat at that.

This year was the exception from the local political rule. Depending on which polling service you trust, voters placed a higher priority on national issues. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan, lack of adequate health-care reform and ethics failures of highly visible Republican figures contributed to the defections of moderately conservative Republicans and Independents.

Even staunchly conservative allies of George W. Bush were not surprised at the outcome. In a recent radio broadcast, Focus on the Family’s James Dobson concluded the Bush Administration and top leaders of Congress “shot themselves in the foot.”

Traditional Republican supporters abandoned their own party and voted for other candidates.

“They didn’t walk the walk,” Dobson said.

Victorious Democrats say, “We told you so. We knew this upset was coming.”

That may be debatable, but who can argue with that now? Whatever the reasons for the outcome, the political environment in Washington, D.C., will change.

Democrats will also have to change how they behave. They no longer have the Republicans to blame. When the next congressional session begins, they will be in the spotlight and will shoulder the responsibility to enact sensible legislation in the interests of all Americans.

Hiding behind the “We were victims of the conservative Republican right” excuse is no longer acceptable. After all, who will believe them now?

* * *

November happens to be the time when yours truly celebrates the annual milestone-or ritual, if you will. Birthdays seem to come much faster than they ever did when I was much younger. I am still adjusting to last year’s age. Don’t rush me.

My oldest sister, Lori, is our family’s faithful chronicler of such events. She wrote in an e-mail, “Well, you will be having another birthday this week. I hope you will have a happy day and not work too hard.”

I eagerly await the happy day part. The hard work part is usually unavoidable.

Lori continued, “Several years ago, Todd and (daughter-in-law) Lori sent Doyle a funny birthday card that said: ‘I wouldn’t say you’re old…but if you were a tractor tire, you’d be lying on your side full of petunias!’ Shoebox Greeting cards sure calls them like they see them. Ouch!”

There are days when lying on my side sounds like a good thing. Then again, I’m not too excited with the rest of the story. Not at my young age, anyway.

In the interest of making full disclosure as much as I care to, Lori did include my true age in the letter. I responded, “Yep, I’m that number…. The upside is I will never see that number again. The downside…. I’ll never see that number again.”

As my age goes up, forces beyond my grasp are making things expand, shrink, fall down or fall out. I do not need anyone to remind me of that, and yet I recall another birthday and cherish the card from daughter Jessica that said: “I like what you’ve done to your hair. It’s such a nice one.”

According to the old saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” It’s also the only legal and socially acceptable form of revenge. I am waiting for the day when my yet-to-be born grandchildren will grow up and give their parents equally generous compliments.

The ritual of celebrating a birthday with friends and family is still a good thing. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is an opportunity to communicate and reconnect with people we love.

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