After Mike Bell lost the mayor’s race, I ran into former Mayor Jack Ford, who has returned to Toledo City Council.
“I know how he feels,” Mr. Ford said.
How is that, I asked.
“Total and utter rejection,” Mr. Ford said.
I remembered Walter Mondale once saying that for about a year after he lost the presidency to Ronald Reagan, he took long walks in the woods and threw rocks at nothing in particular.
And, of course, there is the old Lincoln line: It hurts too much to laugh, but a grown man is too old to cry.
I’ve never run for office or run and lost, so I don’t know. But this feeling of devastation and very personal rejection seems to be pretty universal among losing candidates.
Then there is something else, not quite as universal but pretty common: The feeling of unexpected blessing.
Mr. Ford also told me losing the mayor’s office, a job he loved and thought he did well, was one of the best things that ever happened to him.
Again I asked: How so?
“It’s tough to explain,” he said. “But it’s hard to see the forest when you are the biggest tree.”
I thought of all this recently when I met Ed Weber. He served one term in Congress before, in his words, “Marcy beat the pants off of me.”
“I really wanted to win that race,” he said. “You know, they talk about the agony of defeat. I knew the agony of defeat.”
More than a few years later, that pain is still fresh in his eyes.
Yet here Mr. Weber was, volunteering as a reading tutor at Pickett School. If he had been in Congress all these years as a member of the GOP caucus, would he be trying to give back to the center city of Toledo?
Or would he be like John Boehner, a decent and responsible pol held captive by wing nuts?
I asked Mr. Weber if he is still a Republican. He gave me an emphatic “no,” though he said he is also not a Democrat. He deplores the fringes of both parties. He admires the President and voted for him twice.
But he’s not joining his party. Mr. Weber is worried about poor people and America’s addiction to prisons. Neither party has taken on those two issues.
Yeah, he wanted to win that race, but “it’s a lousy job,” he says. You don’t live here or there. It was tough on his wife, Alice, and their kids. It was actually a blessing to lose.
Maybe it was. I can’t help thinking Mr. Weber is a better man and citizen for it.
We need career politicians like Marcy Kaptur and Jack Ford who understand policy as well as politics and people. The legislative process is technically and psychologically intricate. It takes pros.
But we need good fathers, husbands, citizens, neighbors, and tutors too.
“Hey,” Mr. Weber says, “I didn’t invite you down here to get my name in the paper.”
No. That’s precisely why Ed Weber won when he lost.
Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6266.
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