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A month after the elections, the merchant marine's votes have yet to come in, but the floating votes have arrived; and, in retrospect, it turns out that they made the difference. The 40 percent who did not go to the polls can celebrate a double victory, the political one and the ideological one. By staying away from the polls, they did not enable a substantive change in the order of our lives and by not voting it was as if they were saying that such a change would not happen anyway, that after the elections we'd remain with the same old gang of familiar politicians who made us feel fed up in the first place, those whose profession is survival and whose craft is self-promotion.

Indeed, the progress of coalition negotiations affirms that last assumption: there was an open show of greed as the politicians stormed the booty of Knesset seats, kicking out both their sublime ideologies and the "showcase talents" put on the Knesset election lists. The post-election deals made a mockery of the will of the voter. What will pensioners say, for example, if they are opposed to the convergence? Or what about those who voted Kadima thinking Prof. Uriel Reichman would be education minister? All now join in the great put-on. If it had happened in the consumer world, the deal would have been canceled, the buyer would have got his money back - and then some.

But in politics the issue is a little less unequivocal. Moreover, those who are seeking something resembling pure values in this realm are commiting the sin of expecting too much and dooming themselves, a priori, to frustration and rage. From that aspect there is a strange, almost comic, contrast between what is dubbed the preelection "apathy in the street" and the deep emotional involvement accompanying the formation of the coalition. After all, even those who voted, who gathered around the ex-leadership of the post-leader, did so - or so say the polls - after much deliberation and with skepticism.

After the elections, the public woke from its apathy. Suddenly, everything matters - who will be which minister, where will Prof. Avishay Braverman's talents be wasted, and what title will Ephraim Sneh use to impose his fascinating security doctrine upon us? On the other hand, one can imagine the criticism that would have been leveled at those "talents" were they put into positions of power - such words as "parachuted in" and "inexperienced" and there's the swipe at "professors," who only know how to manipulate words, "prima donnas" who never got their hands dirty, etc.

But even those now wringing their hands over the missed opportunity for the great, revolutionary, historical change that these elections supposedly were going to create in every realm of our lives should remember that the elections were not handed down on Mt. Sinai but born, inter alia, as a result of Ariel Sharon's anger that he could not name Ronni Bar On and Ze'ev Boim as ministers - and even that wasn't for their talents but as a reward for their support.

In other words, it all was and remains politics. The winged dreams of a revolution in every sphere of our lives appealed to the romantics among us. They did not find a promise in Sharon's words, and even the "concessions" were only hinted at vaguely. Even if we believe, in retrospect, that Sharon would have led us to peace agreements, security and a withdrawal from all the territories, it is not really clear what the rule of one huge, ad hoc body of 50-something Knesset seats built entirely around one unpredictable leader and lacking any party balances and political brakes will do to us and to democracy.

As depressing as it may sound, maybe the expectations from politics in general and elections in particular should be narrower, and we should be free of a need for a deus ex machina in the form of a leader who suddenly emerges from the political machinery "after the elections" and lead us to the Promised Land. Haven't we been burned that way more than once?

Apparently, democracy is fated to be run by petty and entirely human creatures for whom politics is simply their job, for better or worse, just as there are coal miners, engine drivers or loan sharks. In any case, all that counts for us are the whims of the U.S., the next terror attack or the chief of staff's mood. At most, we can hope that the Olmerts and Peretzs occasionally surprise us with an outburst of common sense.

Dan Almagor got it right in his song with the refrain about the endless recycling of "the good old gang" - "that's how the years pass and how the future hints/that with the same old guys we'll forever remain; with Gigi the Jester and Tzaftzefa the Dummy, Shukila the Sewer... with Shmulik the Face and Gingy the Stick, and Tvingi who always shouts 'look at this'... and of course with Little Shpatz and Yo-Yo, too."

Apparently we are doomed to wake up after every election with Tzachi the Jester and Haim the Smiler and Dalia the Jaw and Fuad the Hairline, and of course, Lieberman the Fatso and Shas, and Sheemown, too.