On the first Tuesday in November...2004...I voted first thing in the morning and went about the rest of my day without a second thought. After work, I headed to the victory party for Maryland congressman Chris Van Hollen--no butterflies, no worries. I was ready to watch states turn from gray to blue...or red...and then listen to Chris' victory speech. After all, he was running in Montgomery County, Maryland...and he was a Democrat. No worries. We got to Chris' party early, grabbed a drink and some seats at a table in the corner. We stacked a few plates with appetizers and talked about the day, occasionally stealing a glance at the 12 foot high, 25 foot long wall of television screens along the back of the room. At about 7 o'clock, we noticed that people were standing five deep, eyes fixed on the TV screens. States were flipping from gray to red at an alarming rate. We saw what was happening, and slowly, people started to leave. Chris had won. He hadn't even arrived at his party yet, and we were leaving. No one looked up--we stared at the ground and quietly climbed into our cars.
Over the next few days, it felt as if we were living in a parallel universe. Sure, the Democrats had run a stuffed shirt whose entire political strategy hinged on saying, "George W. Bush will do X, Y, and Z...and I won't!" Sure, he hadn't done much to tell us what he would do but, but he was running against George.W.Bush. If you lived inside the Washington Beltway, or in any other blue bubble on the east and west coast, you were shell-shocked.
Here we are, four years later, and I feel as though I'm experiencing some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. I've been anxious and terrified for the last year. I can't watch the news--Wolf Blitzer, Joe Scarborough, Tom Brokaw, Meredith Vieira, Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, Mika Brzezinski--they all make me crazy--though I do miss Tim Russert. If Tim were here, Sarah Palin couldn't have avoided Meet the Press, and he'd have eviscerated her in that "small town," Buffalo, intelligent, Jesuit-educated way he had...and he'd have done it smiling sweetly. I might feel better about this election. I do watch Jon Stewart though. He's my saving grace in the madness, though these days, his own anxiety and fury are barely veiled by humor.
Tomorrow is it. And I am convinced that our country does not need a Joe-6-Pack, a Nancy-the-Teacher, a Joe-the-Plumber, or a Sarah-the -Hockey-Mom as President. We don't need someone "just like us"--we need an extraordinary person with extraordinary vision. We're living in a dark and twisty, scary and damaged, broken world...and we need some hope.
But I worry. I worry about long lines. I worry that Colorado will see North Carolina and/or Virginia go blue and not bother to vote. I worry because polls had Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton by double digits in New Hampshire, and she turned around and beat him. I worry that people are racists, that people still believe he's a Muslim (as if there's something wrong with that), and a terrorist. I worry about "undecideds"--as my friend Bill said to me today, "HOW CAN SOMEONE STILL BE UNDECIDED????" I try to remember an email I received a few weeks ago. It's a picture of Barack Obama at the convention, arm extended in that "Obaman" way. The caption reads: EVERYONE CHILL THE FUCK OUT. I GOT THIS!
And still I worry. I worry about what happens if we DO get President Barack Obama this January. I worry that people have bought into this Messiah complex and actually expect him to be perfect. I like Barack Obama--I'd be thrilled if he were my president. But a few months ago, I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary. I wish I could have voted for both of them, but I had grown tired of the media turning Hillary into a schoolyard bully, while Barack was an innocent kid who'd never played the political game. I worry that his imperfections, his humanity, will be amplified to those who believe he can save our country and the world by Christmas 2009.
Tomorrow night, I plan to watch election returns with my friend Nichole. There will be a beer in my hand. I try to remind myself that, no matter what happens, I will wake up on Wednesday and go to work. No matter what happens, I will meet Matt and Rachel's teeny, perfect, sweet baby twins on Saturday. No matter what happens, life will go on. (Though in my most freaked out moments, I have visions of a 269-269 tie, or counting votes on Wednesday and Thursday and beyond.)
And then I remember what I learned this morning, watching the only "news" I can bear to see--ESPN. The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the Washington Redskins tonight on Monday Night Football. The game is in Washington. In the last FIFTEEN elections, the 'Skins last home game has been an accurate predictor. If the 'Skins win, the incumbent party holds the White House. If the 'Skins lose, the challenging party wins the White House.
So, if you are so inclined, root for the Steelers tonight...and if they lose, remember that these kinds of "records" are meant to be broken.
(EDITED TO SAY--STEELERS WIN!!!)