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Bask in the elections' afterglow while it lasts

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© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001

Honeymoons are intended to be times of bliss in ideal surroundings, during which the participants reinforce the fairy-tale myth that they have usually painted their relationship to be.

Perfectly coiffed, with every fold of clothing properly arranged, silhouetted by a Caribbean sunset or with a roaring Niagara Falls behind them, couples raise crystal glasses in perfect toasts to a future seen through glasses so rose-colored that the entire world looks as happy and beneficent as they are feeling.

He never will have a three-day beard, she never will have PMS, neither ever will bounce a check and the toilet seat always will be in a position satisfactory to the needs and comfort of both. Children will be perfect, all members of both families will be a joy to entertain and the passion born of springtime will only have grown by winter.

That's how everyone involved fervently hopes things will work out, and, of course, it is the way they never do.

It is much the same with politics.

New politicians and their constituency want to bask in the glow of surfeited lovers still warm and comforted from the November pinnacle of mutual love and admiration.

But even as they toast one another at the post-election victory (or recount) party, they often are really more like wary Greco-Roman wrestlers, circling each other suspiciously, looking for a weakness, leery of a feint.

It is often we journalists who first are seen as the enemy, usually just because we are more visible and more likely to be the first members of the tag-team to get head-slapped or, to be fair, to throw a punch to the groin when the ref isn't looking.

I say all this because, at this writing, Bob White has been sheriff of Pasco County and Richard Nugent has been sheriff of Hernando County for the same number of days, and I have yet to get a late-night anonymous telephone call from employees of either telling me that morale is at an "all-time low" in those week-old administrations.

It's a little more likely to happen in Pasco, where a new sheriff from a new party with new political inclinations is taking over, than in Hernando, where Nugent pretty was much the anointed successor to his old boss.

Planks were walked and the ship was jumped as White took over, and it probably will get a little nastier a little more quickly there.

There has been an occasional nip and swat taken in this post-election haze.

A battle looms over control of the fire department in San Antonio.

A School Board member in Citrus has drawn heavy fire by pointing out that the U.S. and Florida constitutions prohibit establishment of a state religion, and Hernando academic pols are beginning to catch on that there will be a political as well as a financial bill to pay as they try to make things work without a $2-million cash surplus they had been led to believe they had.

There's no real honeymoon to violate there. All the school officials -- save one, Gail Coleman -- in office now were in office when whatever happened happened. But look for an orgy of finger-pointing that will be similar to Iran-Contragate but with nobody getting a fat book deal out of it.

Don't feel bad when the other honeymoons end. It is the nature of the beast. Democratic republics are run by people who think they have a better way of doing things than the people they just defeated or hope to defeat in the future.

Every toe-stepping, egg-breaking, feathers-ruffling cliche there is applies, and out of it usually comes the synthesis that makes things run as smoothly as they do and they do, believe it or not, run smoothly.

We are a republic that can have our national election held hostage for weeks and, with the exception of a few temper tantrums and a lot of late-night talk show humor, come out of it with only the easily predictable 50 percent of the voting public dismayed.

So let's enjoy the honeymoon, head for the late-night buffet on the great cruise line of politics and realize that until the ship's toilets start overflowing and the cruise line's bankruptcy receivers leave us in a strange port with no way home, it's going to be fun.

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