To the other John McCain supporter on campus, I want to use this space to write something encouraging, something to make it worth watching the election results (on FOX!).
But if I were to do so, it would be disingenuous, written only to make myself feel better. No matter what some say—the polls are tightening! the polls are wrong!—John McCain is going to lose today, and so will hundreds of other Republicans across the country.
At the end of the night liberals will have solidified control of the legislative and executive branches; they’ll be one heartbeat away—to use this phrase for the first time in months not in reference to Sarah Palin—from controlling the judicial branch.
The policies that made you and I support McCain (in my case, economic freedom) will likely turn in the opposite direction.
I really do think our country will be worse off under an Obama presidency. And four years from now, or eight years, or however long it takes to legitimately say, we’ll kinda sorta know if I—along with the probably 47 or so percent of the country that will vote against Obama—was right.
Here’s to hoping I’m not.
Today is the second day in one week that we get to dress up. Friday, it was Halloween; today, it’s Election Day. Where before we wore spandex and too tight children’s costumes picked up at Walgreen’s at the last minute, today we get to dress up as something new: democrats. Mind you, that’s democrats with a little d—we’re simply enthusiastic democracy-goers, thrilled to be shut into little rooms with ballots and given stickers in return. Today, we care passionately about issues big and small, fully grasped and briefly googled, and tonight we will go to bed happy that our caring really, truly matters here in this great big democracy of ours. We are democrats.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama and John McCain get to dress up, too. Obama is Change; McCain is Veteran. Or, alternately, McCain is Outraged. Outrage has been a major motif for McCain as Obama has waltzed away with the mainstream media and the entirety of Western civilization, and today is just as good a day as any to be Outraged again. Tomorrow they’ll be Winner and Loser, but for now they’re just doing their best to be the best—or at the very least, better than the other.
And if all else fails, there’s still Ben & Jerry’s.
Elections and sporting events go hand in hand. John McCain threw a Hail Mary when he tapped Sarah Palin as his running mate, and then again when he suspended his campaign to save the economy—thereby turning his campaign into the political equivalent of a game of NFL Blitz. Barack Obama “kicked off” his political career at the home of unrepentant terrorist William Ayers. And as you read thisx, hundreds, possibly thousands of Americans are filling out their electoral college pools, taking a page from the NCAA basketball tournament.
So why is it that when it comes to biggest game of the season, our elections shrivel up into the equivalent of a gigantic coloring book? To liven things up, we should apply the roll-call system of the party convention to election night coverage. When the votes are sufficiently counted and a state is ready to commit its electoral votes, have them report it themselves. Alaska could send out Ted Stevens to call the state for McCain, or, if Obama pulls off a real thrilla in Wasilla, Mike Gravel. Instead of just coloring the state red or blue, viewers would witness true drama. After all, when the leader of the free world chooses its leader, we shouldn’t have to find out about it from Katie Couric.
Election day is nigh, and despite the foretelling of scientific polling, the anxiety of anticipation is building on both sides to a feverish tempo. Many voters are praying that their man will carry the electorate, but many more are praying that their votes will even count. After two years and millions of dollars spent, our country is breathless to see the results. If anything can be said about this election, it’s that American politics have truly been changed. Following decades of lamenting the declining and ever more passive participation of the American voter, we’ve seen in this election season inspiring images of a real turnabout: Obama’s campaign has registered record numbers of new voters and galvanized record numbers of old ones to make calls, host parties, and canvass with next-door neighbors and in nearby states; McCain’s campaign has provided unexpected forums for regular Joe Six-Packs to proclaim their fears of higher taxes, black presidents, and no-good coastal intellectuals. We’ve seen so many great superlatives: first woman president, black president, geriatric president. We’ve heard so many novel epithets: terrorist, socialist, traitor, maverick. Truly, it’s been the best of election years. It’s been the worst, too.
