Election results tend to create the illusion that justice and right have triumphed and that we the voters finally got a certain politician’s number, significant information — precise or useful knowledge — especially of his weaknesses which led to his downfall.
Alas, in all probability, it’s the politicians who have done a number on us, an old theatrical expression (c.1908) for “acting with surprising or devastating effect.” Done on the stage, it left the audience pleasantly surprised. At the polls, it left the electorate fooled and taken advantage of by sleazy political ads, paid for by even sleazier PACs.
And what number, you ask is appropriate? Six will do nicely. What these successful pols have often done is deep six the evidence of their wrongdoing, destroying or hiding any embarrassing or incriminating material—a form of political cover-up, deriving from an old nautical expression for burial at sea, regulations requiring that the water at the burial site be at least six fathoms or 36 feet.
Six feet under also has long been the requirement of most states for depth of a land grave, traditionally the same length as the coffin, making the term synonymous with death.
We don’t always need hard evidence however to bury bad politicians at the polls. Our sixth sense (19thC.) enables us know them for what they are. It’s intuitive as opposed to the physical senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, the alternatives are often the same. Since the early 19th century, it’s been. six of one, half dozen of the other. Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke…Name your poison.