Paul Greenberg

Dawn doesn't break the morning after an election in Arkansas, but just kind of eases up over the horizon, as if afraid to shine a light on the results. It doesn't come like some hoot owl that can be heard a way off. And by the whole neighborhood. That's not its style this morning. Today dawn comes like a scooch owl, slowly, creeping almost imperceptibly closer and closer and closer to its prey ... until you look down and there's no more prey, only remains. Much like the results of an election carefully recorded in small type on the inside pages, column after column, precinct by precinct, in neat rows, like graves.

Bless their disappointed hearts, the losers are always so surprised by their political demise. They can't help it. Everybody they talked to assured them, friend and stranger alike, that they were sure to win. Nobody turned down a push card, everybody smiled back. That's the South. Or anywhere decent. And now, in the first tenuous glow of day, there is the newspaper at their doorstep -- or on their tablet these days -- saying they've lost. There must be some mistake.

Like an old boy after a bender, dawn opens just one eye at first to keep the glare to a minimum as it peeks out from under the cover of night, hesitant to assess the damage left behind by the day before. Indeed, by the whole campaign before. Dawn hesitates. As if not wanting to see the shambles strewn in every direction.

I know how dawn feels. The light hurts. The party's over, and the mess will have to be cleaned up. The dull, slogging, mundane world is back. The election didn't change everything after all. No wonder dawn would really rather stay in bed. Dawn doesn't dawn today so much as tremble tenuously on the edge of day. Yesterday seems so long ago.

Dawn stirs but doesn't fully wake, shuddering at the prospect of having to file the after-action report on this campaign. How is The Candidate going to put the worst of it in the best light? Goodness, where did all the balloons and cheers go? The bumper stickers lie crumpled on the floor, the signs and banners hang limp from the ceiling. Somebody needs to take them down before they depress even more.

Nothing remains of all the razzmatazz of the campaign. It's turned into the flotsam and jetsam of a victory party that, 'long about midnight, or even before, had turned into a wake.

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.