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Capitol View

By Richard Borreca

Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Victors and
vanquished both deserve
our respect

BEFORE closing the book on this election, let us remember the war just fought and the warriors who waged it.

On the other side of the television screen, standing where the politician stands, there was a battle.

Today's winners and losers deserve a few minutes of praise at the end of the election season.

As the saying goes: There is no second place in politics. You either win or you are out.

So politicians enlist in their own political army and find that come election day, in victory they were carried along by hundreds of soldiers, but in defeat they were only an army of one.

The politician who does not realize that winning an election is going to war will not triumph or remain a winner for long.

French statesman Georges Clemenceau said, "It is far easier to make war than to make peace," but in politics the easy path is out of the spotlight and away from the arena.

Much of winning in politics is about showing up. The person who shows up the most usually wins.

But the sheer physical will of getting up every morning in the dark, making the same pitch over and over to many blank, staring faces is what will define the winner.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton, (D-Ind.), argues that what this country needs is more politicians.

"They must be able to build support for their ideas with colleagues, constituents and key individuals. They must search for common ground across parties and among people with diverse interests. They must be able to compromise while preserving core beliefs. And they must get results -- achieving passage of legislation that meets people's needs," he said.

The good politicians know, almost by instinct, that every vote is won on the retail level, making one sale at a time, convincing one person after another.

Those who fail can take solace in the words of H.L. Mencken, an American journalist, who said, "Nothing is so abject and pathetic as a politician who has lost his job, save only a retired stud-horse."

But, for the victors, those who survived the attack ads, the hit mail pieces and the whisper campaigns, the rewards, while not as great as Mencken's equestrian reference, are powerful.

Perhaps that explains those stares given to those who never ran, but still feel a duty to lecture the elected.

Like high school boys explaining jungle firefights to a Green Beret, it just doesn't hold up.

SO it is the wise politician who treats colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, with a little deference and respect.

Political commentator Chris Matthews reminds politicians there is certain etiquette to even the deepest blood feud.

"The one thing you never want to do in an opposition situation, if you're in the majority, is to humiliate the leader of the minority, because the minute you humiliate the leader of the minority, then you have chaos," Matthews said.

Attackers usually find that the wounds only make the memories grow longer and sharper. Those who fought it out at 6 a.m. along Aina Koa aren't going to forget what it took to get into the Legislature or county council and they are going to fight to stay there.

Those who are getting ready to tangle with the just elected Legislature will find 2001 a better year, if they remember the boys in the back room put up one hell of a fight to get there.

Richard Borreca reports on Hawaii's politics every Wednesday.
He can be reached by e-mail at

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