Paul Greenberg

Only the most addicted political buffs will read much into the results of this year's off-off-year elections. But to the commentators, critics, climbers and just fans hooked on politics, a most powerful hallucinogenic, there may be all kinds of deep meanings hidden in last week's scattered returns. Political junkies need only peer into the murky depths and call forth deep significance -- like a gypsy fortune teller examining your palm and finding portents galore therein.

True seers tend to be those who claim not to be, like old Amos -- no, not Mr. Amos Jones, Owner and Operator of the Fresh Air Cab Company on the old "Amos 'n' Andy Show," but the one in the Old Testament. The one who claimed to be neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but just a simple shepherd who gathered a few acorns here and there. Even a blind hog may happen on one from time to time, like some hapless newspaper columnist peering through a thicket of disparate election returns looking for a pattern, any pattern, in all that undergrowth, or even a sign of things to come. It's great fun if you don't take it too seriously.

Last week's tea leaves/election returns may say a good deal more about the present than the future, and what they say, if anything, may depend on who's looking at them. To some of us they say the whole, mixed-up and deeply divided country has one thing in common: The American people are fed up with both political parties.

Call it a bipartisan disgust. Which is understandable. No sooner had Republicans taken most of the blame for shutting down the federal government than along came the great roll-out of Obamacare, which proved -- and is still proving -- a great fizzle.

Until the trainwreck that was Obamacare's debut, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia was favored to win Tuesday's election there by a landslide. But after Obamacare shuddered and stalled on the launching pad, the odds-on favorite in Virginia was lucky to eke out a win over his less-than-popular Republican opponent.

The saddest election returns, expected as they were, came out of New York City, where the voters elected a Democratic mayor for the first time in decades. Expected as they were, the election results in Gotham threaten to return the city to its pre-Rudy Giuliani period, when a succession of incompetent mayors ushered in a Hobbesian state of nature. Labor unions regularly paralyzed the city, the crime-ridden subway system was less public transit than public danger, whole neighborhoods were left to totter into decay, and municipal finances teetered on the edge of bankruptcy time and again.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.