Then again, there are two or three things we know for sure. Like the fact that massive numbers of people who never gave a crap about politics spent the past few months hitting the streets, trying to get other people to care. What do they do with all that energy now?
Thinking about the day after the election made me think about Heather Cave. She's an artist who's had pieces at the Dolphin Gallery and installations at the Fahrenheit, and she's a musician. (We named her Best Accordion Player in 2001 for her work with the alt-country band Lovelorn.) But like many creative people, her financial life is tenuous.
"I always work for the little guy," Cave says of her various jobs. "They've always been very small mom-and-pop places." Places like the Tivoli Cinemas, Dave's Stagecoach Inn, Y.J.'s Snackbar. They're not the type of businesses that can pay for their employees' health insurance, but they're the reasons Cave moved to Kansas City six years ago after college in Iowa City. "I thought it would be a cool town," she says. "There's a great art scene here.... It's inexpensive to live here, and I love the architecture. I love the street I live on -- it's this little side street near UMKC where a bunch of musicians live. You can hear bands practicing every night. I've been successful here artistically, creatively and personally."
People like Heather Cave don't just love a town -- they help other people love it, too.
Last February, though, her life changed.
She was working as a waitress at the Savoy Grill, another job without health insurance. In an effort to score six months of free birth-control pills, she took advantage of Planned Parenthood's sliding scale for gynecological checkups. But the pap smear showed something was wrong. After appointments with two specialists, her sincere prayers for a raging case of venereal disease went unanswered. She had cervical cancer.
None of her doctors can tell her whether she's going to live. And worrying about how to pay for it, she says, is as stressful as trying to get better.
We know from this election campaign that 45 million Americans don't have health insurance. Cave's case is a textbook example of why it costs so much. Because she wasn't covered, Cave put off getting a pap smear for four years. If doctors had found the polyp sooner, she wouldn't have cancer. Now taxpayers are paying for her surgeries and chemotherapy at Truman Medical Center instead of for routine gyno exams.
Who's really taking care of Heather Cave? Other musicians. In August, Justin Petosa, Mikael Shapiro, Tony Ladesich, Howard Iceberg & the Titanics, Mike Ireland & Holler, Snakebite Orphans, Pendergast and the Gaslights played a benefit show for her at Davey's Uptown. So many musicians wanted to help that six more bands reprised the effort in September -- Banjo Ghost, Ashley Miller & the Golden Calves, Forest Whitlow & the Crash, the Misery Boys, Mr. Marco's V7 and the Afterparty. BBlaze, Birdies and Succotash threw in auction treats, too.
"Since Heather had played with a number of different bands and musicians, it was easy to get people out of the woodwork to donate their time," says guitarist Marco Pascolini, who helped organize the benefits with Davey's owner Michele Markowitz. "It was an odd selection of bands, from folk rock to country to some more eclectic experimental stuff, just a weird mixture of things," Pascolini says. "But somehow it all made sense."
It made sense because that's what musicians do for each other. Markowitz, whose bar is another small operation that contributes immeasurably to the city's cultural life, has provided a stage for countless benefits, has given away god knows how many door receipts, just doing her own part to help out a few artists.
"It made me realize that -- this sounds so cliché -- but people really care a lot about me," Cave says about the support. "It's basically helped pay my bills up until this point, because I had to stop working. You go home and someone hands you an envelope full of money and you start counting twenties, and you're like, fuck, this is so cool."
The problem is, most musicians don't have extra twenties. "Everyone I know is just as busted as I am," Cave says.
And then you start wondering why, in the world's richest country, struggling musicians have to work for free whenever one of their own gets hurt. In Kansas City, hairstylists had to start doing that this year, too. "I think it's outrageous," Cave says, "but at the same time it's such a show of humanity, too."
And humanity was one thing that was missing during the run-up to November 2.
Healthcare was supposedly a campaign issue, but not really. Neither candidate was brave enough to talk about a Washington Post-ABC News poll last October that showed that 60 percent of the American people favor some sort of national health-care plan. In that same survey, 80 percent of respondents said that providing health insurance to all Americans was more important than keeping taxes low. You start talking about that, though, and you get branded a socialist. Some pundit starts using dirty words, and discussion gets muzzled.
Pick any other issue of the campaign and, underneath the scary sound bites, people might actually agree more than they disagree. But we'll never know if we all retreat to our respective camps and stew for four years. So here's a suggestion for everyone who was so energized by the presidential campaign but doesn't know what to do now that it's over.
Get back to work.