Millions of Americans who celebrate the outcome of Tuesday’s election will undoubtedly convince themselves that it is primarily the good of the country that they are celebrating. Philadelphians like me should know better, now that with the Phillies’ World Series win we have exulted in the city’s first championship victory in a major sport in 25 years. Sports fandom is one of America’s great exercises in collective narcissism. We did not celebrate because of anything we had done, for few of us had any role in the Phillies’ victory. Instead, we celebrated ourselves: The incredible emotional investment that we made in our teams through those years of longing had finally borne fruit. Like sports fans who create a desire in order to sate it, partisans of Obama and McCain will care because they cared, watching the news with bated breath much less because of their noble dreams for America than because their personal desires, magnified over the two long years of this campaign, seek fulfillment. Is this cynical? Where was the sound of champagne bottles popping when American forces reversed four years of futility in Iraq? When Congress and President Bush united to save a million lives by budgeting $15 billion to combat AIDS in Africa?
I feel a little bit left out, a little bit blue. While all of my friends are super excited leading up to the big day, planning trips to Grant Park, ready to wave their flags and scream until they’re hoarse, I can’t bring myself to muster even a fraction of their enthusiasm. Truth be told, I’m sitting alone in my room, sighing, still unshakably bitter that it’s Barack and not Hillary.
Oh, Hillary, I think wistfully, lying back on my bed, looking up at the ceiling. You were such a good candidate. I hope you don’t think I’ve forgotten you just because I voted for Barack in the general. I hope you don’t think I support him over you. Because I don’t, my love. You are my everything, now and forever. You know that, don’t you?
She doesn’t answer. She can’t hear me—not where she is now. There’s comfort only in knowing that she probably woke up this morning, sat before her vanity, and told herself the exact same thing. She knows she deserves it, even without me.
And yet, she also knows what’s best. She gets up, throws on a pantsuit, and slaps Bill on the ass on her way out, ready, like the rest, to support Barack Obama…. If only I could be so strong.
In 2004, Steven Landsburg of Slate ran the numbers and arrived at an unsurprising conclusion: As an individual in a “swing state,” the chance of your vote’s affecting the election is approximately 1/101,046. In a state like New York, the chance becomes 1/10,200,708. The chance in Obama’s hometown, when Obama is leading across the country? Don’t ask. But while not voting is indeed perfectly justifiable, writing trendy articles—like Landsburg’s boldly titled “Don’t Vote”— in high-profile publications is not. The article surely resulted in some people, well, not voting. If Slate’s readership consisted of equal parts Democrat and Republican, there probably would’ve been little effect on the 2004 election from such an article; removing 500 Democrats and 500 Republicans from the election in Florida would obviously have been without consequence. But Slate’s readership skews heavily left. Published in 2000 in a similarly conservative paper, “Don’t Vote” could easily have resulted in 538 Florida Republicans (and comparatively few Democrats) staying home on Election Day, handing the election to Gore. Moral of the story? Be careful what you say and to whom you say it. You don’t want “If everyone thought like that…” to become a reality. If you tell people not to vote, you’ve got to believe that some of them won’t.
I did not vote. I am always criticized when people discover this, but after all it is my right to abstain. Curious, those around me always try to understand why I show no enthusiasm or passion for my first opportunity to cast a ballot. Aware that the outcome of this election will affect me in many ways, I still am unable to favor either candidate.
Not that I hate them both, but rather, neither has said or promised anything that has particularly interested or inspired me. I am also told to pick the candidate I dislike the least.
The election should not be a choice between whichever candidates one holds the least contempt for, but rather a choice based on genuine admiration and support.
Finally I am told that in 50 years I will be asked by my grandchildren who I voted for in this groundbreaking election and will immediately feel tremendous regret for not having contributed.
In 50 years, if this election manages to separate itself so profoundly from all the others—the outcomes of which have, for the most part, resulted in voter’s remorse—I will proudly say, “On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, I stayed home and did my laundry.”